Journalism, Philosophy, Recommended

Why isn’t Jordan Peterson on This List of the World’s Top Fifty Intellectuals?

Prospect magazine was founded in 1995 by David Goodhart. From the beginning the focus was predominantly on politics and social issues, though Goodhart also ensured a high standard of reporting on literature, the arts, popular culture and science. For many years the magazine was essential reading among London intellectuals. Its point of view was center-left, and broadly liberal, like that of most Establishment British journalists and academics. Readers were assumed to be cosmopolitan, internationalist and more or less progressive. Still, they were respectful of institutions, friendly to capitalism and basically tolerant of religion.

Prospect stood out from other major English intellectual journals and general magazines in its familiarity with the social sciences, particularly sociology and economics. The editorial position was never partisan. For the first decade and a half of its existence Prospect was often wrongly thought of as a ‘New Labour’ house organ. True, Gordon Brown wrote for it in 2009 when he was still Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. But contributors included the conservative philosopher Sir Roger Scruton, the Conservative Party MP Rory Stewart, and the Australian writer Clive James, who calls himself a “liberal social democrat” but has been known to take unorthodox positions on various issues, including climate change.

David Goodhart, and his successor as editor Bronwen Maddox (2010-2016), described Prospect as “contrarian,” or “a magazine which gives voice to the argumentative centre ground.” But, in truth, Prospect was, until 2016, the voice of the London-based liberal Establishment. Tolerance for dissent or heterodoxy within its pages was always based on what was broadly thought respectable within this loose network of overlapping groups. All of which has posed a problem for the current editor, Tom Clark, a former leader writer and editorial-page editor for the Guardian.

Threats to Their Position

Clark had the misfortune to take over editing Prospect just after Brexit, and shortly before the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. For the ‘expert class’ in the English-speaking world, these were two of the most shocking and humiliating events in living memory. Virtually every pollster, journalist and political scientist of any stature failed to predict either. Most were profoundly, bitterly opposed to them; they felt like a rebellion against expertise itself.

For a magazine like Prospect all this was particularly disconcerting. Weren’t people supposed to prefer listening to reasonable, moderate, well-educated professionals?

Readers of the Times Literary Supplement will recall the journal’s Brexit “Symposium” (June 1, 2016) in which not a single prominent scholar or literary or cultural figure could be found who explicitly supported Brexit. Remarks by the Cambridge historian Robert Tombs and the travel writer Jan Morris could be interpreted as vaguely Eurosceptic. Otherwise it seemed clear that voting to leave the European Union was simply not a respectable position for an Establishment intellectual. But the TLS’s editorial team did not cherry-pick contributors to this symposium for their pro-EU views: this was a fair cross-section representing what the most influential TLS contributors thought about Brexit.

In 2013, British Prime Minister David Cameron had promised to hold a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU if he won the next election. This was not seen as a particularly risky move. Cameron, a smooth and canny politician, despised the Eurosceptic United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), describing its members in 2006 as “a bunch of…fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists.” His micro-aggressions against the UKIP leader Nigel Farage were exquisite. Even his pronunciation of Farage’s surname dripped gently with contempt. Farage had no university degree, and was not quite a gentleman. There was no way Cameron could lose a political contest against this ruffian, he thought.

In the end, it was as if an enlightened country squire—churchwarden, Chief Magistrate of the district, and Lord Lieutenant of the county—had been dunked into a well by the village drunk, to the delighted applause of just over half the locals. The Brexit vote was seen as an act of hostile defiance against the intelligentsia. The people did not obey their intellectual superiors and do as they were told, despite having been warned repeatedly about what was good for them.

Tom Clark, Prospect’s new editor, has been an economist, civil servant and policy adviser to the ‘New Labour’ government, as well as a journalist. Yet he has always expressed wariness about the clique-ishness of the Establishment to which he belongs. Also, he has had to grapple with internal strife within the Labour Party since Jeremy Corbyn became leader in 2015. Evidently, he has thought hard about where Prospect stands in relation to other journals, as well as what the magazine’s purpose now is, and whom it influences.

All this helps explain the choice of “The World’s Top Fifty Thinkers” in Prospect’s July/August double-issue.

A Brief History of Prospect’s ‘Top Thinkers’ Lists

In July 2004, Prospect commemorated its hundredth issue by publishing a list of the “Top Hundred British Intellectuals.” On the whole this provided an accurate picture of the British intellectual Establishment in the latter part of the ‘New Labour’ era.

Institutionally and regionally, the “Top Hundred British Intellectuals” centred round London, Oxford and Cambridge. The figures named were overwhelmingly white, male, middle-aged and middle-class. But, of course, the intellectual Establishment in England has always been so.

Some might complain that the 2004 list was dominated by liberals. Yet controversial iconoclasts like Sir V. S. Naipaul were included, as was the novelist Martin Amis and the journalist Christopher Hitchens. It is fairer to claim that literature and the humanities might have been over-represented. Still, there were scientists in there, including the biologist and ‘New Atheist’ Richard Dawkins; the pharmacologist Susan Greenfield; the Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees; the surgeon and Professor of Gynaecology Robert Winston; and the writer and geriatrician Raymond Tallis.

The following year, Prospect collaborated with Foreign Policy to produce a list of the world’s top hundred public intellectuals, and asked readers to vote on who was the single most influential. With more than 20,000 votes cast, the top five candidates were: the linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky (4,827 votes); the novelist Umberto Eco (2,464 votes); Richard Dawkins (2,188 votes); Vaclav Havel, playwright, dissident and President of the Czech Republic (1,990 votes); and Christopher Hitchens (1,884 votes).

The 2005 list featured numerous novelists, essayists and critics. Most were regular contributors to the major intellectual periodicals of the period, including the TLS, the London Review of Books, the New York Review of Books, the New Yorker, Harper’s, the Atlantic Monthly and Foreign Affairs. Rare exceptions included Pope Benedict XVI (no. 17, 1,046 votes) and his arch-enemy, the Swiss theologian Hans Küng (no. 61; 344 votes).

Many of the intellectuals included in 2005 remain influential: the economist Paul Krugman (no. 6; 1,746 votes); the historian and popular scientist Jared Diamond (no. 9; 1,499 votes); and the psychologist Steven Pinker (no. 26; 812 votes). Others, such as Gao Xinjian (no. 69; 277 votes), who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2000, have disappeared from public consciousness in the intervening years. Still, there is little sense that this list was assembled in accordance with fashions or intellectual trends.

In 2008, Prospect and Foreign Policy produced another list of the world’s top hundred public intellectuals and the half-million voters who participated in the subsequent poll produced unexpected results. At the top of the list was the Pennsylvania-based Turkish political leader Fethullah Gülen, followed closely by the Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, and (in third place) the Egyptian theologian Yusuf al-Qaradiwi. The highest-ranking ‘Western’ intellectual was Noam Chomsky, in eleventh place. Prospect published an article attempting to explain voters’ decisions.

From 2009, Foreign Policy took over the “Global Thinkers” list from Prospect. Thus it was slightly confusing to see Prospect come out with a new “World Thinkers” poll of its own in April 2013. More than 10,000 people voted—half the number to have participated in the 2005 poll. Richard Dawkins came in first, Steven Pinker third and Paul Krugman fifth. The second spot was awarded to Ashraf Ghani, current president of Afghanistan; in fourth place was Ali Allawi, whose books include the standard biography of King Faisal I of Iraq. Prospect’s list seemed slightly behind the times: the only Silicon Valley figure included was Elon Musk (no. 20).

As David Wolf sheepishly noted in his introduction to the poll results, there were relatively few women in the 2013 list. The highest-ranked was Arundhati Roy (no. 15), who won the Booker Prize for her novel The God of Small Things in 1997.

There was no obvious reason for Prospect to produce yet another “World Thinkers” list in 2015. Fewer than 3,000 voters participated this time. Within less than half a decade the 2015 list has dated. In first place was the bestselling left-wing economist Thomas Piketty, followed by the former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, the activist writer Naomi Klein, the comedian Russell Brand, and (again) Paul Krugman. Arundhati Roy came in sixth.

Russell Brand was the most interesting figure in the top five. Early in 2014 he began a political YouTube series, The Trews: True News With Russell Brand, which surpassed a million subscribers in March 2015, and was briefly so popular that British Labour leader Ed Miliband agreed to appear on it in April 2015, shortly before he lost the UK general election to David Cameron. Brand’s continuing influence on the political culture in England, at least, is often underestimated. He may have been instrumental in making a militantly hard-left stance fashionable again among young intellectuals for the first time in a generation.

Other than Brand, the 2015 list was dominated by university-based progressives. There were a few right-wing or reactionary writers (no. 18, Henry Kissinger; no. 20, Mario Vargas Llosa; no. 24, Michel Houellebecq), and the self-described conservative Andrew Sullivan (no. 35). Beyond these, Prospect appeared to have lurched distinctly leftwards in its choice of thinkers, with writers like Rebecca Solnit (no. 14, who invented the concept of “mansplaining”) and Pankaj Mishra (no. 33, latterly renowned for his 2017 study of right-wing populism, Age of Anger) setting the tone. The novelists Hilary Mantel (no. 12) and Marilynne Robinson (no. 27) deserved inclusion here, though their bestselling peer Jonathan Franzen is conspicuously absent.

Was the intellectual world in 2015 really so dominated by celebrity revolutionaries, semi-famous literary figures and no-name economists? The bottom 15 are completely obscure; it is hard to judge their impact and originality when only their colleagues have any idea who they are. If the 2004 Prospect list of British intellectuals was too chummily Oxbridge, the 2015 poll was more like a conference program, marred by too many academics and activists with the same blandly bureaucratic ideas. What was the point of this exercise?

‘Top Thinkers’ of 2019

Tom Clark’s introduction to Prospect’s newest list of “The World’s Top Fifty Thinkers” describes it as a means “simply to honour the minds engaging most fruitfully with the questions of the moment.” The editorial team claims to have given weight to intellectuals’ “originality, impact and communication”; also: “to keep things current we’ve focussed on work done since the last list in 2015.” For the first time, compilation of the list has been driven by a sense of urgency: Clark emphasises this at some length:

These are anti-intellectual times—and not only because of the proud ignoramus in the White House. No, the roots of current disdain for educated “liberal elites” go much deeper, dating back to well before the financial crisis [of 2008] and the ensuing populist backlash. The seeds were planted in the 1970s by the New Right’s Irving Kristol, who saw reactionary potential in rallying mass opposition to the “new class” of university graduates, who had the sort of fancy ideas that would go down badly with those Nigel Farage defines as “real people.” Over the decades since, Rupert Murdoch and the popular press preferred reflex reactions to rationality, and called them “common sense.” They have derided intellectuals, who rarely rank among the economic elite, as a class apart in ivory towers. Today we have reached the Trumpian point where, for perhaps the first time in free societies since the French Revolution, reason has to be defended as a value.

As intellectual history this may well be defensible; though the snarling, self-pitying tone is unfortunate.

Despite the rhetorical weakness of Clark’s introduction, Prospect’s 2019 list represents a major improvement on its predecessor. Controversial figures of undoubted influence are present (not least the financier George Soros). Among the most important are Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose 2014 Atlantic article ‘The Case for Reparations’ continues to provoke discussion; Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, the lawyer and professor who coined the term “intersectionality” three decades ago; and Claudia Goldin, the most prominent economist to have worked on the “gender pay gap.” These figures have shaped recent political debates as few other intellectuals have.

Less polarising innovators here include: the distinguished Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff, author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: the Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power (2018); the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, co-founder in 2015 of Heterodox Academy; Eliot Higgins, the investigative journalist who founded the news website Bellingcat in 2014; and Katie Bouman, the computer scientist behind the first conceptualised rendering of a black hole.

The Prospect list accurately reflects the near-disappearance of traditional literature from our intellectual culture. Other than Arundhati Roy and the Ghanaian-American writer Yaa Gyasi, there are no ‘serious’ novelists here. At this point in history, historical narratives and memoirs have completely overtaken this once-dominant form.

In a related phenomenon, book reviewers are nowhere to be found on this list. A decade ago, the New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani and the New Yorker’s James Wood (formerly of the London Review of Books and the New Republic) could make a book into an international bestseller with a single review. Now, no literary writer has this power. The philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, 2018 chair of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, is on this list; none of the 2018 Booker nominees are. There is only one critic here, the feminist writer Jacqueline Rose (Birkbeck College, University of London).

On the other hand, Prospect’s editors have included Naomi Alderman, whose bestselling feminist sci-fi fantasy The Power won the Women’s Prize in 2017. There may be reasons to dispute this particular choice—authors of genre fiction aren’t usually included on lists of this type—though the principle of selecting a writer whom people have actually read is a sound one.

Historians (Niall Ferguson, Peter Frankopan, Adam Tooze; the jurist, judge and mediaevalist Jonathan Sumption; the Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich) currently enjoy the influence and sales that ‘highbrow’ fiction writers once did. The Prospect list is not wrong to include them. The best-known memoirist on the list, the venture capitalist J. D. Vance (author of Hillbilly Elegy), certainly deserves a place as well. He has sold millions of copies of his book since 2016 and sparked often heated discussions about the relationship between culture, social problems and poverty.

But just how authoritative is this list? Closer examination reveals that Prospect’s editorial team has not consistently applied any obvious set of principles to their selection. Tom Clark claims:

There is probably an emphasis on disruptive voices—minds that want to change the world, rather than merely explain why the world is as it is. In fields like post-crash economics the justification for that switch is plain; more generally, it fits with a mercurial world.

This sounds plausible, but does not describe most of the historians, economists, journalists, mathematicians, science writers, jurists, or political scientists who make up much of this list. What does it have to do with Robert Alter, scholarly translator of the Hebrew Bible? It would be more honest simply to describe these intellectuals as either progressive, or acceptable to progressives.

Non-mathematicians will be unable to judge whether the Cambridge professor Caucher Birkar deserves a place. But he did win the Fields Medal for mathematics in 2018, which provides reasonable assurance of his high standing among his peers. All the same, one wonders whether Prospect selected him for his intellect or his life story: he entered the UK from Tehran as a refugee in 2000. It demeans a scholar of Birkar’s achievements to focus on his personal sufferings rather than what he has accomplished in a short career. Why does his Prospect biography not discuss mathematics more?

Other figures in Prospect’s list have not done much of note since 2015. The philosopher Martha Nussbaum remains influential, but only because of work she produced a decade or more ago. The same is true of Arundhati Roy, Jacqueline Rose, and the Dutch political scientist Cas Mudde.

Then there are thinkers of promise who have accomplished relatively little so far. The philosopher and former Rhodes Scholar Amia Srinivasan boasts an extraordinary academic CV, and has published widely in prestigious journals; but her work has not yet had much demonstrable impact. As for the American politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, despite having been in Congress for less than a year she has already managed to win an incredible degree of influence within the Democratic Party. But this has not translated into any concrete achievements as yet. The youngest member of this list, the 16-year-old Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg, may have also been included prematurely.

Prospect’s editorial team has blurred the distinction between ‘thinkers’ and activists. The charismatic political scientist Katharine Hayhoe has been included, but less for her scientific work than for her efforts to convince fellow Evangelical Christians that climate change is not a hoax. But why is she on this list instead of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Chief of Staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, the architect of the Green New Deal?

Many of the figures on this list appear to sympathise with the Democratic Socialists of America, if they are not (like Ocasio-Cortez) actual members. That being the case, where is Bhaskar Sunkara, founding editor and publisher of Jacobin magazine, who is arguably more responsible than any other single intellectual for energising Marxist thought among American intellectuals over the past decade? Where are the political theorists and political scientists whose work has visibly had an effect on the direction of conversations?

Tom Clark’s distaste for figures involved with Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, and ‘populist’ movements generally, is no doubt widely shared by Prospect’s readers, who would be repelled to see (for example) Trump’s campaign manager and strategist Steve Bannon on a list of “Top Fifty Thinkers.” Anti-liberal thinkers would also likely be beyond the pale (for example, Patrick Deneen, author of the provocative bestseller Why Liberalism Failed). The British writer Douglas Murray, whose 2017 study The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam was an international success, has also been left out. But of course his inclusion here might have led to cancelled subscriptions and social media mobbing.

Is there a single intellectual allied with various ‘populist’ movements whom the Prospect editorial team would regard as worthy of inclusion? The experiences of 2016 would seem to demonstrate how unwise it would be simply to ignore them, or refuse to consider them ‘thinkers.’

In the current climate, political comedians may deserve some place among the world’s “Top Fifty Thinkers.” The popular Chapo Trap House podcast might be beyond the scope of Prospect’s list, but John Oliver assuredly is not. HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver regularly features investigative reports on political issues, and boasts a wide international viewership. The 2015 list featured Russell Brand; has the Prospect editorial team suddenly forgotten about YouTube personalities? The interviewer and stand-up comic Joe Rogan (for example) reaches over 5.8 million subscribers on his YouTube channel. Discussions on The Joe Rogan Experience frequently range around complex issues in current affairs and philosophy. Why has Rogan been left off Prospect’s list?

Other television personalities also surely merit consideration. In America, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, a hyper-articulate former Rhodes Scholar, has helped form Democrat voters’ perceptions of Donald Trump more than any other political commentator. Her rival broadcaster, the conservative Tucker Carlson, might be even more influential: in June 2019 President Trump hastily cancelled a series of retaliatory military strikes against Iran after watching Carlson’s show on Fox News. Why aren’t either of them included?

It can be argued that book sales and audience figures are no more reliable than numbers of Twitter followers in terms of gauging an intellectual’s importance. The Californian gender theorist Judith Butler (who is not on this list) may be one of the most influential intellectuals of the past half-century; this is not necessarily reflected in her royalty cheques for Gender Trouble (1990). The book has sold a 100,000 copies internationally in 20 years. By academic standards this is an unheard-of success; compared to the New York Times bestseller lists, it’s nothing. Still, the Prospect “Top Fifty Thinkers” list does not betray obvious signs of coherent criteria for judging an author’s influence.

Tom Clark could easily argue that writers such as Steven Pinker have been on Prospect’s lists before, and not done anything significantly new since 2015 (although Enlightenment Now caused quite a stir). But the popular scientist and historian Yuval Noah Harari has written three ambitious, highly-regarded international bestsellers: Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind (2011; translated into English 2014); Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (2015; 2017) and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (2018). He is excluded, while the primatologist who influenced him, Frans de Waal, is not. Why is this the case when de Waal’s most important book, Chimpanzee Politics, came out over a dozen years ago?

Even more curious is Prospect’s inclusion of the behavioural geneticist Robert Plomin, who is on this list for the controversial 2018 volume Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are. This is not a bad book, but the ‘nature versus nurture’ debate at its heart is not a new one. On the other hand, the sociologist and physician Nicholas Christakis has written a similarly-titled study, Blueprint: the Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society (2019), which is considerably more original and wide-ranging than Plomin’s. It has also reached a larger audience. Why is Plomin considered a “Top Fifty Thinker” when Christakis is not?

The most provocative selection in this list is Kate Manne, a former postdoctoral fellow at Harvard who is now an associate professor at Cornell University. Manne, a feminist philosopher, has won acclaim from fellow scholars for her 2018 study Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny. Yet she is perhaps best known outside academic circles for a highly critical 2018 review in the TLS of Jordan Peterson’s book, Twelve Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos, which has sold over 3.7 million copies in a year and a half.

Peterson would seem to meet all of Prospect’s stated criteria for inclusion: he was unknown outside the University of Toronto until autumn 2016, when his popularity exploded; he has enjoyed unparalleled impact with his lectures, YouTube videos and books; in a short time he has become the most famous public intellectual in the world. A decade ago, when David Goodhart was editor, he would have easily fit in as a writer for Prospect. In the current intellectual climate he seems like a dangerous iconoclast, if only to journalists and professional academics.

Prospect’s editorial team don’t bother to explain Peterson’s omission. To mention him in passing as they do, only in Kate Manne’s biography, is not merely passive-aggressive cowardice; it also does Manne a disservice. Readers will assume that she was included on this list purely as a slap at Peterson, rather than on her own merits.

It’s Not Irrelevant. It’s a Hippopotamus

What is most revealing about Prospect’s list is how the British (or London-based) intellectual establishment has changed since 2004. The magazine’s hundredth-issue list appeared to consist mainly of people who had been invited to lunch at the Garrick Club at some point. Yet within that homogeneous-seeming group there was a real range and diversity of opinion, talent and achievement. There is nobody whose presence on that list cannot easily be justified.

The 2005 and 2008 lists were weakened by a slight tokenism. After 2013, Prospect’s lists were pulled in too many contrary directions. The editorial teams responsible wanted to be fair and accurate in their choices, but they also wanted to do favours for their friends and allies, while also showing the requisite generosity to various groups that they felt obliged to recognise but did not always understand (economists, for example).

The 2019 list is an improvement on 2015’s, but it seems to have been put together for a world in which the Trumpocalypse never happened, the major universities have held on to their prestige, and the general public still defers to the intelligentsia. If artists and literary novelists are tacitly acknowledged to be irrelevant now, at least journalists, social scientists and philosophers have retained their importance in Prospect’s intellectual world. But how important is that intellectual world now?

Prospect’s editorial team, like so many educated Londoners, desperately want to believe that Barack Obama is still President of the United States, the British Conservative government is restrained by Liberal-Democrat coalition partners, and the EU is under no serious internal or external threat. The 2019 list of thinkers is merely a better version of the 2015 one, and no more relevant.

The editors have made other lapses in judgment. Log-rolling and mutual back-scratching is inevitable in human institutions, and should never be censured too severely. All the same, Prospect has erred too far on the side of cosiness with its contributors and allies. This tendency affects more than just the magazine’s “Top Fifty Thinkers” list.

Since 2001, Prospect has organised the ‘Think Tank of the Year’ awards. This year’s winner was the Institute for Government, which happens to be headed by Prospect’s former editor Bronwen Maddox. No doubt there is nothing dishonourable about the award’s nomination or judging processes. But what were they thinking? Hasn’t anybody at Prospect or the Institute of Government realised how this looks?

The British intellectual Establishment, far from becoming more open, tolerant or inclusive over the past two decades, is more insular and entitled than ever. What is worse, it is in denial about how little power and influence it has outside of a few institutions, whose reputations suffer as they grow increasingly narrow-minded and mediocre. Can these people listen to anybody who is not immediately recognised as a colleague, ally or accredited peer?

Next year, Tom Clark and his team need to hammer out a list of consistent, coherent criteria clearly defining what a ‘top thinker’ is, who deserves to be included on their 2020 list, and who must be excluded, and why. Then they must rigorously apply these without exception. Otherwise the list will look again like an arbitrary exercise based on whim, personal taste, and whoever gets invited to parties with the editors, contributors and their friends.

Prospect cannot take its own importance for granted. Exercises like this only serve to damage the credibility of a distinguished intellectual institution, and hasten its slide into decline.

 

Jaspreet Singh Boparai is a former academic. He has formerly written for Quillette under the pseudonym “Sandra Kotta.”

 

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

Comments

  1. I read this article once aloud to my husband over dinner after I saw the really strong intro at the beginning, but him and I were both pretty disappointed as we continued to find a severe lack of focus with respect to the initial thesis, or title if you will. While there was a lot of interesting points to be made, it feels less like an article and more like a collation or personal journal, I don’t know. I don’t think it needed to be as long as it was to clearly communicate the thesis.

  2. Echoing Alex before me, I could not read the article to the end. The title intrigued me though – but I could not get to the answer either. So, here’s my take on it.

    Even though Jordan Peterson’s book sold over 3.7 million copies already, this might correspond to 2% of the US adults might have expressed “active” interest to his work. If you take into consideration that the book is sold all across the anglophone world (and Prospect is mostly UK-based), the percentage is not high enough to qualify. After all, Prospect is an established magazine that prefers to stay safely afloat.

    According to the Wikipedia link (from the main article), Chomsky made it to the top of the 100 Public Intellectuals list in 2005 – and that gives us a hint. Chomsky is a political activist, a much better product for today’s mainstream market. No negative implications, but Jordan Peterson will NOT qualify as one.

  3. A quick answer to the question in the title: because he frequently misrepresents the philosophies he discusses, misquotes authors, and betrays a general lack of knowledge to those who actually have read the works. To those who have not, he seems like a pretty smart guy. Having a large YouTube following or even a book that has been popular does not equate to intellectual accuracy even though it can make one quite wealthy. It has nothing to do with actual socialism (per Marx) or Darwinism (per Darwin), but then that doesn’t matter if you can make it sound like it does and people believe it because it fits their narrative.

  4. S.B.: How many books has AOC or any of the other vapid ideologues on the list sold? You should have finished reading, because the contents of the list make it clear that people were selected based on their wokeness. Many people with far less reach and far less depth than JBP were included because their politics were right.

  5. Why isn’t Britney Spears on the list of best singers.
    Because popular does not equal best or outstanding and innovative.

  6. I think you should read the article before commenting because this point is precisely addressed.

  7. I commented on this article when it was originally posted with the following list:

    My Votes:
    Jordan Peterson
    Camille Paglia
    Nassim Nicholas Taleb
    Sam Harris
    Steven Pinker
    Jonathan Haidt
    Eric Weinstein

    Thank you all for the feedback. Here are my responses to a few of the comments.

    Martin28 said:

    “Great list, and I am a big fan of most, although my personal short list would not include Harris or Pinker—but everyone else you name. The only one Prospect includes is Haidt. Taleb is the most original and influential 20th Century philosopher, in my view. He is far above the people I know on that Prospect list, with the exception of maybe Haidt. The Prospect list is symptomatic of our current intellectual climate, when the political narrative is all-important.”

    To be honest, I am not a big fan of Harris and Pinker, but I also think they are unignorable. Right now Harris is the avatar of the new atheists such as Dawkins and Hitchens. He is actively and adroitly defending their position and leading the conversation on free will and how to marry atheism to morally-grounded progress, which to me is a contradiction, but he seems to be a good person and very sharp. What I know of Pinker is that he is a researcher reporting facts, so I am not sure he belongs either, but his contribution invites the broader argument of material increase vs progress, which we are sorely lacking.

    Also, Taleb is a grade A jerk, but completely changed my world view with the concept of antifragility. I can think of no better example of how naming a set of observations recontextualized my perception of everything, except perhaps Peterson’s articulation of the dichotomy between Order and Chaos (though, I was hit by the full force of the concept many years ago in linear algebra class, so maybe there is something to these mathematicians…).

    Geary Johansen said:

    “Great list. I think Prospect was essentially correct with Jonathan Haidt and Niall Ferguson. Most Quillette readers will be familiar with Jonathan Haidt’s work, but Niall Ferguson’s work bears further scrutiny. In particular, I’ve been thinking about his work on nodes and networks of power, and how great historical figures were able to command such influence and power within the public sphere, by virtue of their position in relation to networks of power and events. Critically, I think this idea might be applied on a smaller scale to help gifted individuals from poorer backgrounds to achieve their full potential.

    For those of us born into fortunate circumstances, there can be no doubt that the family and friend network we inherit from our parents represents a powerful embedded knowledge-network, that we can draw upon when confronted with unique or ‘new-to-me’ challenges. A prime example of this might be a successful uncle-by-marriage, who could teach one how to deal with subordinates who don’t want to take responsibility for decision-making, with the simple wisdom ‘Don’t come to me with problems, come to me with solutions.’ Indeed, one of the original benefits of a university education (which has perhaps been cast into doubt by recent events on university campuses), was probably it’s utility in allowing one to form an additional network, both in terms of fellow students and professors.

    But for someone gifted and born into less fortunate circumstances, none of this embedded knowledge exists as a tangible resources- they may may well have loved ones to draw on for advice, wisdom and support, but is it necessarily the right advice to develop their full potential? In many ways, in an analogue and real world sense, this could be the equivalent of being essentially cut-off from the digital world, denied access to the personal mentoring pool that IRL human connectivity gives us.

    This could actually be a lot more harmful than it appears at face value- Simon Sinek has observed that the one of the reasons why young people are so miserable, is because social media provides an alternative and a retreat from, the normal teenage process of coming to terms with awkwardness and learning to socialise with the world beyond your immediate family. One presumes that once a teenager passes through this stage, the absence of a network of productive adults to approach for mentoring and advice, provides less fertile soil for development, especially for the talented.

    Dr Raj Chetty’s work on social mobility can shed a light on the importance of this process. His work underlines the importance of fathers, especially to boys. But crucially, a child born into a single parent family and raised in a neighbourhood with a high proportion of fathers stands a better chance than a child born into a two parent family and raised in a neighbourhood with fathers absent. Peer group probably an important role here, especially in circumstances of inequality, this could be a socialised feedback system which reinforces the idea that the system is rigged against you and leads to the bad educational outcomes, high crime and school-to-prison pipeline that is now all too familiar in our cultures. One of the more striking aspects of Raj Chetty’s work, is that although African American women may well face unique obstacles and difficulties in their life path, they are able to overcome them to achieve life outcomes that are identical to white women, at a population level, whilst African American men are not, relative to their white counterparts.

    One reason why productive fathers within a community are so important, is because in many ways they are able to at least partially counter the narrative of systemic injustice, that leads so many young men to at best give up, and at worst find themselves drawn into the world of crime. Commentators have noted that in the absence of admirable male role models, teenage boys and young men are drawn to considerably less ideal role models- particularly so that they can engage in the male status competition that has proven to be so critical to the way that women select partners. But more than this, each productive and admirable male within a community, represents a very real embodiment of a potential life path for teenage boys and young men within that community. Given that occupational paths tend to persist through the generations within communities, we might find that socialisation systems may well play form a far more important role in determining life outcomes than the nepotism and social stratification, previously assumed.

    The reason why this is so important in relation to Jordan Peterson is that he touched upon it in his interview with Jamil Jivani, author of ‘Why Young Men: Rage, Race and the Crisis or Identity’. In the interview, Jamil Jivani discussed how the one year free college course Canada makes available to those who fail within their secondary system, combined with a chance meeting with a college professor to radically change his life path. It beggars belief that such a simple mentoring mechanism can so drastically improve some young men’s prospects and that such systems aren’t more systemically and methodically built into our cultures.

    Granted, it’s probably not a solution that will raise all boats, and there would be the problem of convincing a sufficient quantity and quality of high-calibre to voluntarily give-up their time, and add to their duties, to provide a mentoring structure for young people without such resources. Some system along these lines could surely address many of the concerns of structural disparities, with which the Left is currently obsessed.

    On reflection, I think it’s the war between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome, and the side that Jordan Peterson has taken on this emotive topic that has barred him from consideration for the purposes of Prospect list of Top Fifty Thinkers. It’s also likely the reason why he has so frequently been the subject of hit pieces and character assassinations. The Left has become so delusionally obsessed with correcting for what they perceive to be systems of privilege, through the mechanism of weighted college admissions and employment and advancement quotas, they cannot see that many of the social and policy feeder systems that produce inequality of outcomes could conceivably be ‘fixed’.

    To them, it doesn’t matter that socio-economic background far outweighs all other systems of privilege combined, in determining life outcomes- to them it’s all about race, gender and sexuality.- and the fact that correcting social feeder systems themselves could present a viable alternative in providing fairer systems of equality of opportunity, is likely to be dismissed as a continuation of previous right-wing talking points. Never mind, that it is based in part on meta-data mined and presented by the liberal bastion of Stanford, or that the desire to improve human potential is a deeply embedded liberal goal. These days, it’s more about being right, than doing right.

    The simple system of encouraging fathers and providing volunteer mentoring systems within communities, could present a viable solution to many of societies ills. We may well have tried some of it before, using some scatological and piecemeal approach, but until recently we didn’t have the social science to back it up. In addition, the results achieved by schools like the Michaela Community School in London and Success Academy in New York, point the way towards schools reform which encompasses a highly structured, knowledge-intensive methodology of teaching, combined with strict enforcement of low-level discipline (such as detention), which corrects for 80% to 90% of the structural knowledge-rich home environments that kids from more advantaged circumstances possess. Our cognitive sciences show us how important it is for teachers to impart a huge range of knowledge into young minds in order for them to become fully functioning members of society, and there can be no more searing indictment of the failures of the progressive educational establishment, that even amongst those who don’t fall into the bottom 10% of the cognitive spectrum, mental maths is poor by comparison to previous generations and reading books for pleasure or knowledge is rare.

    There exists within society all the core components to settle the equality of opportunity versus equality of outcome debate, by turning it into a discussion that inevitably brings opportunity and outcome closer together. Granted, it is unlikely that it can ever be fixed in one generation or even two, because there can never be solution that substitutes for two well-educated parents from a high socio-economic background and a home full of books. But creating mentors within society, in addition to fathers within a community and a well-calibrated education system, could go a long way to levelling the playing field. It is also worth noting that most Western countries enjoyed these circumstances in the post-WWII period, and this was, by varying degrees, when social mobility was at its highest. Now that we have the legal and social systems to ensure that equality of opportunity exists, regardless of race, gender or sexuality, isn’t it high time we tried it again.”

    Wow, great thoughts. I am embarrassed to say Niall Ferguson only rings a faint bell in my head, but I will definitely check him out.

    If you will indulge me a bit, I’ll tell you a about my experience with exactly how family/friend networks influenced my life. I am lucky in the sense that I come from a stable two-parent home with a steady income, so I am smack dab in that fortunate group you describe. My father modeled how to be a man more than explained and showed me how to get up after falling down. He is not perfect, but he is a good man who gave me many opportunities for honest work. He is also a high school drop-out. Neither he nor my mother went to college. We always had stuff, but always felt poor. My older brothers were also high school dropouts and smoked dope, just like my dad. I inherited an odd mix of confidence and lack of expectations from my family.

    Point being, as far as I am concerned, I am a perfect case of someone who could have gone either way. Without forgetting the essential foundation my family provided, I attribute much of the course of my life to the culture engendered by my friend group. Among us there was never a question of whether we would go to college. So, when it was time (I was tipped off by my friends applying for college) I drove to the local community college, walked into the registration office, and said, “Hello, I would like to take classes here.” Which was followed by much confusion, mutual incompetence, and generally figuring out how to college.

    I bring all this up because I clearly remember thinking that if people only knew the ins and outs of how to college, then most people could just do it. Like I said, I had an extra measure of confidence, so I was undeterred by all the hoops, embarrassment, and confusion. This is also when I discovered the many scholarships and grants that don’t apply to my particular race/gender/ethnicity combination, which never bothered me, per se, but it reinforced my belief that the disconnect between under-served communities was not a money problem, but an information/culture problem (an aside, this belief resulted in a completely different reading of “The Lesson” by Toni Cade Bambara than what is generally accepted as the point of the story).

    So, while I agree broadly with you about people needing a mentor figure/network, I think applying that to the particularly gifted is too narrow. I think it is mostly effort, direction, and vision. All are challenges in communities where these are undervalued, or not modeled. I came upon each of the three in different ways: my father, personal gumption, and friend culture, respectively.

    Jeff said:

    “Hi Mr. Clave, As I was reading the article and comments, I was thinking I would like to see a list from Quillette readers of “thinkers” they find interesting. Not a list of the smartest or anything like that. Just a list that fellow readers find interesting. Generally, I enjoy and learn much from the comment section, as much or more than the articles. I wish the Quillette editors would start a list and allow readers to “recommend” those included. For example I do not know Nassim Nicolas Taleb, but if he was the most recommended “thinker” on the list, I’d start with him. Maybe work down the list from the top. Thanks for your list. Best wishes.”

    Yes, I was kind of thinking the same thing. I originally wrote something to that effect, then chickened out of a call-to-action type post. As for Taleb, I believe there were other links, but the first place I heard of him was on Reason.com (https://reason.com/2013/01/20/nassim-taleb-talks-antifragile-libertari/) in a video interview with Nick Gillespie, if you are looking for a nice easy primer you can watch or listen to.

    Grant said:

    “All great, add Tyler Cohen and Richard Epstein”

    [adds to list of people to look up]

    Amin said:

    “The list betrays you. You do not know anyone outside the SM bubble.”

    SM bubble? I am not familiar with this phrase and googling has proved fruitless.

    To this and other criticisms, I support your right to free speech.

    Not that it matters, but my thinking went something like this, “Who can I think of, that I know a little bit about, who has influenced my thinking or changed my mind, who is somewhat of a public figure, who (to the best of my knowledge) are expressing their own ideas (if that’s possible), or at least a fresh take on noteworthy ideas?" I am not an expert, this is not a list of my favorite people, and I disagree and agree with all of them to varying degrees, because that’s how secular philosophy works (otherwise it becomes religion).

    Thanks again!

  8. I’m still struggling to understand why Harari’s “Sapiens” was such a big deal and yet Nicholas Christakis “Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society” is not!?

    Feels like a crime to me. Nicolas actually uses CITATION, which satiates the hunger of the amateur intellectual within me. I watched a TED talk delivered by Harari not long ago and I felt as though my brain was melting after the first 2 minutes. Then I listed to an interview with him and Sam Harris and I’m pretty sure it fried whatever brain cells I was willing to dedicate to that line of inquiry.

    Professor Peterson is incredible and I feel as though I’ve benefited from his lectures on his lectures on personality and what books I’ve read from his reading list.

    He makes my list, although I know that doesn’t count. :relaxed:

  9. Greta Thornburg is on the list? Then why not David Hogg?

    Greta and David both have zero original thought.

    Prospect is not a serious intellectual read.

    Boparari takes it far too seriously.

    Peterson isn’t in the list for obvious reasons. He’s a threat to those who fear reason.

    We knew that before the article was written.

  10. Peterson is sometimes eloquant, but most often he’s not.

    Passionate, yes. Rational, yes. Guided by reason, yes.

    Eloquant, sometimes.

  11. As a veteran of the American Armed Forces, a profession, and I mean that sincerely since I know many currently serving members in the Canadian Armed Forces, which deserves respect and admiration from every civilian. The soldier, and subsequent veteran, represent the best of the people who they currently or have served. Many currently serving members and veterans are extremely humble, respectful, upstanding individuals who take pride in serving the people. A sacrifice worth recognizing which is why I’m going to say with all sincerity:

    Could you please stop trolling my comments because it’s bordering on harassment. Thank you.

  12. As to the harrasment, you’ll be ok.

    A veteran should be able to cope with 8 point font.

  13. Well, you see, on the net indeed everything presents itself as subjective reality: even the size of the font depends on the reader.

  14. Im guessing she doesn’t have a Twitter account if she thinks Im a harraser.

    She’s “better” than the rest of us, didn’t you know that?

    I didn’t go to Oxford, and according to her, if you didnt go to “Oxford”, youre some sort of lesser human.

    And if you can’t speak eloquantly from a teleprompter, you’re not a good leader.

    Would be shocked if shes not single.

  15. I have a placeholder one: an acct with my name on it to which I post nothing. Just the same way with Facebook. I exist in virtual space, but barely; and because my name is quite common in Hungarian, people trying to look me up on social media can’t make head or tail of the stuff: the footprints are either nonexistent, of they’re trampling on each other. :slight_smile:

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  1. Martin28 says

    To not include Jordan Peterson is a sin. To ignore Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a crime.

    • Kacper Wronowski says

      Taleb is antiintelectual. He brought nothing new, is arogant and wrong on so many topics, yet he never admit it

      • ga gamba says

        wrong on so many topics,

        So many??? OK, name five and substantiate.

        • Amin says

          “So many??? OK, name five and substantiate.”

          I wasn’t aware he has much value as a thinker outside of finance. The only thing I know is his stance on GMO crops.

      • Jean-Pierre Rupp says

        Agreed here. Taleb didn’t bring any new ideas to the table. He is just marketing common knowledge about statistics as if it is some sort of revelation.

        • Martin28 says

          @ Jean-Pierre Rupp
          You obviously haven’t read him. He invented the concept of anti-fragility, which has important implications for personal well-being, health, economics, community design, and politics on every level from local to international.

      • Charlie says

        Taleb said many of those in risk management were not risking their own money. He said that those undertaking statistical risk assessments lacked broad and deep enough experience so they underestimated the likely hood of hazards which he called Black Swans. Black swans do not occur in Europe but they do in Australia. Consequently if one only has European experience would put the risk of black swans at zero but in reality they exist .

        Taleb believes in making systems less fragile which requires having a broad enough range of experience to quantify all hazards. The financial melt down of 2008 was because quants did not accurately assess the risk of some mortgages.

      • Martin28 says

        @ Kacper Wronowski
        Taleb is called anti-intellectual because he has been strongly critical of theoretical learning through the university system. He is critical despite the fact he has a PhD and is employed by a university. He raises important points of the “iatrogenics,” the harm caused by university research, which is never taken into account by researchers. He thinks the iterative learning through real-life theory and practice over generations is a much better way of learning. He is hated by academics for questioning whether they do any good, but this thinking is particularly relevant today, when critical theory and social justice theory are radically transforming society on many levels without consideration of harm.
        In no way is Taleb anti-intellectual. He is just intellectual in a way that does not follow the current narrative. Taleb in intellectual in the way that Quillette is intellectual. I recommend every Quillette reader to be familiar with his work.

      • Jensen Ellard says

        Full disclosure: TL;DR (all of it). I’ve consumed a fair amount of his material so I am not unfamiliar. I only even heard of 3 ppl on their list: AOC, George Soros, Ta’Nahasi Coats. I think there is a grand list of criticisms for that list. But why single out Jordan Peterson as ‘the one’ that was omitted? Do I think he should be on it? Yes. Do I think he was the single, obvious person that purposely left off? No. Sam Harris, Bret and Eric Weinstein, (and others) I think deserve placement just as much (more so IMHO) than Peterson. It seems silly to ask “Why Jordan Peterson is not on the list?”. A better title would be: “Who the hell came up with this list and why are these 5 [or 10,15,20] people not on it?” then list your reasons they should be.

      • Anti-intellectual. For example: About 4 years ago, on his Facebook page, Taleb tells his anti-GMO followers how to deal with pro-GMO foks. Paraphrased, he begins “if you debate them reasonably, on the science, you’ve lost before you begin. Insult, humiliate and block them. Do not debate them”. I still have an image of it somewhere.

    • Geary Johansen says

      Taleb is significant enough to rate in the top 50. I was just watching Mark Blythe briefly discussing China as part of a lecture on the various financial software systems we’ve used to run economies from the gold standard onwards, and apparently China has the highest rate of decentralised government spending in the world, at 80 cents for every dollar spent. This, given that their government spending is 24% of GDP, by comparison to 41.6% in the US and 49% in the UK.

      This ties in with what Taleb has said about governments needing to decentralise power and spending to the local level. Because if an American city fails it can be reset, or at the very least people have the option to move, but if the American Government fails systemically everyone is buggered. A good example of this is the progressive education system in the West. Because ideas were able to cross-pollinate across countries, especially in the Anglosphere, all the bad ideas were able to compound, essentially leading to a cascade failure in broader standards of primary and secondary education. It’s why kids today find exams set from the 1950’s too difficult.

      Meanwhile, at the very top end of the charter or free schools movement, great ideas are being implemented and spread. Now, granted there are great public schools in the US and the UK, but their good ideas are not being spread throughout the system if they contradict the prevailing ideological methodology of the progressive educational establishment. This is the failure of top-down systems alluded to by Nassim Taleb.

      The reason why people with high IQ are so disproportionately rewarded in ‘a winner takes all’ economy, is because they are insatiable for new knowledge and able to learn faster, and any educational system that fails to put the absorption of as much new knowledge schema as possible, as the number one priority, is dooming those without a home full of books to a life of dispossession and disenfranchisement. Because, in the end, you can’t just Google it, if you don’t know what questions to ask in the first place.

      • Sasha says

        I’m always astonished that people expect any newspaper , journal, radio or web site is or will be unbiased. Since the first production of writing, people have used it to influence and convince others that their point of view is correct.

        Their often totally biased and often misrepresented views, rely totally on the apathy of the populace and general lack of interest in issues due to the self-interest of the individual in their day to day existence.

        The rabid idlers of the past that initiated, socialism, communism and fascism were people who never had the individual ability to build a life for themselves and hence immediately responded to any call to change society be it for the worse or better. This way they could avoid total responsibility for outcomes of their forced indoctrination and the disastrous consequences in loss of lives .

        They then argued that they were morally superior in their views of society, supported by contorted volumes of history written by either apparatchiks or people who were never present.

        To enforce those outcomes it was easy to move towards the use of the “truncheon” as the Mussolini youth did or in the current circumstances literally poison any opposition as currently happening in Moscow. (The previous preferred opposition leader was shot on a bridge walking to work!)

        The biggest supporters of Mussolini, Hitler, Putin, Stalin et al was guess who…..the media!
        PS Not a word from European leaders or the cackle of German journalists on the poisoning of the possible current Opposition leader in the lead up to the elections in Moscow due in September.

        • Ooh …great observation. I often think that about all current politicians…….they’re in politics because it’s the only club in which they can get away with being less than mediocre.

          I’m not bright enough or well read enough to join the general discussion here…but the biased media landscape in the U.K. is complicated by the fact that the public is forced to pay for the BBC, whether they agree with it or not.

          Jordan Peterson might be selective with his facts…but isn’t everybody who is trying to win an argument? It’s a competitive need to win.

    • Bowa says

      Why would you include Taleb? With his take on IQ tests he has proven to be an ideologue/political activist with no regard for scientific inquiry.

  2. Andrew Scott says

    How does one measure others’ “intellectualism” in any way? Why would anyone take such a list seriously? How could such a list be anything other than a self-serving popularity contest? How arrogant to consider oneself qualified to identify, evaluate, and rank great intellects and top thinkers.

    It’s like a GQ article about what real men do. Real men don’t read that crap.

    • Roman says

      Literally could not have expressed it better. Mr Scott.

    • MDW says

      Was Aristotle an intellectual? Da Vinci? McLuhan? I think it is somewhat dismissive to say no measurement is possible. To me the measure of an intellectual is the extent to which that person injects novel and useful thinking – or perhaps more importantly, ways of thinking – into public discourse. No doubt that Peterson has done that on a range of topics. The difficult thing we face today however, is that people in the mainstream are so biased that they either don’t tune in to any signals outside their filterbubble, or they reject any heterodox opinion before they even listen to its basis and arguments.

      • dirk says

        But very important here is the time table, was that intellectual already famous during his life? Or only afterwards? (as has happened not a few times, and is quite logical, because, if you explain a paradigm different from the one that most scientists or citizens love or are used to, you won’t be popular at once, that takes time, to ferment and ripen, more or less so like in prime cheese and parma ham).

        And this is also the reason that it’s nonsense to come with a top 10 or 50 or 100. Though, in journalism and magazines, a favourite passtime.

        • Jensen Ellard says

          Fair enough. Following your reasoning, it makes no sense to make the list. You could only do so thru the lens of history. XX years after they made their impact. There must be time for the paradigm to actually shift before you can say any person had a hand in it.

          • dirk says

            Maybe such a list makes sense after all (and I agree here below, mentioning some person on such a present list, which is against the idea it’s just nonsense), but it’s not all, presentism should not be the last word, though, at present, it seems to have so. And, of course, falsification also plays a part, you cannot falsify what has not been put first. So, agree with you, it makes (partly) sense. But what now to think of the reaction here below of Kevin? Exactly what??

    • jbowen82 says

      It’s sort of like the Groucho Marx quip that he wouldn’t want to be a member of a club that would have him as a member. Would inclusion on such a list be prima facie evidence of one’s irrelevance?

  3. Stanley Ketchel says

    They are consistent — didn’t see any mention of E. O. Wilson, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Jared Diamond, Steven Pinker, or Thomas Sowell. I am sure Christopher Hitchens would have been ignored had he still lived.

  4. Blurghchicken says

    Someone write a follow up entitled “Why Wasn’t Jordan Peterson Actually Written About In ‘Why isn’t Jordan Peterson on This List of the World’s Top Fifty Intellectuals?'”

      • Memetic Tribe says

        Perhaps. But I was actually happy that this article was not just another Peterson screed. It was rather a thorough dissection of yet another formerly liberal institution consumed by woke dogma.

  5. Joe Clave says

    My Votes:
    Jordan Peterson
    Camille Paglia
    Nassim Nicholas Taleb
    Sam Harris
    Steven Pinker
    Jonathan Haidt
    Eric Weinstein

    • Martin28 says

      Great list, and I am a big fan of most, although my personal short list would not include Harris or Pinker—but everyone else you name. The only one Prospect includes is Haidt. Taleb is the most original and influential 20th Century philosopher, in my view. He is far above the people I know on that Prospect list, with the exception of maybe Haidt. The Prospect list is symptomatic of our current intellectual climate, when the political narrative is all-important.

    • Geary Johansen says

      @ Joe Clave

      Great list. I think Prospect was essentially correct with Jonathan Haidt and Niall Ferguson. Most Quillette readers will be familiar with Jonathan Haidt’s work, but Niall Ferguson’s work bears further scrutiny. In particular, I’ve been thinking about his work on nodes and networks of power, and how great historical figures were able to command such influence and power within the public sphere, by virtue of their position in relation to networks of power and events. Critically, I think this idea might be applied on a smaller scale to help gifted individuals from poorer backgrounds to achieve their full potential.

      For those of us born into fortunate circumstances, there can be no doubt that the family and friend network we inherit from our parents represents a powerful embedded knowledge-network, that we can draw upon when confronted with unique or ‘new-to-me’ challenges. A prime example of this might be a successful uncle-by-marriage, who could teach one how to deal with subordinates who don’t want to take responsibility for decision-making, with the simple wisdom ‘Don’t come to me with problems, come to me with solutions.’ Indeed, one of the original benefits of a university education (which has perhaps been cast into doubt by recent events on university campuses), was probably it’s utility in allowing one to form an additional network, both in terms of fellow students and professors.

      But for someone gifted and born into less fortunate circumstances, none of this embedded knowledge exists as a tangible resources- they may may well have loved ones to draw on for advice, wisdom and support, but is it necessarily the right advice to develop their full potential? In many ways, in an analogue and real world sense, this could be the equivalent of being essentially cut-off from the digital world, denied access to the personal mentoring pool that IRL human connectivity gives us.

      This could actually be a lot more harmful than it appears at face value- Simon Sinek has observed that the one of the reasons why young people are so miserable, is because social media provides an alternative and a retreat from, the normal teenage process of coming to terms with awkwardness and learning to socialise with the world beyond your immediate family. One presumes that once a teenager passes through this stage, the absence of a network of productive adults to approach for mentoring and advice, provides less fertile soil for development, especially for the talented.

      Dr Raj Chetty’s work on social mobility can shed a light on the importance of this process. His work underlines the importance of fathers, especially to boys. But crucially, a child born into a single parent family and raised in a neighbourhood with a high proportion of fathers stands a better chance than a child born into a two parent family and raised in a neighbourhood with fathers absent. Peer group probably an important role here, especially in circumstances of inequality, this could be a socialised feedback system which reinforces the idea that the system is rigged against you and leads to the bad educational outcomes, high crime and school-to-prison pipeline that is now all too familiar in our cultures. One of the more striking aspects of Raj Chetty’s work, is that although African American women may well face unique obstacles and difficulties in their life path, they are able to overcome them to achieve life outcomes that are identical to white women, at a population level, whilst African American men are not, relative to their white counterparts.

      One reason why productive fathers within a community are so important, is because in many ways they are able to at least partially counter the narrative of systemic injustice, that leads so many young men to at best give up, and at worst find themselves drawn into the world of crime. Commentators have noted that in the absence of admirable male role models, teenage boys and young men are drawn to considerably less ideal role models- particularly so that they can engage in the male status competition that has proven to be so critical to the way that women select partners. But more than this, each productive and admirable male within a community, represents a very real embodiment of a potential life path for teenage boys and young men within that community. Given that occupational paths tend to persist through the generations within communities, we might find that socialisation systems may well play form a far more important role in determining life outcomes than the nepotism and social stratification, previously assumed.

      The reason why this is so important in relation to Jordan Peterson is that he touched upon it in his interview with Jamil Jivani, author of ‘Why Young Men: Rage, Race and the Crisis or Identity’. In the interview, Jamil Jivani discussed how the one year free college course Canada makes available to those who fail within their secondary system, combined with a chance meeting with a college professor to radically change his life path. It beggars belief that such a simple mentoring mechanism can so drastically improve some young men’s prospects and that such systems aren’t more systemically and methodically built into our cultures.

      Granted, it’s probably not a solution that will raise all boats, and there would be the problem of convincing a sufficient quantity and quality of high-calibre to voluntarily give-up their time, and add to their duties, to provide a mentoring structure for young people without such resources. Some system along these lines could surely address many of the concerns of structural disparities, with which the Left is currently obsessed.

      On reflection, I think it’s the war between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome, and the side that Jordan Peterson has taken on this emotive topic that has barred him from consideration for the purposes of Prospect list of Top Fifty Thinkers. It’s also likely the reason why he has so frequently been the subject of hit pieces and character assassinations. The Left has become so delusionally obsessed with correcting for what they perceive to be systems of privilege, through the mechanism of weighted college admissions and employment and advancement quotas, they cannot see that many of the social and policy feeder systems that produce inequality of outcomes could conceivably be ‘fixed’.

      To them, it doesn’t matter that socio-economic background far outweighs all other systems of privilege combined, in determining life outcomes- to them it’s all about race, gender and sexuality.- and the fact that correcting social feeder systems themselves could present a viable alternative in providing fairer systems of equality of opportunity, is likely to be dismissed as a continuation of previous right-wing talking points. Never mind, that it is based in part on meta-data mined and presented by the liberal bastion of Stanford, or that the desire to improve human potential is a deeply embedded liberal goal. These days, it’s more about being right, than doing right.

      The simple system of encouraging fathers and providing volunteer mentoring systems within communities, could present a viable solution to many of societies ills. We may well have tried some of it before, using some scatological and piecemeal approach, but until recently we didn’t have the social science to back it up. In addition, the results achieved by schools like the Michaela Community School in London and Success Academy in New York, point the way towards schools reform which encompasses a highly structured, knowledge-intensive methodology of teaching, combined with strict enforcement of low-level discipline (such as detention), which corrects for 80% to 90% of the structural knowledge-rich home environments that kids from more advantaged circumstances possess. Our cognitive sciences show us how important it is for teachers to impart a huge range of knowledge into young minds in order for them to become fully functioning members of society, and there can be no more searing indictment of the failures of the progressive educational establishment, that even amongst those who don’t fall into the bottom 10% of the cognitive spectrum, mental maths is poor by comparison to previous generations and reading books for pleasure or knowledge is rare.

      There exists within society all the core components to settle the equality of opportunity versus equality of outcome debate, by turning it into a discussion that inevitably brings opportunity and outcome closer together. Granted, it is unlikely that it can ever be fixed in one generation or even two, because there can never be solution that substitutes for two well-educated parents from a high socio-economic background and a home full of books. But creating mentors within society, in addition to fathers within a community and a well-calibrated education system, could go a long way to levelling the playing field. It is also worth noting that most Western countries enjoyed these circumstances in the post-WWII period, and this was, by varying degrees, when social mobility was at its highest. Now that we have the legal and social systems to ensure that equality of opportunity exists, regardless of race, gender or sexuality, isn’t it high time we tried it again.

      • Linden Rogers says

        Thank you for this thoughtful essay. As a Canadian, I agree with you that educational institutions can play an important role in ‘leveling the playing field’.

      • Samedi says

        @Geary Johansen

        I always appreciate your comments and I usually agree with them. In this case, however, I cannot. Robert Plomin in his book “Blueprint” (mentioned somewhat unfairly above) discusses the topic of educational achievement and his finding do not support your position. Behavioral genetics is reporting some very unpleasant truths, truths that are going to be difficult to digest. Your recommendations all sound very reasonable to me except it seems to be the case that they don’t actually affect outcomes much, if it all.

        • Geary Johansen says

          @ Samedi

          To a certain extent I agree with you- Plomin writes that “opportunities are taken, not given” and that education is when “children can find out what they like to do and what they are good at doing, where they can find their genetic selves”. But in the instance of most Western societies, although they have gone further in creating equality of opportunity than any other, there is an extent to which many populations, especially at the bottom end of the wealth and income distribution cannot ‘take’ opportunities, because there are none available on the bureaucratic shelf.

          The proof really does exist, in the form of the schools I mentioned above. In one recent interview with Eva Moskowitz, one interviewer (possibly on reason TV) noted that they were surprised that there were 500 kids from those sort of backgrounds, in the whole of New York who could perform at that academic level of performance. Katherine Birbalsingh’s experience repeats the experiment successfully. The British Grammar school system achieved similar results when it successfully took gifted kids from poor backgrounds and gave them access to opportunities they would not otherwise have.

          Another way this bears out, is in the comparison of white Irish and white British exam results. The figures for white Irish within Northern Ireland are exceptional by comparison to their white British socio-economic peers. The non-selective Catholic Grammar has proven an extraordinary influence in maintaining community involvement in schooling and resisting the worst ideas of the progressive education system- so much so that the Protestant state sector in Northern Ireland has been forced to emulate them in order to avoid complete humiliation. Between them their results make white British results look like a cruel joke, especially if you are white and poor, in the mainland UK.

          The key ingredient is to understand that for young men born into poor, single parent families, every effort should be made to dissolve the appearance of systemic inequality- because all males possess the genetic capacity to cheat, if we believe we are participating in a rigged game. Because it’s the narrative of inequality that needs to be fought, even more so than the the actual structural disparities- because if you are young, feckless and lacking in direction, it’s easy to give up or cheat to win. The only population that seems to be largely immune to this is the Chinese- who achieve high results regardless of whether they are rich or poor.

          Studies on serotonin levels show that this is essentially a sociocentric system acting on a biological level- a system designed to goad us to take greater risks to improve our circumstances in adverse conditions. Unfortunately this mechanism doesn’t work too well in the modern age- either for the individual or society at large. Irish Americans experienced very similar social conditions to those that African Americans experience today (in terms of socio-economic status relative to the population as a whole), and their levels of endemic crime were just as appalling.

          • Samedi says

            @Geary Johansen

            I was referring to Plomin’s statement that 60% of the variance in educational performance is due to genetics. It is even higher in specific areas such as reading comprehension. Add to this that there is ample research, to my understanding, that educational outcomes do not correlate with schools funding and the poor correlation of school quality with outcomes (though apparently schools can have a negative influence). To me these suggest a rethinking of the educational system. In what way I honestly don’t know, except it no longer seems viable to think that potential is unlimited and with just the right education anything is possible. This is clearly false. It reminds me of the now obsolete notion that parenting styles matter; they don’t by and large.

            Taking “gifted kids from poor backgrounds and [give] them access to opportunities they would not otherwise have” seems reasonable to me. Your example, “Catholic Grammar has proven an extraordinary influence in maintaining community involvement in schooling” also seems positive but is not strictly related to educational achievement but rather a larger community benefit.

            I don’t understand your point about “the appearance of systemic inequality”. I suspect you are granting too much causal power to the educational system. I doubt it has that much influence except by way of post hoc rationalization. Given that you have gifted students, mediocre students, poor students, and disruptive students, what would “systemic equality” even mean? Treating them all the same would seem, in principle, unfair.

          • Geary Johansen says

            @ Samedi

            I will readily admit that a very good school within the progressive education system, probably only influences educational outcome by comparison to an adequate school, at around 10%. But my point would be that they are all progressive schools and all hellbent on making knowledge something kids ‘discover’ for themselves with the teacher aiding them, rather than creating curricula and learning systems that are ‘knowledge-intensive’, in that they aim for the teacher to impart as many knowledge schema as possible in as little time as possible. The current system is based on Rousseau, and the alternate system is based on cognitive science.

            In those few schools running such systems the results are remarkable. For poorer kids, who rely primarily on schooling for knowledge this probably shifts educational outcomes by about 35%, for kids that have knowledge rich home environments with two well-educated parents, the results will probably be less profound at around 15 – 20%. The reason why I am interested in these systems in that they essentially mimic the learning process that kids with high IQ possess naturally.

            The advantage that those with high IQ have, other than the ability to learn faster, is the hunger to acquire new knowledge. It’s the reason they do so well in a winner take all economy- because of huge swathes of knowledge acquired over time, that can be cross-related to new knowledge as it comes in. Your point on parenting is well-taken, but what the studies overlooked in trying to re-invent the wheel, was the benefit a high socio-economic background with parents available as a learning resource inherently had on kids. Within IQ research, we know that sibling studies have shown that different background can account fora 12-16 point IQ shift (I would definitely ignore twin studies on this subject, because there is something atypical going on here). My point is that structured, knowledge-intensive learning might in some ways emulate this process, although I think a larger part will ultimately be found to relate to types of diet possessed by those in relative poverty- especially sugar-rich ones.

            Above all else, the proof is historic, rather than by system. Since the 1950’s the standards of education have steadily been declining, as education has become progressively more progressive. This can in fact be measured, at least in the UK, by previous exams set at 16, and the scores achieved by school leavers en masse. Current school kids cannot complete the 1950’s papers, because they are too difficult. The easiest way to see the new system in practice in the US, is to look at the curriculum developed by E D Hirsch, and see how well students performed with his curriculum. For years, pupils raised with his curriculum scored extremely highly in relation to world rankings, and it is only in recent years, since the Department of Education got it’s hooks into his program, that standards have declined.

            The system used by Michaela, and to an extent by Success Academy in New York, is a 3.0 version of this program. It appears to draw heavily on the science of listener attention, either intuitively or by design. So it is not just teaching knowledge in a way not seen outside of Asia, in recent years, but also paying a great deal of attention to teaching methodology, and the way that knowledge is delivered in the class room. The really unfortunate thing, is that liberals are still cheering Sir Ken Robinson on TED, when he is effectively advocating for more of what has been proven to fail, for the past 50 years.

            On the funding issue, I quite agree to an extent, Katherine Birbalsingh herself has made the point, that whilst she is always happy to take more money, it’s more about methodology and what is proven to work. I do think that in America at least, their should be an effort to redirect some funding from areas with the highest property tax revenue to the lowest, to help the poorest schools- or if this would prove too unpopular, a marginal tax on alumni donations to higher education funds.

            One of the ways that this ‘systemic inequality’ works is quite perverse, actually, and part of PC culture. Overzealous bureaucracies now patrol for teachers who disproportionately discipline African American kids. Unfortunately, these kids also come from socio-economic and single parent backgrounds which are more likely to present discipline issues. Teachers are in many cases afraid to dole out even low-level discipline (such as detentions), which are needed to maintain order. Perversely, the kids actually see the fact their bad behaviour is being overlooked, as evidence of racism.

            One of the many reasons why Katherine Birbalsingh’s school is so successful, churning out kids from poor, single parent, multi-ethnic backgrounds that are three years ahead of the national average, is because her teachers know that when parents come into school complaining that it’s racist that little Johny has received yet another detention, she can push back because she is biracial.

            So to get back to Plomin, I agree with his assessment of primary and secondary education as a whole, but only because- despite variations in individual school quality- he is invariably comparing like with like. With the few exceptions I have noted in this and previous posts, almost every school in the Western World is running some version of progressive education. This is crazy, given that we know that some of the systems which we used historically, produced better educational outcomes, and we now have a whole branch of cognitive science, which delves into how we learn, that can be applied to improve processes.

            A part on the problem is that lefter-leaning liberals still want to produce kids educated to one common standard of ability, and persist in the notion that anyone can be taught to do any job. Inherently, the newer systems pioneered by Birbalsingh and Moskowitz will produce kids educated to make the most of their natural gifts, on the basis of individual excellence- it’s inevitable really.

      • This isn’t a great list. This is a list of influential people sure, but people like Jonathan Haidt have ideas that collapse under scrutiny. For example, his famous talk on the moral roots of liberals vs conservations makes the assumption that all of the designed categories (roots) are equal.

        • A: Thank you, and yes. The list is sloppy and designed more to get attention for promoting “influencers” than intellectuals.

    • Jeff says

      Hi Mr. Clave, As I was reading the article and comments, I was thinking I would like to see a list from Quillette readers of “thinkers” they find interesting. Not a list of the smartest or anything like that. Just a list that fellow readers find interesting. Generally, I enjoy and learn much from the comment section, as much or more than the articles. I wish the Quillette editors would start a list and allow readers to “recommend” those included. For example I do not know Nassim Nicolas Taleb, but if he was the most recommended “thinker” on the list, I’d start with him. Maybe work down the list from the top. Thanks for your list. Best wishes.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @ga gamba

          Thanks, I’ve not read him before. This is the sort of thinker we need more of.

        • Geary Johansen says

          @ ga gamba

          Great link. Explains the disproportionate power of social justice progressives all too well- it is precisely their intolerance of others that makes them so powerful.

        • S. Cheung says

          Ga gamba,

          fascinating read. Thanks. Still trying to work my way (slowly) through Haidt. Must try Taleb next.

        • Amin says

          @ ga gamba

          Odd thoughts cobbled together with a veneer of jargon. An old trick – make it sound impressive and many will eat it up readily enough.

    • Grant says

      @ Joe
      All great, add Tyler Cohen and Richard Epstein

    • Amin says

      @Joe Clave

      The list betrays you. You do not know anyone outside the SM bubble.

  6. codadmin says

    To paraphrase: “Lists are like assholes, everyone has at least one in their life.”

    So what if Peterson isn’t included on s list complied by someone suffering from TDS?

    An honest lust would have included Trunp himself.

    Quillette should do their own list of intellectual thinkers.

  7. Random Onlooker says

    This is hilarious. I actually laughed out loud several times. The writer thinks the drug-damaged motormouth Russell Brand (the scamarchist who advised the kids to vote Labour, trashing his cred as he did so, before nipping off to his mansion to be a multi-millionaire dad) still has (laughing) ‘lasting influence.’

    He also asks why Jordan Peterson, a man who makes occasional interesting utterances, but who often sells snake oil (and lobster leggings for women!) isn’t on the list, and tries (still laughing) to try and sell us on the idea that American popcult microcelebs like Rachel Maddow and Tucker Carlson and Joe Rogan are (still laughing) top intellectuals. Pure comedy!

    What kind of person takes a list drawn up by the English wankeratti seriously anyway? Haven’t they noticed the state of England today? It’s going down the existential pan rapido. Maybe superhero Russell Brand should come out of nappy-changing retirement to help! Somebody shoot the smacksignal up into the skies! Sure incomprehensible rapid-fire conversations between him and a bemused Jordan Peterson could put England right back on track again.

    Still laughing.

    And no wonder.

    Duelling bullshitters (a la Deliverance); manbun vs dress casual:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kL61yQgdWeM

    • NashTiger says

      Why aren’t I on the list? I am quite assuredly much smarter than half those cats, and have a much broader base of knowledge as well.

      • Denny Sinnoh says

        Instead I’m going to wait for the “Most Handsomest “ intellectual political philosopher list.

      • Jensen Ellard says

        I have no idea who you are but I can say with some confidence: you are indeed smarter than half those twits.

    • No sharia says

      good points. And Brand is an avowed socialist/marxist. That should disqualify him.

    • Erik says

      English wankeratti…. hahaha!

      The nice thing about lists is they often reveal, by their conspicuous absence, the things you really need to pay attention to…

    • Roy Coleman says

      Random Onlooker, your protestations of humour and attempts to contribute to the Urban Dictionary are as contrived as your dismissals of those recognised globally as
      intellectuals and influencers. Predictably you’re more concerned with Russell Brand because he has monetized his nonsensical ideas and you have not.

  8. David George says

    It’s far from clear; is the list intended to be one honouring influence or intellect, you seem confused on this as well, Random.
    JP would surely qualify on both counts by any reasonable standard.

  9. Marrakesh says

    Quillette, please make a list. Much of the content on Quillette is in reaction to the establishment media and its biases. This is a noble thing and we need more outlets like Quillette to do this, but it would make a powerful statement if Q became the platform that published THE list. Who cares what a bunch of entrenched British ideologues think anymore? What matters is the voice of logic and reason. Q is that voice, and should contribute!

    • Martin28 says

      @Marrakesh
      I agree, but it should have something to do with “free thought” and fearless expression of influential and controversial ideas.

    • Marcus T Anthony says

      Progressivism is the new conservatism.

      • Geof says

        “Progressivism is the new conservatism.”

        Exactly.

        I have a hunch that future studies of political values and temperament will find that social justice progressives share more with past conservatives than with past liberals. Historically, people on the left have high openness. Do these people? Consider Haidt’s moral foundations: care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, sanctity/degradation and liberty/oppression. I see a whole lot of concern with loyalty, authority, and sanctity (as Haidt himself says) among social justice progressives.

        People on the left often define conservatism as reactionary defence of existing elite privilege. Current social justice progressivism does exactly that. Its most outspoken proponents are privileged in the real sense of economics and influence. They erase this by redefining the term, marginalizing the voices of majority of the population – including the marginalized groups for whom they claim to speak. I believe that social justice progressive is a mutation of neoliberalism. When it turned out that a rising global tide would not raise all boats, neoliberalism’s legitimacy was fatally undermined. Its technocratic elites needed a new justification for their rule. Unable to justify their status with reason, its architects turned instead to pseudo-religious moral enlightenment.

        That’s not the whole story; as with any large movement it contains factions. There are plenty of fellow travellers who looked at the name on the box, not what was inside; others cowering out of fear of their opponents (e.g. Trump); still others who feel compelled to solidarity in pursuit of other goals. Goals like reducing inequality and addressing climate change, which I share. But I see social justice progressivism as in practice opposing to these things, while its shoddy ends-justify-the-means tactics are unconscionable.

        • Out of Nowhere says

          @Geof: Yes, that would be an interesting analysis. Labels like ‘liberal’ etc. can be misleading, when they connect movements and idiologies in different times and places, that do not have too much in common but the name. Huge part of creating a successful political movement is the definition of a convincing ‘brand’ people can connect with. A real understanding of past events or even the present situation is not a necessary precondition for doing so.

        • Geary Johansen says

          @ Geof

          Great comment. Really insightful. Tim Pool has also shown through links within his articles that social justice progressives are the only ones that show a strong negative bias against their own race. In effect, they are racist against anyone within their own ethnicity who does not share their narcissistic apologism for their own ‘white privilege’.

          Never mind that they might be poor, disadvantaged, homeless, mentally ill or incapable through no fault of their own.

      • Barney Doran says

        Political correctness is the new Catholicism, and this list reveals many of its saints.

  10. John Lammi PhD, psychologist says

    “Today we have reached the Trumpian point where, for perhaps the first time in free societies since the French Revolution, reason has to be defended as a value.” Actually, it is the progressives who are attacking reason and free speech.
    Imagine putting on the list that mentally impaired (according to her parents’ report, I read) Swedish child who leads children in marches. What could go wrong? Oh, the Young Nazis, the Red Guard, the Young Communists in other locals. What could go wrong,
    and went went wrong to have a time when adults push this poison on us?

    • Closed Range says

      @john

      Good point, and secondly, why do they mention the French Revolution?

      The French Revolution is by no means the start of democracy or free society in the west. Any sensible criteria would make it the American war of independence. If anything the French Revolution was an example of how violent revolutions rarely lead to democracy, as they went through the Terror, Napoleon, the restoration of royalty, the second empire – it’s only really after 1871 that they can be said to have established somewhat of a stable democracy. That’s a flipping 82 years.

      In my books the French Revolution is more similar to the Russian one than anything else. Yet it has been mythologised.

      • ga gamba says

        The French Revolution is by no means the start of democracy or free society in the west. Any sensible criteria would make it the American war of independence. […] Yet it has been mythologised.

        French Revolution gets a lot of amplification and the American one much less. Is it the killing of the sovereign and nobility? The act by the masses? A disapproval of American slaveowners? The dislike of Americans? A warning to the Left to beware excesses? It pre-dates Paris’s Communards, which split the Left and remains divisive amongst them still, so is the FR an event the Left may all agree on?

  11. SiGe says

    More pandering to the destructive forces of the radical left. Colour me shocked.

    Paying mere lip service to the heterodox ideas that should drive western democracies and all but patently ignoring anyone who goes against the delusional ideas of unfettered immigration and socialism full stop.

    To be fair I’m a bit surprised to find Niall Ferguson on the list, but pleasantly; same for Jon Haidt. However, these are the lip service references and barely scratch the surface of those who have been and need to be involved in the conversations going forward so our democracies don’t devolve further.

  12. El Uro says

    2004 – 20,000 votes
    2013 – 10,000 votes
    2015 – 3,000 votes
    2019 – ? (I guess, only editors and their friends)

  13. Closed Range says

    To be honest, I’ve never heard of Prospect. I don’t think it has much influence at all in the UK. I’ll quite happily go on ignoring it completely. It sounds however just like another Grauniad-type navel-gazing rag.

    As for the question about the inclusion of the mathematician – as a mathematician myself in a different branch, I’ve never heard of him, so i don’t think I would put him above many other mathematicians around. If one really had to name a mathematician today that is respected across all branches, I would have to suggest Terence Tao.

    Note that the way the fields medal works is that every years, four people each win a fields medal, so they could have picked someone else equally well from his batch. If they indeed chose him only for his personal background, then I think it’s sad that they value him only as a token, rather than valuing any particular mathematical idea (although I doubt anybody at prospect knows much maths beyond high school grade). I guess they needed a token mathematician to make their list seem somewhat more genuine and they picked the one who had the best “optics” in their mind.

    • Closed Range says

      Should have been “every four years”.

  14. Morgan Foster says

    Is Prospect on the list of top 50 magazines that hardly anyone reads anymore?

    • Left My Foot says

      @ Morgan Foster

      Quite. It’s as cringeworthy as the Sunday Times Rich List. If someone were to bring it up in conversation, my buttocks would make Buzzfeed’s 102 Most Clenched Haunches of the Year.

  15. Professor YouTube's Magickal Emporium of Self-Help Seminars says

    In answer to the titular question:
    Because he’s a lightweight. He rambles at great length about topics clearly well outside his areas of study and it shows. The true things he says that get everybody so excited tend to be the lowest of low-hanging-fruit (academia is filled with cliques of trend-followers and social climbers? Quelle surprise!) and it’s merely the fact that he looks and sounds suitably tweedy and professorial that has made him such a popular mascot.

    • Simon says

      But most of their list are hardly deep thinkers. And like Ta-Nehesi Coates he may be an idiot, but he’s an influential idiot.

    • I agree that at times he covers things he has no expertise in; I notice this particularly in the bible. On the other hand, even for the topics he is not an expert in, he can have an astonishing insight,. Again in the bible, sometimes as a throwaway line–for instance, his mythical analysis of Job’s wife and how a larger metaphorical meaning is a warning against looking too deeply into past trauma: don’t look back, or you will be turned into a pillar of salt.

      As far as your mostly ad hominem attacks, I disagree he is a ‘lightweight,’ unless by that you mean he “does not confine himself purely to his area of subspecialization.” Is that his crime for you, or do you have actual examples of his ‘ramblings’? Your example of ‘low hanging fruit’ is not even something I recall him saying, and you ignore many interesting and wise things he does say. No, it’s not that he looks tweedy that people pay to listen to his lectures, that’s just really silly. May be gratifying to your own ego – “Hey if I look and sound tweedy and professional I too can be a famous and lightweight multi-millionaire! Too bad I’m above all that”

    • Stephanie says

      Professor YouTube sounds downright envious. If only people saw your genius, you’d be the one with the best-selling book and sold-out concert halls around the world!

    • Roy Coleman says

      The man asked to write the preface to that puff piece, The Gulag Archipelago, a lightweight. Beautiful irony !

    • Heike says

      Jordan Peterson is an academic and clinical psychologist who has taught at two of North America’s most prestigious research universities (Harvard University and the University of Toronto), and whose academic work is prominent, widely-cited, and non-controversial in his field (see a list of his research publications here). His courageous and articulate defense of free speech, of our political, cultural and religious inheritance, of unpopular but incontestable truths of science—especially biology—and his radical opposition to identity politics of any kind, including that of both Right and Left, have made him an iconic figure. But what is by far the most significant thing about Peterson is that he reaches vast numbers of young people, often through Biblical stories and ancient myths, with perennial truths—of freedom, responsibility, the dignity of the individual, the transcendence of beauty and suffering and, above all, the liberating nature of Truth itself.

  16. V 2.0 says

    Lets not label anyone a ‘Top Thinker’ or add them to lists of important intellectuals until we see if their ideas survive at least one generation.

  17. Simon says

    Prospect is not important. Goodhart is important.

  18. What a world. They complain about intellectualism going down the drain, then they include in the list that autistic little girl who’s always on about the environment. Right or wrong, she’s not an intellectual, she’s just an activist!

  19. Intellectuals don’t restrict themselves to contemporary thought. Personally I am still digesting Harold Bloom. Jordan Peterson’s best ideas can be traced back to evolutionary psychology and you should read the most influential books in that field including Steven Pinker. I think “On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction” by Brian Boyd is one of the most important books I’ve ever read, since it explains why we crave stories and like to read. “The Secret Life of Puppets” by Victoria Nelson and “Apocalyptic AI: Visions of Heaven in Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Reality” by Robert M. Geraci convinced me that the current craze for artificial intelligence is just a futile attempt to create God as software.

    • “You will soon have your God, and you will make it with your own hands.”

  20. Kauf Buch says

    “Top Intellectuals”…Alexandria OCCASIONAL-CORTEX WTF?!?!?
    This list looks more like a b!tchy high school girls clique’s Popularity Club selections.

    So, why isn’t Jordan Peterson on the list?
    Maybe because he engages too much in – clutch those pearls, girls!thought,
    instead of trendy racist divisiveness like that popular “Ah-choo Sneezy Coates” fellow.

    Like sadly too many, any group not explicitly designated from the beginning to be conservative, end up being corrupted by and to the Left. (forget who said that)

    • Heike says

      Please stop writing like this and write like everyone else who posts here. Your style is off-putting and makes the whole site look bad.

  21. george smith says

    Brilliant. We want more writing by this guy!

  22. Ted says

    Peterson, aside from being pragmatically contrarian, would not be on such a list because his awareness of the stakes for which he is playing is entirely too obvious. For all his intellectual rigor, his honest expression of emotion presents a human face that precludes engaging in the facile mendacity behind which his detractors conceal their disingenuousness. He cannot play the long game on their terms, and that puts him at a serious disadvantage.

    His meteoric rise to fame has left him vulnerable to nervous shock, which seems obvious as his public engagements continue. Since his evolution from an erudite, engaging and fascinating classroom lecturer to a public figure upon whom a million microscopes are now trained, we can observe him slowly withering under an onslaught of facetious derision from those who cannot meet him on equal intellectual terms.

    He is bested by his own sine qua non; meaning. His intellectual output is diminishing, as how could it not? Too many public appearances given with too great a sense of urgency, and no wonder. It IS urgent, what he has set out to accomplish.

    I wish him well, but I fear that no one’s health can stand the stresses of what he has undertaken, at least, not in the manner in which he has undertaken it.

    Much as I’d miss his appearances, I wish he’d take a year off and go fishing or something, and then return refreshed and restored.

    • Out of Nowhere says

      I completely agree.

      Peterson himself once mentioned in an interview that his current position of fame feels like riding a giant wave, which usually doesn’t end well. I wish him all the best!

      • Stephanie says

        JBP has also hinted before that he might disappear for a while once he feels he’s saturated the media environment. I suspect that once Thinkspot is launched and he’s done touring for his new book, he might retreat to more private ventures. He’s running an MBA program out of Austin: shifting his focus there might be a more sustainable pace, drawing on his supervising experience and goal to empower the next generation. It must tough for someone whose main message is “meaning comes from carrying the heaviest load you can bear” to back off from global influence.

    • Geary Johansen says

      @ Ted

      I agree. I think the other factor might be that extraordinarily hyper-productive individuals might need to rely inordinately on their support structures to achieve such high productivity- and the recent troubles with his wife’s health have no doubt knocked him for six. But even before her illness, we could see he was beginning to flag somewhat. He has mentioned that he is not naturally a disagreeable person, and finds the type of confrontationally-framed interviews that have happened in the past incredibly wearing. Perhaps more congenial circumstances could be more productive. Personally, I would like to see him on Triggernometry, it might promote an intellectually valuable YouTube channel.

      There is also the fact that publishing cycle he has set himself is brutal. For a novelist, the normal cycle is around one book every two years- those who do nothing else seem to be able to manage one a year, but with his schedule… I also think that it must have taken him years to develop such a cogent worldview that runs so counter to the social justice narrative, that has been so successfully captured, corrupted and co-opted by the far left. Like great novelists, we might have to wait several years for another magnum opus. Until then, I believe you are correct in your wish that he should really take a much needed rest.

    • Grant says

      The problem with “great thinkers” and philosophers is they they are rarely helpful and tend to dazzle us mere mortals with ah ha moments and jargon. They are entertaining and interesting but generally useless and certainly unrealistic. That’s why they mock Peterson with his simpleton ideas like clean your room, dress how you would like to feel and compare yourself to your yesterday instead of others. These aren’t deep thoughts nor are they sold as such. They’re practical, simple ideas that people can easily put to practice in their lives.
      As for complex problems, give me a hoard of cooperative engineers, outline the goal and let them go at it for a bit.

  23. Grumpy in StL says

    Good lord. What this article most clearly demonstrates is the pedestrian essence of the so called “intellectual leadership” of this society. Why waste these words on the mass of nothing that the chattering classes emits?

  24. TofeldianSage says

    This was painful to read. I felt bad for the author.

    Since Brexit & Trump happened, the Left really has no way of seeing that it completely misses the mark with just over half of the population. Truly, not just clueless but actively working to not understand.

    Dude, in a nutshell, Prospect went from Left-leaning to hard Left, and that’s what it is today.

    One thing that has characterized liberalism (classic liberalism) is its belief that it can court leftwing ideas but retain its sensibility and not slide down that slippery slope into the hard Left.

    Liberalism has failed utterly. It did not maintain its distance from the Left, it has completely slid down the slope and is now indistinguishable from the hard Left. Moreover, it is frightened of the hard Left.

    The notion that ‘classical liberalism’ can be revived is naive. Dave Ruben and Carl Benjamin seem to think they will just reestablish liberalism by fiat, but they will just slide down that greasy slope again.

    Anyway, the author is twisting himself into knots for no good reason. Prospect slid down that slippery slope, and though it fancied itself ‘liberal’s that was just a delusion. That’s why they have no clue, and won’t be finding one anytime soon.

    • Geary Johansen says

      @ TofeldianSage

      I think there are those of us, both in the centre and moderate liberals, who would want to see a return of Left arguing it’s case rationally. My biggest bugbear with the Left is that they often fail to see that there is a limited pot of resources to deploy from government revenue, and that as such, these resources need to be allocated as efficiently as possible to achieve maximum good.

      Systems that promote individual empowerment and help keep the population healthy enough to participate in gainful employment are the obvious priorities, as these two represent future and current revenue and can help extend the safety net without added individual expense (as a proportion of income), by growing the tax base.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @Geary Johansen

        “Liberalism has failed utterly.”

        This might mean two different things: That the values of classical liberalism have failed — which is not true IMHO, or that the folks who now call themselves liberal have failed — which IMHO is quite true. Neo-liberalism is a strange alliance of woke/correct social policy with globalist/capitalist rent seeking plutocracy and the only thing it shares with classical liberalism is the name. Nuts it isn’t even capitalist, it is financeist. As Orwell explained, to baffle the people, first baffle their language.

        • Andras Kovacs says

          Neo-liberalism is a strange alliance of woke/correct social policy with globalist/capitalist rent seeking plutocracy and the only thing it shares with classical liberalism is the name.

          9.85/10

          Deduction for labelling rent seeking plutocracy as capitalist.

  25. Marcus T Anthony says

    Progressivism is the new conservatism.

  26. ” … and Katie Bouman, the computer scientist behind the first conceptualised rendering of a black hole.”

    She wasn’t “the” scientist behind the image, she was one of a large team of scientists behind the image, as she herself has emphasized.

    Prospect says: “Bouman was the brain behind perhaps the most striking image of 2019 so far. It was thanks to the 30-year-old that …”. No, she wasn’t “the” brain behind it, she was one of them, and it was “thanks to” the combined efforts of dozens and dozens of such brains that we have the image.

      • Random Onlooker says

        Pointing out a fact is ‘sexist.’ For pity’s sake. Go away.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Random Onlooker

          You did not detect the sarcasm.

    • Morgan Foster says

      @Coel

      “Katie Bouman, the computer scientist …”

      And suppose for a moment that she had been “‘the’ scientist behind the image”?

      In what way would that have made her an intellectual worthy of inclusion in such a list?

      • dirk says

        In case you preach low expectations and fairness above all and have that slogan in your forehead, it would make a lot of sense to have her on the list!

  27. Rawas Mohamed says

    Another Instance of J. Peterson being used as a click bait in a title.
    Other than that, a good intro to many minds of the world.

  28. dirk says

    Nice that prof Crenshaw is also on the list, in that case, I suggest to include prof Gloria Wekker on a similar Dutch list. She explained intersectionality for us (white) countrymen, and went so far to proclaim that our racism is innate and present in all of us, without even realising this. What a great insight, she deserves to have her name among the first 10.

    • TWC says

      Keep at it…soon you will see that taking the position of racism being innate AND a social construct will make your head explode.

      • Andras Kovacs says

        racism being innate AND a social construct will make your head explode

        Unnecessarily: a trait which is engaged with a socially constructed concept (in this case racism) might become innate if the trait provides its bearers with differential reproductive success. Crudely put: if being racist makes someone to fuck more, then chances are that more offspring will inherit the genes which code for the behavioural pattern labelled racist.

        Of course here we can debate about genes coding for behaviour sometimes being strictly deterministic, some other times the genotype only specifies the range of possibilities of the living thing which is developing. I don’t want to go down on that path now; I just wanted to state that the concept of social constructs & innateness aren’t mutually exclusive.

  29. Nick says

    Would anyone here want to be on the same list as the person who came up with intersectionality? Anyone?

  30. Dal Singh says

    Because he’s not…
    Not even in the top 50 let alone 100.

  31. Out of Nowhere says

    A very interesting and thoughtful analysis!

    (Although I agree with some of the comments that JBP’s mentioning in the title does not correspond to the small amount of coverage he gets in the article itself.)

  32. Psi says

    Ha ha, the point that isn’t made here, is Prospect editorial staff believe the world is skewing to the right but their list of the “most influential” skews massively left. Any editorial board who can’t spot that massive discrepancy in their thinking are not in any position to judge what is “interlectual” to any extent.

  33. dirk says

    It has probably been said already by somebody in the article or the comments, but nevertheless: there are 2 things, depth of thought, and (instant) impact of certain thoughts. Of course, in a democracy, it’s always the second one that is making the marks.

    Jordan Peterson, lamentably, is somewhere in between: not 1, neither the mass popularity of 2, though, of course, having a quite large impact on a sub-population.

    Prof Crenshaw is the PC and SJW champion, and thus the post modern intellectual of the great majority of us, equal citizens

  34. Votes for Trump, Brexit etc are not a rebellion of stupid people against “intellectual superiors”; it’s normal people who stop trusting the academia/media because they understand that politically-correct nonsense is not intellectually serious. For example, putting “Katie Bouman, the computer scientist behind the first conceptualised rendering of a black hole” among top thinkers is so ridiculously fake that it backfires even as political propaganda.

    • Closed Range says

      The Bouman story is twice hilarious in that she herself decried being singled out and explained it was a large collaboration. It is always sad to see scientists being turned into propaganda points for the left, and it diminishes the respect scientists have for the media.

      • dirk says

        Scientists respect for the media? I’m sorry? Never heard of that. I remember the many, many denigrating remarks on ” journalism and advertisement” of my colleagues. Even popularising science results was looked down on. Either you were scientist, either journalist for the masses. It was even doubtful in your cv to have written articles for a newspaper or magazine.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @Closed Range

        So let’s be careful not to blame Bouman for this, she didn’t ask to be affirmatively actioned to the top of the pile. It reminds me of the victimhood of Dr. Bell-Burnell who, when advised that she had become Victim of the Month for not receiving the Nobel for her work on pulsars, replied that as a research assistant at the time, she did not qualify for the Nobel and she declined her victimhood (with thanks).

        • Closed Range says

          Ray

          Yes – I don’t know if you misunderstood me, but my point was precisely that Bouman is not to blame, and she distanced herself from the media’s take on the matter. Yet

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Alessandro Strumia

      Strumia did not exist. He had never existed. Is this the ghost of Strumia the unperson?

  35. Psi says

    I would also question the inclusion of Goldin, not because her research isn’t of sufficient quality it is. However if she is included due to her focus of impact of differences in pay levels then you need to judge it by it’s impact. Her very accurate observations are ignored by journalism and politicians. Like serious economists often do her work explains how life is complex and there aren’t easy magic bullets to achieve single aims. This is not in keeping with the prevailing narative so gets ignored.

  36. Including AOC on any list with people of real accomplishment or thought reveals the deterioration of discourse for the prize of celebrity. She is a dull yet dangerous fool.

  37. Sarah says

    Much ado about nothing. The author never explains why I or anybody should care about this top thinkers list, or why it’s any different than the millions of other lists on Buzzfeed or YouTube. Top 10 cutest cats is definitely more interesting. And the sheer length of this… very self indulgent.

  38. Many people on this list aren’t intellectuals by any definition – to use an easy example, Alexandra Ocasio cortez. There is literally nothing she has done much less said that has been remotely intellectual. “Intellectual” doesn’t mean “impacts others” nor does it even mean ‘intelligent.” It means something like using intelligence in service of gaining wisdom via a great deal of specialized reading and writing, and producing a body of work that both reveals that body of knowledge and that influences others.

    So being an ‘intellectual’ doesn’t mean, as it seems the author thinks it means – “having a lot of cultural influence.” Pop stars and Hollywood stars may well have a lot of influence, but hardly as intellectuals. Furthermore though a top intellectual will have a lot of influence amongst his/her cohorts, he/she may or may not be well known in the general populace. Any number of brilliant thinkers (particularly scientists and mathematicians, but also poets and writers and musicians and artists) were not paid attention to in their lifetimes, and known only by their specialist peers. Their influence either became more general after their death, and/or their influence was within their speciality, and they influenced countless other intellectuals, thereby having a domino effect (for instance, the writer Alice Munro has been extraordinary influential amongst writers, and I would certainly put her in the top 50, even though a ‘regular’ person may have not heard of her). Either way, the defining feature is not ‘influence” but “intellectual.” Which brings me to the second point–an intellectual must, well, be intellectual. An influential football player is not an intellectual, although he may well influence a lot of people positively with his skills and moral character. “Intellectual” doesn’t necessarily mean “writes a lot” either, otherwise we’d have National Enquirer reporters being intellectual.

    So the bigger question is not “why isn’t Jordan Peterson on this list” (which isn’t even discussed –talk about click bait; please don’t do that @Quillette). The bigger question is “if we’re going to make a silly list of world intellectuals, what is our criteria exactly.” The very fact that they, say, put a mentally ill girl (family’s own description) who says the right talking points about climate change on their list as an ‘intellectual” proves that they have no criteria; no 16 year can be a world-class ‘intellectual,’ even a genius, and certainly not this one, who has no body of work behind her, no evidence of original influential thought, and so on. She has merely a very predictable activism on a single issue, and her virtue is the very fact that she is naive and young and therefore, in a certain type of archetype, is trustworthy as a speaker–the opposite of intellectualism.

    These lists are silly to begin with but I find it really depressing a) how a magazine purporting to have such a list, has no idea how to go about it and no idea they have no idea–ironically on intellectualism and b) how this magazine actually ‘analyzes’ this magazine on their own merits, pretending that they really do want to find and rank intellectuals, and pretending that populism and activism (the ‘right kind’ of course) are intellectualism.

    A more interesting article to me would be about the changing definition of intellectualism and the means by which it still exerts influence even when it’s not obvious. Having intellectuals whine no one cares about them anymore is boring. But actual intellectuals really do influence many, whether you agree with their influence or not, and whether it’s confined to their specialty for now or not. Who are they and what is their influence and why?

    • Heike says

      The authors clearly view the term “intellectual” the way some people view the word “journalist”: as a high holy mark of status. It’s not a job description, it’s the way they bestow the highest praise they know how to give.

      That’s why they gave it to AOC and that girl. It’s a mark of approval. Has nothing to do with their intellectual output, which as you point out is negligible.

  39. Philip says

    A little more honesty is required here. This is not the “List of the World’s Top Fifty Intellectualsl” but “List of the World’s Top Fifty PC-Approved people.”

    That’s why the little autistic girl is on the list and Jordan Peterson is not.

  40. Jamie P says

    Article was a waste of precious time. Topic was a clickbait and the prospect of Prospect’s list as an important metric for value is terribly misguided.
    Intellectuals (in my opinion) seem to be very good at solving all problems except personal ones.
    Finding out what actually works (NOT what’s most spoken about or what’s most intellectually birthed or what’s politically correct) and applying it is why people listen to J.B Peterson.
    JPB has been an answer to the life problems of many young people.

  41. Aside from Jordan, I think Haidt is making something really, really interesting, at least as a honorable mention, but still…it has to be completely obvious to put someone they disagree with in their list, like it happens with The Economist, that they posted something that goes agaisnt any lefty, pointing out how well we are doing in the western world thanks to capitalism, something I’m sure most of them don’t agree with, but it’s nearly imposible to fight off well thought out and solid facts.
    They’ll never asume Jordan or anyone interesting or thoughtful icon of our times has something of value, unless they do something incredibly significant for us, in the long run.
    Of course, people like Peterson has influenced us in many positive ways, but it is insignificant to dogmatic lap dogs following orders from their equally dogmatic rabbid wolves up above…
    Thanks for the article, Quillette is the only news media I consume, so it’s good to see this sort of article!

  42. bumble bee says

    And they wonder why people do care one lick what so call “intellectuals” have to say. This article has all the tells of why “intellectuals” no longer carry the cache they think they do.

    First of all the smugness is revolting in their thinking that they are living on a cloud above every other person and when they happen to grace us with their “intellectual” commandments of how to think, believe, live, we should genuflect in gratuity for their condescension. Let us all present them with some organic, ethically raised, free range, in season, local fruit offerings to show our gratitude. I’d offer to sacrifice a lamb, but veganism being the height of “woke” sustenance it would anger them and bring wrath to us ignorant bastards.

    Why do people no longer revere them? Nothing they present has anything to do with life, living, or everyday existence. They’d like you to think so, but in reality nothing they say changes or would change lives. When you factor in their ingrained hatred and belittling of anyone who does not do as they put forth, well adieu to you.

    These lists are so puerile, it’s quite laughable that a whole article is discussing why someone is not on THE list. Are we 13yrs old and because the popular kids did not include someone on their list of cool kids we all need to be outraged?

    What this article indicated to me is that those learned people feel they are above everyone else, that every thought that their entitled golden tongues decide to grace society with needs to not only be exalted, but followed because THEY HAVE SPOKEN. The way they try to humiliate anyone who has a differing opinion, or is not part of their clique, is exactly why I and many others no longer listen to our so called betters. In fact, I would not give the time of day to anyone who comes across as so self-aggrandizing and belittling to others. Others are starting to see this as well and until these prigs either learn to respect everyone’s opinion regardless of who and level of education they will continue to be dismissed. Anti-Intellectualism is the new movement from people sick and tired of them. There is no one in this world, no one, who is without question. Those pillars have fallen, and they are not being rebuilt.

    • A C Harper says

      I’d argue that the list is a dance card of all the courtiers that are fit to dance before the (liberal, intellectual) Emperor. People on the list (or struggling to get on the list) stand a greater chance of patronage, whether that is recognition, position, power, or money.

      All very human, but the ordinary people looking on through the windows of the ballroom see that the (liberal, intellectual) Emperor has no clothes.

  43. staticnoise says

    I absolutely love listening to Jordan Peterson. I enjoy his talks. He articulates things I have thought for years and never said – because I don’t have the gift of focus and command of my own memory. I also loved hearing Christopher Hitchens, as well as the pastor of my church, Gregory A Boyd. I vehemently disagree with all of them from time to time. I cannot reject anyone out of hand because I disagree with them one point or another. I couldn’t care less what other people think of these guys since all of them come under attack for insincere reasons.

    I doubt Peterson gives a crap about this list. However, I do agree with other commenters here, I fear for Peterson (he’s a nice guy, a good guy) will suffer damage by the withering assault from the left that will hurt him reputationally. Ultimately my hope for him is that he become a C.S.Lewis-like character in Western history – because that’s what he is.

    • Amin says

      @ staticnoise

      ” I enjoy his talks. He articulates things I have thought for years and never said”

      So it’s about you own ego!?

      “C.S.Lewis-like character in Western history – because that’s what he is”

      Nope. Lewis was a far far far better writer.

      • staticnoise says

        I repeat: I couldn’t care less what other people think about these about these guys. I care even less what Amin thinks of me. TTFN.

  44. Ray Andrews says

    It seems to me that several people are taking this list far too seriously. The task cannot be accomplished and thus surely the list should be taken with a grain of salt? I suggest the list should be used as a fun conversation starter, nothing else.

    • But the entire article is about the list and why some names should or shouldn’t be excluded. Saying it’s not serious and should be taken with a grain of sale belies the entire reason the essay exists.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @d

        I agree about the essay, but not the list itself. Even if this essay is a bit too earnest, we commenters should be taking it all in fun. More than fun but less than reason to get all worked up.

  45. Northern Observer says

    The irredeemable pettiness of the liberal elite. Only the neocons are worse in terms of sheer myopia and arrogance.

  46. gavinjamescampbell says

    The reason Lobsterman is not on that list is because he is a charlatan and a fraud.

    • Geary Johansen says

      @ gavinjamescampbell

      The main reason he should be on the list is because of his principled opposition of the evil doctrine of intersectional feminism. That is, unless you truly believe that more capable, talented and hardworking individuals should be passed over for promotion, purely because of someone else’s membership of an arbitrary group.

      The recent leaked email from Microsoft, shows that even the Tech Giants, who by any reasonable definition have a recruitment advantage, as well the greatest surplus of engineering talent ever assembled in the history of the world, are struggling to cope with the practical application of this ideology.

      The shame of it is, that in the long run, a significant number of medium to large size businesses will probably fail, leaving up to an additional 10% of the population in most Western countries unemployed. The rot has already started to set in, as several of the big tech firms are dealing with a plethora of employee-related lawsuits, by various groups.

      Unfortunately, many Leftists fail to realise that all human systems run on Trust, rather than Power, with power merely a useful by-product. It’s the reason why every single socialist system the world has ever known has failed, with the Scandinavian states shifting to laissez-faire capitalism with a larger social safety net, as soon as it became apparent that their economies were failing, and China shifting to operating a market system, with a meritocratic autocracy at the top- because socialist systems cannot ensure Trust in basic competency, at any level.

      • gavinjamescampbell says

        Leftists understand quite well that economics run on trust and not on power. This is projection on your part. In capitalism, labour works out of fear of unemployment and a profound mistrust of management.

        If this is supposed to be a critique of socialism on your part that it’s shots gone wide. Intersectionality does not give labour control over workplaces. Intersectionality is only capitalism re-adjusting who gets to be in management. Which is thus part of the mendacity of Lobsterman, who can’t tell liberalism from leftism.

        • Geary Johansen says

          @ gavinjamescampbell

          Social scientists in one of the Scandinavian countries, recently ran an experiment in which paired subjects each answer 5 maths question, gaining financial rewards for each correct answer and then dividing the sum of the rewards as they see fit. Contrary to expectations, the participants did not divide up the money per question answered correctly- but instead systemically rewarded success and punished failure, so that the most successful received the lions share of the rewards. This in the most politically liberal countries in the world.

          The problem with intersectionality, is that it displaces this fundamental human urge for fairness (proportionality) with a arbitrary system of group identities that flies in the face of meritocracy. People who work in situations where talent and hard work are not rewarded (because less talented individuals are promoted on the basis of race or gender), are quickly disincentivised and become far less productive.

          Most of the elite universities have been pushing the diversity agenda for some time- unfortunately, it has proven to be disastrous for the very African American students it is supposed to help- with drop out rates often around 45% of this demographic, and those who do tough it out placing in the bottom third of academic attainment, for the most part. Glen Loury has discussed this in depth, with John McWhorter on Bloggingheads.tv.

          Now you could make the argument that the progressive education system inherently disfavours kids from poor backgrounds as opposed to middle and upper middle-class kids, because it’s knowledge-poor methodology allows kids with a home full of books to compensate for it’s failings- but the evidence is quite clear that these less able students would be better served in lower-tiered colleges, and are much more likely to achieve a professional careers than those who drop out of Harvard.

          If Leftists understand that economics run on trust not power, then why are the systems that they run so much less productive than those that run on market systems? If there is a flaw in the current formulation in capitalism, then it is that incentives don’t always reach down to the bottom. The British Standards Institute ran a study years ago, in which they found that piece-rate or proportional pay systems worked at 50% higher productively across the board. Indeed, when the workforce at Porsche voted to drop their hours from 35 to 28 per week, total car production went up.

          Now, before you state that this is an example of the Left claiming power, it’s not. It’s an example of workers subordinating themselves to the goals of the business, and raising pay per hour through the mechanism of incentives. Now as to the difference between Liberals and Leftists, I quite agree- I have voted Lib Dem in the UK my entire life- but both socialism and interesectionalism fall very much on the Far Left end of the spectrum. Socialism does actually achieve equality, but only by acting as a fifth horseman and making everyone poor.

          Capitalism may be hard. Your point about fear of unemployment is well-taken, because it may be a force-multiplier in war, but it can lead to poor health and low productivity in work forces. But you have to remember that the real rate of return on capital is only 9%, once you account for risk and taxes. Now that may sound high, but you have to remember that this 9% is essentially a buffer that protects employees from business closures.

          The only real problem with capital is when it is invested in rent-seeking enterprises, it restricts economic liberty and reduces pay’s ability to circulate back up through the system through people purchasing goods and services that they want. That and the fact that bureaucratic planning permission and non-productive land speculation combine, to systemically undermine the normal supply and demand mechanisms of housing.

          • gavinjamescampbell says

            None of this addresses why Lobsterman is not regarded as an intellectual and none of it vindicates his views.

            The socialism I want is the one where management is democratically elected by employees. It’s no more or less a power relation than capitalism but almost certainly would require more trust, and allow labourers to enjoy more of the profits of their labourers. Regardless of whether or not places of work are owned by the government.

    • Heike says

      What’s charlatanry or fraudulent about his ideas?

      “…Aim at something that’s worth aiming at. And how do you determine what’s worth aiming at?

      Well you think: Okay, here I have my miserable, wretched life. Under what conditions would it justify itself, as far as I’m concerned, personally?

      So you think. What sort of future would I have to have so that I could say ‘This is worth it.’?
      And that’s what you aim for.

      And technically that works in part because we know most of the systems that mediate positive emotion in human beings. And so those would be the dopaminergic systems that have their roots in the hypothalamic exploratory centers…are activated in relationship to pursuit of a goal, not as a consequence of attaining something.”

      He has made a clear and understandable defense of classical liberalism and western civilization in an era where both are under massive ideological and cultural attack. Liberal politics has been hijacked by a deeply resentful identity movement that is not interested in equal opportunity for all. It is instead interested in exacting justice for past perceived wrongs upon racial and identity groups it has determined responsible. Like white men for example. Peterson had the audacity to claim that this ideology is intensely dangerous, as it smacked of Maoist struggle sessions and the Soviet purging of the middle class, while also risking to push white men into embracing the opposite of liberal identity politics. Hard Right ethno nationalism and Nazism.

      This struck a chord because it is true. The modern left has deeply underestimated just how much rage has been building over its actions and Peterson spoke out at a critical moment.

  47. Nah says

    Why isn’t he on that list? Because he’s a blubbering, narcissistic idiot who can’t make a valid argument? Maybe that’s why…

    • Denny Sinnoh says

      Nah = Petulant college boy, does not know how to be a man.

    • Heike says

      Professor Peterson is taken seriously within the academic communities in which he mostly operates. The people who don’t take him seriously are the ideologically pure, authoritarian, intellectually immature types who can’t defend their arguments and so resort to silly memes and calling opponents Nazis when confronted with differing opinions or facts they don’t like. Even in the comments here today, a quick read through will show you the people who don’t like him can’t pin down specific things he’s said and articulate a cogent argument as to why he’s wrong, just making vague and unsupported accusations that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to so and so.

      Sure, where he’s expressing an opinion you’re free to have a different one – a right which in contrast to many of his opponents, Peterson himself vigorously defends – but if you think he’s wrong when he talks about the clinical psychology of gender and studies which have been done on this subject matter, it’s not enough to dismiss him on the basis that your ideological outlook demands that there be no innate differences in the behaviours, preferences and choices of different groups and classifications of people. If you think you’ve got the evidence – present it or shut up.

  48. Prospect Magazine also chose Fetullah Gülen in 2008 to be the most important intellectual of the world.

    The author Ehsan Massoud introduced him this way: “Gülen does not follow those Muslims who believe the Koran contains all that is necessary for scientific understanding.”

    https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/amodernottoman

    And meanwhile Fetullah Gülen writes: “Science and scientific facts are true only as long as they agree with the Qur’an and hadith. Even definitely established scientific facts cannot uphold the truths of faith…”

    https://mail.fgulen.com/en/fethullah-gulens-works/faith/questions-and-answers/24508-when-modern-science-agrees-with-the-quran

    Forget Prospect Magazine. It is as accurate in terms of intellectual competence as a dentist is competent to be a therapist. In the case of Prospect magazine it just creates just more damage than the dentist.

    • mitchellporter says

      Fetullah Gulen was number 1 in 2008? The year that Obama got elected? The president whose Middle East policy began by backing the neo-Ottoman vision of Islamist Arab democracies, and whose presidency ended with an abortive coup in Turkey blamed on Gulen by Gulen’s former ally Erdogan, who called Gulen an American puppet? I guess they had their finger on the zeitgeist that year, after all.

  49. Philip says

    Gavin and Nah. I find your comments astonishing. Having listened to many hours of his talks he is one of the most articulate people I’ve ever heard. Your comments tell more about you than they do him

    • Northern Observer says

      Our modern Liberal civilization is filled with self regarding pigmies of resentment and delusion. Do not stop to look at these pitiful creatures for they are beyond communication, reason or even feeling. They can only resolve to free themselves.

      • gavinjamescampbell says

        The issue is not whether or not I am a self regarding pygmy of resentment and delusion. While not agreeing with Lobsterman does not out of necessity make one beyond communication, reason, or feeling. I feel quite liberated without Jordie Petey.

        Still, if you insult me enough times, you might change my mind. Insults win arguments and settle issues, you know.

    • gavinjamescampbell says

      It’s always “you have to listen to him for hours to really understand him”. Well, I have a job and a life no time for hours and hours of Lobsterman lectures.

      Meanwhile if my comment about him says more about me than him, then what is Lobsterman admitting about himself when he rails at opponents?

  50. Craig Levine says

    Because it’s a list of intellectuals? He’s a pompous, self-important, arrogant, boring self-promoter.

    • Heike says

      Of all the criticisms of JBP, and I’ve read many, this has to be the most inaccurate. Pompous? Arrogant? Seriously?

      This reads like a disgust reaction to someone who’s had her sacred values violated. The evidence-free ad hominem insult is always a dead giveaway.

  51. Robert Franklin says

    “Even his pronunciation of Farage’s surname dripped gently with contempt. Farage had no university degree, and was not quite a gentleman. There was no way Cameron could lose a political contest against this ruffian, he thought.” Sums up the Brexit vote rather nicely.

  52. K.C. Knack says

    …because he’s not an intellectual.

    To be an intellectual one has to have actually done the reading, and as his debate with Zizek made abundantly clear he has done none of it. He decries socialism and marxism and post modernism while never actually reading Marx or Foucault. He represents himself as a cultural critic standing firm against “Cultural Marxism” with it’s clear echos to “Cultural Bolshevism” and he is shocked that people conflate him with alt-right fascists, because he hasn’t done the reading to know why. You can’t be an intellectual and be intellectually lazy.

    • Morgan Foster says

      @K.C. Knack

      You say he hasn’t done the reading. He has said he has done the reading.

      Is he lying about having done the reading?

      • gavinjamescampbell says

        If Lobsterman has done the reading then he would be able to distinguish post-modernism from Marxism.
        Lobsterman is not able to distinguish post-modernism from Marxism.
        Therefore he not done the reading. So, yes, he must be lying.

    • codadmin says

      What you mean is that his reading of them isn’t your ‘meaning’ of them, therefore he has never read them.

      A typical leftist fascist way to interpret an opposing idea.

      • gavinjamescampbell says

        What he means that Lobsterman has obviously not actually read Marx or the post-modernists. A fact that came out in his debate with Zizek.

        • codadmin says

          You you the debate where Zizek agreed with Peterson about his assessment on Marxism? And then declared himself not a Marxist?

    • Denny Sinnoh says

      @the knack
      Good girls don’t
      But you do.

    • gavinjamescampbell says

      Exactly. Calling Jordie Petey an intellectual is like calling Alex Jones an investigative journalist or like calling Stormy Daniels a virgin.

      • Morgan Foster says

        @gavinjamescampbell

        Well, I don’t believe you when you say that because Peterson disagrees with you about Marxism then this proves he hasn’t read Marx.

    • Heike says

      The great irony of calling JP “alt-right” is that he’s probably changed more minds of people who otherwise would be alt-right than anyone.

      Alt-right Vox Day: Jordan Peterson is a Free Speech Fake
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoyjECn0wZ0

      Richard Spencer doesn’t like JP
      https://i.redd.it/4oxmjiektgh01.jpg

      “You can claim responsibility for the accomplishments of your group you feel racially/ethnically akin to without actually having to accomplish anything yourself. That’s convenient. You can identify with the hypothetical victimization of that group and feel sorry for yourself and pleased at your compassion simultaneously. Another unearned victory. You simplify your world radically, as well. All the problems you face now have a cause, and a single one, so you can dispense with the unpleasant difficulty of thinking things through in detail.”

      That quote is already directed at the “Alt right”. Its Jordan Peterson’s main argument against the “Alt right” that’s why ethno-nationalists dont like him. People like Richard Spencer who is a ethno-nationalist and socialist especially hate Jordan Peterson.

      Jordan Peterson advocates enlightenment ideas not ethnic, racial or class based tribalism.

      Peterson also said that he received numerous letters from individuals who were moved away from the far right by his ideas. Probably has something to do with his emphasis on personal responsibly, which both the left and the far right vehemently oppose.

      Does he belong to the far right because he loathes political correctness, identity politics and postmodernism? Noam Chomsky has made similar criticisms for decades. As did Christopher Hitchens.

  53. Kevin C says

    I’m all for the “Lists”. Keep ’em coming! My enemies are making lists of people they admire and think have the right ideas, Awesome! This will save us lots of work in the not too distant future…

    Facts are, most people, even those who agree with some of these organizations beliefs don’t know the folks at The CFR and The Prospect are actual groups with registered members and clearly stated ideas, goals, etc. If they did have this knowledge, and actually dug deeper than inch, they can generally be easily persuaded – to see just how bad these ideas actually are and how destructive they have been to “normal” people who actually have to work for a living. Just takes some basic Logic and, to hear the other side from someone who isn’t ignorant or mentally deficient.

    Calling yourself and your group of friends “intellectuals” does not make it so. If all of your ideas have failed, if the vast majority of the people world over reject your ideas once they know the details, and if all your efforts have done is weaken western civilization, our middle-class and our core ideals… how can you look in the mirror and call yourslef an intellectual?? On what basis does this have any credit?

    To Recap:
    -They infer populism is bad, the other way of looking at this is, the overwhelminig majority of people, including those on the tails of the intellectual distribution, reject them and their ideas;

    -None of their models or predicitons actually work across any reasonable span of time (climate, economic, politic, spiritual, etc);

    -They are not well respected professionals in their field as judged by publish, patent or prize. Getting an award from your friends doesn’t count!;

    -They never debate anyone of consequence who disagrees with their ridiculously weak ideas. In fact it’s even worse, they are actually trying to silence all other voices and ideas. They are cowards of the worst type.

    Intellectuals? I think not. I call them – yuppie scumbags. These are people that produce absolutely no real economic value. The only thing they do is hang aorund rich people propping up bad ideas waiting for scraps from their masters tables as they stroke each others egos telling themselves and their kids how special they are. No one will remember their names – and for good reason. They do nothing, they have produced nothing of value – even in the realms of metaphsics or civics. The only person mentioned in this article (but not on these lists) with any real cred is Peterson – who is actually a published scientist, tops in his field!

    • Amin says

      @ Kevin C

      What the fuck are you on about?

      “who is actually a published scientist, tops in his field!”

      Er… no he doesn’t. A myth created by his ardent followers. He was an average university professor of psychology. Nothing impressive that way.

  54. Sarah says

    Bizarre title. ??? Highlights Jordan Peterson as the article focus, yet the article barely mentions him.

  55. Want an explanation to liberal hypocracy and inconsistently applied standard, go no further than Marcuse’s Repressive Tolerance. Hypocracy and inconsistanct standards are features not bugs.

  56. Gordon Fiala says

    The answer is simply put:

    Jordan Peterson is not an intellectual;

    He doesn’t touch base on any of the facts | He alludes to the established problem but doesn’t resolve it in theory;

    He has no ideology, but instead openly replaces it with and acts upon his idiology.
    And idle-ic to him, openly is his professional ideal for his practice, instead of manifesting idyllic intellectual principals {: to divulge things. As apposed to reiterating them as were.}

    He never fills the gaps.
    Filling the Gaps defined Intelligence.

    ~~~

    And this is to be blunt without laundering his political views on Feminism which is good, Capitalism which is bad, and foreign relations.

    • Gordon Fiala says

      Not to mention the Homosexual debate is scoffably easy to debunk, and he hasn’t spelled it out.
      In his years on set he hasn’t abolished the LGBTQ = not an intellectual. It’s not a debate. It’s an Issue {as in, Statement}.

    • codadmin says

      Can you fill the gaps? What are you on about? How can Peterson ‘abolish’ LGBTQIULIUHHBHJBJEWJFEIUWHFGUEIRAGHIV

      No one has the power to abolish that as an individual.

      Great intellectuals are on the edge of what’s know, resolving stuff is very difficult, but you don’t seem to know this? Why?

    • Jensen Ellard says

      I can’t get over his response to “Do you believe in God?”
      –“It would take me 8 hours to answer that.” Or “I really hate that question”.
      Followed by a long-winded response sprinkled with Marxist and Neo-this and that and Post-Modern, etc.
      He IS an intellectual. He’s just wrong about most thing he speaks. But the way he speaks is hard to know what he really means. In other words: he’s very good at sounding like he knows what he’s talking about.

  57. Josh says

    Honestly, Jordan Peterson’s not much of an intellectual heavyweight.

    He dodged a debate with Richard Wolff, then lied about “Marxists unwilling to debate him” on Joe Rogan’s podcast. Then, when he finally got the chance to square up with Zizek, I found most of his arguments incomprehensible. This is on top of him putting his name on a scammy MBA program from a scammy school called Acton. What kind of “intellectual” does that?

    • Geary Johansen says

      @ Josh

      Why is Marxism even discussed anymore, given that it’s proven not to work and killed 100 million people in the 20th century?

      Ricard Wolff is an idiot, who just won’t admit that the failure that Marx predicted never came, and Zizek himself pronounced that he was less of a Marxist, than a proponent of Hegel. Jordan Peterson came prepared to point out the logical fallacies of Marxism, only to find that the subject of the debate had been changed.

      Capitalism works. Socialism doesn’t. China and the Scandinavian countries are no longer socialist- the former are free market capitalist, with larger social safety nets, and the latter is a meritocratic (in the functional sense) autocracy. The Scandinavian Countries are interesting in that they might represent a way for both Left and Right to get what they want- they had to deregulate and shift more public services into the private sector to pay for their social safety net, and they actually have the social safety net that most liberals want. Most don’t even have inheritance tax.

      So conceivably, if America was willing to move to a lower rate of inheritance tax, more in-line with the Laffer curve, introduce a minimal consumption tax and shift to graduate contribution scheme on education, then the US could possibly move to a libertarian two-tier system of universal healthcare, whilst reforming medicare for the elderly and paying down the deficit. The main sticking point is that there would need to be a ‘pay us when you’re dead’ zero interest loan system for the uninsured, to make the figures add up.

      • Morgan Foster says

        @Geary Johansen

        I don’t think the Peterson-derangement contingent expected to run into someone who had actually watched the debate with Zizek.

        • codadmin says

          @Morgan

          Peterson Derangement Syndrome. lol..good one..there’s certainly a lot of that on here!

  58. M. A. Christie says

    intellectuals few and far between – fact is extremely difficult to make a living thinking – philosophers are plenty and academics a dime a dozen – thinking is a poor ‘man’s’ salvation

  59. Martin Gifford says

    There should be two lists: 1) Top 50 intellectuals, 2) Top 50 popular thinkers. Peterson would not make the first list, but he would make the second list for sure.

  60. Damian O'Connor says

    The real problem with this ‘intellectual establishment’ is that an awful lot of its members are not intellectuals at all. Very many of those on the Left gave up any claim to being intellectuals by abandoning the idea that a hypothesis needs to be rigorously tested before being accepted and instead went out of their way to reinforce activist hypotheses, many of which are and were utterly ludicrous. Greta Thunberg springs to mind here. Sixteen years old and we’re taking her seriously? Really?
    The other thing about this elite is that they plough salt into the intellectual earth by refusing to publish, employ or promote anyone who does not agree with their worldview and they employ twittermobs to destroy the reputations of those who dare challenge them
    That’s why no-one believes them anymore. It’s not that we distrust intellectuals – it’s just that most of these types aren’t intellectuals at all.

    Dr D.P.O’Connor Author of ‘A Short Guide to the History of South Africa 1652-1902, 1902-1989.

    • dirk says

      Greta Thunberg is a special case, Damian. She is not an intellectual, original philosopher or inspiring essayist. But has something of a prophet, not a self made one, but launched by the climate crise community. And therefore an icone.

      For many, it has something heartwarming, she says what quite a few feel with an undertone of guilt, but whenever a scientist says similar things, we react, – oh not that story again please, we know it already-. However, she may say it,as a kid that unlike us grown-ups, may suffer the consequences when grown up herself. From her teenage mouth, it has a special tone that rings.

      So, I can imagine that she is picked out for the list, not only old white males with dry and rational reasoning please.

      • aidan maconachy says

        Lefty hand wringers love to promote the Thunbergs of the world…. seeming innocents, pure-of-heart and light on ideological armor. Being photogenic helps so he/she can gaze from the pages of The Guardian with saintlike conviction.

        She’s being used… weaponized innocence.

    • @Damian O’Connor
      Greta Thunberg is not just 16 she is a sixteen year old with a history of serious anxiety disorders who says her autism is an advantage “as almost everything is black or white”.

      I struggle to see her as anything other than a victim of her mental health issues and her parents publicity seeking and self promotion. Her intellectual ‘contribution’ is seems to be a combination of her anxiety, her naivity and her autistic tendancy to reduce everything to black and white. Why she should be treated as an intellectual or someone whs eopinion carries weight is a mystery.

  61. Dieter Kief says

    Peterson is bigger than life, Prospect magazine is rather small, isn’t it?
    I would even hold it does not matter much if Peterson is on this list or not. I’m glad robert Plomin made the list though, because his “Blueprint”-book about the importance of our biological heritage is spot on and beautifully written. A prototypical book of scientific enlightenment.

    Btw.: Why is Jürgen Haberms not on this list – because of his recent turn away from secularism? And why isn’t Steve Sailer there? – He is presiding over his stunning one-man iSteve.com blog-academy, which beats the established and tenured sociologists day in day out on such important subjects as race relations, murder-rates, public education, sports – and even US presidential elections…

    Martha Nussbaum. Holy crow of the internet – how did she make it up there? I’m a philosopher and don’t hear much about her. And if I do, like when she was awarded the Peace Price of the German Booksellers last year – I bowed my head and sighed about all those numbingly zeitgeisty sentences she articulated there.

    • dirk says

      @ Dieter: you have the choice though, either the Zeitgeist (= SJW, PC), or your own intellectual path, and who knows, if you really have to say something ,after some time, decades maybe, fame and honour by some, or many. Not something to worry about, I think, everybody must do his own thing and hope for the best. Immanuel Kant did the same, before you.

    • codadmin says

      NURSE! QUICK! WEV’E GOT ANOTHER PDS CASE OVER HERE!

  62. Chris says

    I’ll take 1 Mike Rowe over any 10 of those pseudo intellectual elitists….

  63. What amazes me is that they have a 16 year old kid who bleats about climate stuff as a ‘public intellectual.’ They really need to look up what the word ‘intellectual’ means.

  64. codadmin says

    PETERSON DERANGEMENT SYNDROME noun

    Definition of Peterson derangement syndrome:

    A psychological reaction occurring in low IQ individuals after experiencing a Jordon Peterson online lecture.

    A psychological reaction occurring in high IQ individuals after experiencing a Jordon Peterson lecture online.

    • Ted says

      I’ve been working on the hypothesis that PDS is really not much more than early-onset intellectual insolvency induced by poorly-repressed moral turpitude, Codadmin.

      • codadmin says

        @Ted

        PDS sufferers exhibit a multitude of narcissistic and insecure behaviours. They remind me of football fans who rant and rave at players on the pitch for not being good enough, while they sit there, munching on their pies, burgers and alcohol.

    • El Uro says

      The sin of pride is the most common illness of intellectuals. This is not mine, this is Hayek, although I made this discovery myself

  65. MeasureThoseSkullsQuillette! says

    Because he’s a self help guru turned cult leader and not an intellectual? I mean good lord, you people think the “clean your room” guy is an intellectual? I love how triggered you little fascists are. You CONSTANTLY have to keep up the whole persecution thing. “Us wealthy white people are the real victims cause our favorite charlatan didn’t make some list” Boo freakin hoo. I know what list he will be on. The list for killing one’s partner from horrible dietary advice! He makes that list!

    • codadmin says

      What a racist fascist leftist cunt you are. Full on.

      • QuilleteSkullMeasruingCrew says

        Keep eating that all meat diet, faschy. You’ll end up just like lobster mommy! I hope more of his fans follow his dietary plan. It will decrease the amount of a$$holes, that’s for sure!

  66. Sarah says

    Lots of 1st world freedom fighters have been alerted to Quillette’s existence after the attack on Mr Ngo. The ugly hateful tone of these creeps is dumbing down the interesting conversations we have here.

    ‘QuilleteSkullMeasruingCrew’ and ‘MeasureThoseSkullsQuillette’ etc. : You scour the internet for your daily hate and outrage. You might have to concentrate on how few people’s lives you actually make better if you didn’t. You wouldn’t have any self esteem if you weren’t better than someone else so you have to sneer and condemn. You come here to fight and despise others. What kind of human are you really? Have some humility.

    Quillette readers, don’t feed the trolls if you want to keep this a considerate, thoughtful place. If opposing points are not made respectfully don’t bother replying.

    A respectful suggestion from another reader.

  67. Peter from Oz says

    I do get tired of the idea that the Establishment is as one on things like Brexit. Much if not most of the Establishment press supported Leave.
    Be that as it may, I consider that instead of placing the emphasis on thinkers we should instead concentrate on ideas. Lists of ”intellectuals” are really no use whatsoever, as they trivialise the role of ratiocination and lead to a new cult of celebrity.

  68. John Achterhof says

    “Prospect cannot take its own importance for granted. Exercises like this only serve to damage the credibility of a distinguished intellectual institution, and hasten its slide into decline.”

    It’s a well-traveled trajectory: Do work of high independence, integrity and originality and thus build up significant esteem and influence, get acquired by or otherwise assimilated into the dogma of the Establishment, slide into stagnant irrelevance.

  69. Fred says

    I absolutely cannot take seriously any list of “top thinkers” that includes Richard Dawkins, AOC, Russel Brand or John Oliver.

    • Respek Wahmen says

      Odds of Fred not being a christian? About 0%?

      • Fred says

        Odds of Respek Wahmem saying somethong relevant and itelligent? About the same.

        • Fred says

          Something relevant and intelligent. Damn tiny cellphone keyboard.

          • Respek Wahmen says

            You’re doing what the list makers are doing, because of your stupid ideology.

  70. Bepa says

    All media is highly suspect. The partial quote by Tom Clark says more than his ant-Trump stance. “These are anti-intellectual times—and not only because of the proud ignoramus in the White House. …Today we have reached the Trumpian point where, for perhaps the first time in free societies since the French Revolution, reason has to be defended as a value.” Since the progressive left has leveraged all media, they have found they need not rely on persuasive reason. In the US, the Democratic ideologues now trying to get back the White House they promised to Hilary, trade irrational statements that they will defend with epithets and calls of ‘racist’ against any and all when reason is what is at stake and needed. The last place reason will be defended in by progressive leftists.

  71. Stuart Chambers says

    Here is some clear criteria for the top intellectuals: merit. Academic publishing should be top of the list for eligibility. Examine Martha Nussbaum’s publishing record: Nussbaum has published twenty-four books and five hundred and nine papers and received fifty-seven honorary degrees. She got my vote based on merit. In contrast, Peterson wrote a grand total of two (2) books, and the last one was a self-help book, not an academic publication. He’s just not even close to the best. If not for the pronoun controversy, he would be an unknown professor based on his academic production, which was not much.

    • Mohammad Sarafraaz says

      An intellectual is far more than the collection of his or her manuscripts. A public intellectual must also have an impact on society and the intelligentsia. Peterson certainly passes this primary test. Peterson happily defends his ideas with hostile crowds. None of these left-leaning intellectuals make any effort to address their ideas in front of a critical audience. They live, work, and entertain inside their limited and stunted Progressive Bubble.

  72. Mohammad Sarafraaz says

    Tom Clark: “Today we have reached the Trumpian point where, for perhaps the first time in free societies since the French Revolution, reason has to be defended as a value.” — Wow, so rich. Anyone with any experience debating the Progressive SJ activists can immediately tell you that they argue with their subjective feelings and NOT with reason. In fact ‘reason’ is considered “oppressive”. Clark is just staking out something that does not belong to him. Finally, reason is far more than a “value”. Social values are arbitrary in principle. While reason is not.

  73. JC Young says

    After reading most this book report list of previous lists, I stopped at Tucker Carlson. Considering the food magnate heir to be some sort of political intellectual genius pretty much disqualifies any thoughts that follow.

  74. Robin Whittle says

    Thanks for this article and especially for the comments! I spent some time this afternoon reading some of them, including those by Geary Johansen, and this lead me to reading or planning to read several other items at other sites.

    This page uses the original Quillette comments system, in which the comments are inline with the article, all on one cohesive, conventional, no-AJAX, web page, which is open to the world and so indexed to Google etc.

    The new system is totally different. Comments are in a forum at a different site, though some excerpts of them may be transiently displayed on the article page if you click the comments link near the top. The forum (Quillette Circle forum.quillette.com) is only open to paid supporters (which is fine by me) and its contents are not public and so cannot be seen by search engines. I think this means a great loss of value, since I am sure that many people find Quillette articles after their search terms match something in the comments.

    The new system uses forum software from discourse.org. This has many advantages, but there is no way of searching each thread, printing it all, saving it all or copy and pasting it all. I wrote about these profound limitations here: https://forum.quillette.com/t/cant-search-print-or-even-copy-and-paste-the-entire-discussion-thread/481 .

    So this thread is one of the last gasps of the old Quillette comment system, which has been a treasure trove for me – and I have only read a fraction of it. I believe the new system’s limitations are part of the Crapification of the World.

  75. Michael Pitfield says

    lol what a farce. AOC an intellectual thinker, what a stretch of the imagination that is!

    Just taking a cursory look at the list, and admittedly not knowing a lot of those faces and names, one thing stands out and that is Prospect appears to be focused on wokeness and not intellectual thinkers.

    Personally I do not care about someone’s age, gender, race or religion, if they are worthy of the list then that is all that matters. Obviously “worthy” is subjective, however this list is clearly about politics and so I will add Prospect Magazine to my “not worth my time” woke list.

    • Fraunt Hall says

      Excellent points. Calling AOC an intellectual thinker in the face of all the stupid, ignorant things she says and does is both laughable and insane. If she is an intellectual, Trump is Galileo.

  76. jhan says

    Prospect? never heard about it, who cares what this obscure tabloid prints?

  77. To answer the title question:

    For the same reason Neil DeGrass Tyson wouldn’t be on a list of the top 50 scientists in the world.

    Jordan Peterson, like Tyson, is a popularizer of intellectual and scientific ideas. Neither is a top intellectual or scientist. The work they do is more in the domain of public engagement with the ideas in their field, not high level work in those fields. Being famous doesn’t make you a top intellectual, any more than it makes you a top scientist.

  78. Simon says

    Prospect readers, just like most on the intersectional left, seem to keep asking for a detailed description of the clothes the king is (not) wearing instead of an accurate depiction of his nakedness.

    Yeah, it may be ugly, but it is the truth. The king is naked.

  79. Fraunt Hall says

    Boparai has extreme difficulty in divorcing himself from the compromised self-described and self-congratulatory ‘intellectuals’ he himself identifies with. Thankfully, he can see the flaws in their positions and thinking, and recognizes Prospect’s slide into decline. He did say – “The people did not obey their intellectual superiors and do as they were told, despite having been warned repeatedly about what was good for them.” In so doing he has inadvertently recognized the role of the “expert class” as the ‘new Jesuits’ of the Western theocratic state masquerading as democracy.

  80. Andrew Drennon says

    Thank you for the well-informed article. I would agree that Dr. Peterson should indeed be on this list. What is equally shocking to me… where is Kanye West? He belongs on this list, too. Thank you again.

Comments are closed.