Interestingly, the names conjured were strikingly different from the kind of thinkers voted into our top 10by Sameer Rahim / September 3, 2019 / Leave a comment
Here at Prospect towers, we agonised over our list of thinkers. In the later stages, it got brutal: sure, he’s won a Nobel, but is he really that good? She’s great, but does campaigning really count as thinking? Not everyone got who they wanted. But one pleasure of the process was listening to arguments about people you were sceptical about at first, and by the end championed as fervently as a Kurd backing their national maths genius.
We consulted with outside experts, but still weren’t arrogant enough to think our picks were definitive. So we offered the chance to you, the readers, to set us right on who we missed. Just over 15 per cent of those who voted did so. Interestingly, the names conjured were strikingly different from the kind of thinkers voted into our top 10.
Read the top ten and meet our winner
Five names we had already discussed and rejected: Jordan Peterson (philosophy in brief: man up and eat meat) was on the initial longlist, but no one could muster a defence of him as a thinker as opposed to a phenomenon. Peterson’s opponent in the recent “debate of the century,” Slavoj Žižek, was also a readers’ fave; but whether it’s down to the Stalin portrait in his bedroom, or his recent claim that the west romanticises refugees, the shine has rubbed off the Slovenian paradox-monger.
Two others nominated were Sam Harris (“We are at war with Islam”) and Douglas Murray, who managed to write a book about Islam in Europe without knowing anything about the subject. Think of them as waging a jihad on thought. Eagle-eyed readers might detect an emerging theme: big guys with big thoughts. Whether on the left (Noam Chomsky) or the right (Roger Scruton), these are men—all men—who have rarely found a subject they didn’t have a strongly held opinion about. Three are part of the so-called Intellectual Dark Web, a shadowy alliance of subversives who get profiled in samizdat publications like the New York Times.
Further down, though, there were some fresher suggestions. Why honour only individuals, when great work is often done in teams like LIGO, CERN or NASA? Someone fairly pointed out a dearth of European thinkers. We could have plugged that…