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.

By Blogger LegalXXX, at December 13, 2004 at 8:15 PM  

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