View Full Version : Intellectuals

9th Jul 2004, 14:06
To celebrate its 100th issue, the highbrow jazz-mag Prospect is running a poll for readers to name their top 5 fave intellectuals from a list of 100.

Let's have a go ourselves. First of all: how many of the 100 do you recognise? Secondly, let's have your list of 5 'favourites'.

Here's the list:

Tariq Ali, political campaigner
Martin Amis, novelist and critic
Perry Anderson, historian
Karen Armstrong, historian of religion
Colin Blakemore, neurologist and MRC chief executive
Philip Bobbitt, theorist of law and conflict
Melvyn Bragg, broadcaster and writer
Samuel Brittan, economics commentator
Gordon Brown, chancellor of the exchequer
Ian Buruma, writer on Asian and world affairs
AS Byatt, critic and essayist
David Cannadine, historian
John Carey, literature professor and critic
Linda Colley, historian
Robert Cooper, diplomat and writer
Michael Craig-Martin, conceptual artist and professor
Bernard Crick, political writer and citizenship expert
Matthew D'Ancona, journalist and writer
Richard Dawkins, biologist and scientific polemicist
Terry Eagleton, literary theorist
David Elstein, television executive
Brian Eno, musician and producer
Niall Ferguson, historian
Michael Frayn, playwright and novelist
Lawrence Freedman, professor of war studies
Timothy Garton Ash, historian and commentator
Anthony Giddens, social and political theorist
Paul Gilroy, race and social theorist
Charles Grant, director of Centre for European Reform
John Gray, political philosopher
AC Grayling, philosopher, writer and journalist
David Green, director of Civitas
Susan Greenfield, pharmacologist and RI director
Germaine Greer, writer, academic and feminist
Fred Halliday, international relations professor
David Hare, playwright
Seamus Heaney, poet and essayist
Peter Hennessy, historian of government
Christopher Hitchens, essayist and contrarian
Eric Hobsbawm, historian
Richard Holmes, biographer
Michael Howard, military historian
Will Hutton, chief executive of the Work Foundation
Michael Ignatieff, human rights theorist and author
Lisa Jardine, historian
Charles Jencks, architectural critic
Anatole Kaletsky, Times economics commentator
John Kay, business economist and academic
Frank Kermode, literary critic and writer
Mervyn King, Bank of England governor
Thomas Kirkwood, professor of medicine
Richard Layard, economics professor and policy adviser
Julian Le Grand, social policy theorist and policy adviser
James Lovelock, scientist and originator of Gaia theory
Noel Malcolm, historian
David Marquand, writer on politics
Peter Maxwell-Davies, composer and conductor
Robert May, zoologist and Royal Society president
Ian McEwan, novelist
Neil MacGregor, director of British Musuem
Mary Midgley, moral philosopher
Jonathan Miller, theatre director and polymath
George Monbiot, columnist and author
Geoff Mulgan, Demos founder and policy adviser
VS Naipaul, novelist and essayist
Tom Nairn, theorist on nationalism
Onora O'Neill, philosopher
David Pannick, human rights lawyer
Bhikhu Parekh, political theorist
Adam Phillips, psychotherapist and essayist
Melanie Phillips, author and columnist
Philip Pullman, children's author
Martin Rees, astronomer royal
Matt Ridley, science writer
Richard Rogers, architect
Steven Rose, biologist
WG Runciman, social theorist
Salman Rushdie, writer
Malise Ruthven, writer on religion
Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi
Ziauddin Sardar, writer on Islam
Simon Schama, historian and broadcaster
Roger Scruton, philosopher and writer
Amartya Sen, development economist
Gitta Sereny, biographer
Robert Skidelsky, economics professor
Quentin Skinner, historian
David Starkey, historian and broadcaster
George Steiner, writer and academic
Tom Stoppard, playwright
Raymond Tallis, physician and writer
Adair Turner, economist and policy adviser
Mary Warnock, philosopher and public ethicist
David Willetts, Conservative politician
Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury
Robert Winston, fertility expert and broadcaster
Jeanette Winterson, novelist
Martin Wolf, FT chief economics commentator
Lewis Wolpert, developmental biologist and writer
James Wood, literary critic

Anyone caught voting for Roger Scruton will be banned from Palimpsest for life.

9th Jul 2004, 14:27
Well, I haven't sorted a top 5 yet, but I do recognise an alarming number of them .... although I did have a head start, one of them is technically my boss (he is chancellor of the university where I work)


ono no komachi
9th Jul 2004, 14:40
:oops: The number of names I am familiar with is only in the late twenties, I'm afraid.

My votes:
5. Germaine Greer. Probably an unpopular choice, but I'll be eternally grateful to her for focusing some of my feminist instincts when I was in my late teens with The Female Eunuch.

4. Richard Dawkins. I have an impression of him as someone who doesn't take any shit from from the scientific establishment.

3. Simon Schama. I'm a complete history dunce, and I find him informative without either going way over my head or being irritatingly patronising.

2. Jonathan Miller. Hard to put into words why, but a lot to do with his general affability.

1. Robert Winston. Even despite the awful cave people thing. He strikes me as a man with infinite compassion.

Even with my limited knowledge of the folks on this list, this was awfully difficult to decide.

I'd like to pose another related question - who most deserves to be on this list that doesn't appear on it?

9th Jul 2004, 15:28
I recognise/know of fifty of the hundred.

This is my list of five:

Germaine Greer
Rowan Williams
Steven Rose
Jonathan Miller
Jonathan Sacks

9th Jul 2004, 15:34
Blimey ... have been in conversation with Onora O'Neill very recently!!

I'll go for:

Gitta Sereny
Amartya Sen
John Carey
Melvyn Bragg
Tariq Ali

9th Jul 2004, 15:42
I have heard of 44 to be prescise, though that includes a few I wish I didn't.

My five are:

John Carey
Martin Amis
Bhiku Parekh
Richard Dawkins
Frank Kermode

Rowan Williams probably comes in 6th. Linda Colley 7th.

Bhiku Parekh taught me a few classes in political theory at University. He writes rather sensibly on traditionally insensible topics.

As for a notable omission, I'm surprised that Ackers didn't get in there.

Also, for alarming inclusion, other than the excrutiating Scruton, David Willets??? Just because he looks a bit nerdy and has never had a proper job they consider him an intellectual in Tory circles. This is the man who brought the Private Finance Initiative (and its New Labourised bastard offspring the Public Private Partnership) to British politics. He also came up with the whizzo scheme of selling the railways.

9th Jul 2004, 15:57
Scruton? Good grief...

9th Jul 2004, 20:25
I have now managed to count, and got up to 38 - which isn't so bad!

My 5 in no particular order:

Niall Ferguson
Simon Schama
Robert Winston
Jonathon Sacks
David Starkey


9th Jul 2004, 20:28
Eek! Starkey as a favourite! I like his opinions on the teaching of history (which he voiced at the history teachers' conference last week) but that's where it ends.

9th Jul 2004, 22:23
That is why I voted for him, not to mention I do like his books - not to mention most of them are about a period I like ....

I do have serious issues with the way history is taught (would try to teach it myself, but know I am not a teacher by nature, so I re-enact instead)


12th Jul 2004, 15:41
There's a few of them I quite like in their way, David Starkey, Jonathan Miller, and a handful of others, most of whom have been mentioned above, and mostly because I like their manner on TV or radio. However, all the ones I like would probably be horrified at being labelled intellectuals, and quite rightly. You know what happens when the revolution starts. The intellectuals are first against the wall.

I would remove from consideration all clergymen, all politicians. They are just spouting the dogma of the moment. Sure, there are a few scientists and academics I have time for, and novelists. But they already have a profession. They don't need the additional label of "intellectual". Yes, frankly, I have no time for anyone's opinions but my own. A pox on all their houses. And why am I not on the list, eh? And John Self, for heaven's sake, and our plumber, who has very radical opinions on philosophy, and tells them to anyone who will listen. What price Plato? He'd be useless on Question Time.

13th Jul 2004, 10:15
Gil, you are on a list - just not that one! :lol:

John Self
13th Jul 2004, 11:06
I recognise 55, although at least half a dozen of those are of the order of "Mary Midgley - now I've heard that name..."

Not sure about my top 5 because I'm entirely befuddled by the notion of "intellectuals." Martin Amis may be a living god to me but I wouldn't credit him with wildly original or searching thoughts - just knowing how to express things well. But like Wavid I would probably have John Carey and Richard Dawkins in my list, with a possible Rowan Williams for balance... Quite like the idea of having Gordon Brown in there too, though again the definition of "intellectual" is troublesome.

As for inappropriate inclusions - David Elstein anyone! This is the man who has, with the help of Rupert Murdoch, done more to lower the standards of British television than anyone else, thanks to his philistine reigns at Sky and Five. Isn't he something in ITV now? The clarion cries of choice and the market will decide do nothing whatever for a medium which should be, as Dennis Potter and Jimmy McGovern have shown us, nothing less than an art form - when it's not being informative instead. But then I always was a Reithian at heart.

14th Jul 2004, 10:51
... and Melvyn Bragg, for heaven's sake. He can't pronounce half of the things he spouts about on In Our Time. If you hear him talking about a subject you really know about, it's obvious he just swotted it up the night before. Sheesh.

14th Jul 2004, 11:07
Please note that I did not vote for my boss.......


14th Jul 2004, 11:12
But I kinda voted for mine.

14th Jul 2004, 16:43
So I see.....


26th Jul 2004, 11:31
The results are in! Here's the top 25:

1. Richard Dawkins 261
2. Germaine Greer 136
3. Amartya Sen 126
4. Eric Hobsbawm 122
5. Jonathan Miller 116
6. Timothy Garton Ash 108
7. Simon Schama 106
8. Michael Ignatieff 104
9. Melvyn Bragg 103
10. Niall Ferguson 95
11. George Monbiot 94
12. Mary Warnock 92
13. Michael Frayn 92
14. Tom Stoppard 90
15. Roger Scruton 89
16. Rowan Williams 89
17. Christopher Hitchens 88
18. George Steiner 82
19. Will Hutton 78
20. AC Grayling 73
21. Susan Greenfield 68
22. John Gray 67
23. Seamus Heaney 63
24. Anthony Giddens 62
25. Gordon Brown 62

26th Jul 2004, 12:38
10. Niall Ferguson 95
11. George Monbiot 94

Two old housemates, apparently.