John Derbyshire on "public intellectuals"
John Derbyshire has a column on NRO concerning who is, and who is not, an American "public intellectual" – "Americans whose ideas about big topics are widely discussed and written about." It's a nifty piece.
I'll do names, according to Mr. Derbyshire:
"Are major-league intellectuals": William F. Buckley, Jr., Noam Chomsky, Ronald Dworkin, Freeman Dyson, Milton Friedman, Francis Fukuyama, Samuel Huntington, Charles Murray, Thomas Sowell, and Gary Wills.
Are not: Harold Bloom, Pat Buchanan, Alan Dershowitz, Stanley Fish, Al Gore, Paul Krugman, Camille Paglia, John Updike, Gore Vidal, and Tom Wolfe.
About the second list, Derbyshire writes:
The point of my second list is that these are people I myself don't think are intellectuals, but concerning whom you (or they) might disagree. They are, in short, borderline cases.In so doing, he is asserting that intellectualism is, to a large degree, base on public perception with individual refinement.
I'd argue that Wills is a borderline case, while Updike and Wolfe belong on the first list. Al Gore does not belong on either.
What I find most interesting about all this, is that the one man most often referred to this year as an intellectual is not on either list; in fact, I'd venture that he never crossed Derbyshire's mind. That's JF Kerry, of course, and it helps my notion that the candidate, with his immutably muddles thinking, should never have been considered a serious thinker. (Most politicos are not, and don't start with the John Breaux nonsense!)
I wonder where Victor Davis Hanson fits in there...as time (and the war) have gone on, his public profile and standing have certainly increased dramatically.