Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Who Makes Us Think? The Top Intellectuals in the World Today

Foreign Policy and Prospect Magazines are conducting a poll to determine who the top public intellectuals are in the world today. You can vote here for the top 5 individuals who have made significant contributions to their fields and have increased awareness of their ideas to broader spheres.

The third largest group in the top 100 are philosophers. What's interesting about the select group is the number of North Americans and Europeans. Could this be ethnocentric bias or a reflection of the difficulty of doing intellectual work in the rest of the world? What publics do global public intellectuals reach?

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7 Comments:

At 9:37 PM , Blogger Dennis said...

Are you going to post the results of the vote here?

Some of us young'uns have short, flighty attention spans.

And no, I didn't write you in =)

 
At 11:16 PM , Blogger Joseph Orosco said...

Yes, I was shocked that they somehow had missed my contributions...

 
At 8:46 PM , Anonymous Galen said...

It just seems so hard to be a good public intellectual sometimes. Some things are complex and while it is one thing to deal with issues that engage the public, it is another thing to deal with those issues in a way that engages the public. Sometimes it just seems that there is too much expertise required to really get at an issue, and to expect the public to be equipped for the ride is asking too much. For example, I want to find out how ethics is possible in the world that science posits, and I think many non-academics care about this too. But the issues get complicated very quickly it seems. Maybe I'm underestimating just them...

Ignore this if it posted the first time.

 
At 7:56 PM , Blogger Joseph Orosco said...

Galen: I think you raise an interesting question about so called "public intellectuals"--what kind of expertise matters in public affairs? A related issue: is there such a thing as a "public" to talk to anymore?

 
At 12:52 AM , Anonymous galen said...

What used to constitute a public? Something like a realm of exchanged ideas and (mostly) shared values that exists between policy-making and private life? I'm not very good at navigating these sorts of questions.

 
At 1:34 PM , Blogger Joseph Orosco said...

Galen: Good question. Habermas used to say that the public sphere was a defining feature of bourgeios democracy--where the citizens (usually educated, property owning men) could gather, talk, read books and newspapers, and organize movements. Nancy Fraser has pointed out how limited this notion of the public is--women, the working class in general, and people of color are excluded from participation. She talks about subaltern publics too--places where the excluded come together to share. It might be the case that there is no such thing as "the public" anymore, and the problem is trying to figure out how to coordinate all the different publics for the purpose of democratic politics (actually John Dewey said as much back in 1927)

 
At 11:12 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

For a good and insightful discussion of the public (and private), look at Arendt's _The Human Condition_. From ancient Greece through the Revolution that created the United States and really up until the past few decades, the public was the exchange of ideas by privileged, property owning males, as JAO has noted. It was the way in which full personhood was shown and acknowledged by others. (This is the predecessor of Marx's idea that we know who we are by showing ourselves to others and the others reflect ourselves back to us.) By contrast, the private was the home where those housed there (women, children, servants, slaves) did not share their ideas in any meaningful way, were thought to be fungible, and were not, therefore, persons in a requisite sense. In fact, privacy, which we value so highly today, derives from privation/deprivation, the deprivation of full personhood, available solely through the public. For more, ask me for my dissertation. Lani

 

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