Thursday, November 01, 2007

Genius recognized

Here's another of those darn lists. This time it's the top 100 living geniuses. It's not worth taking seriously – Steven Hawking, at #7, is beaten out by Matt Groening at #4, and topping the list is the guy who discovered LSD – but it's kind of interesting. Naturally one wonders which philosophers are on it. I won't quibble with Chomsky (#32, tied with Prince, among others) as either belonging there nor as being called a philosopher; but if Richard Dawkins (#20, tied with Rupert Murdoch) is a philosopher, then so is Brian Eno (#15). Other than those two, only two other listees were philosophers, and you'll NEVER guess, so I'll tell you: Annette Baier (#72, tied with film composers John Williams (bleah) and Hans Zimmer), and Alastair Hannay (#91), the Kierkegaard scholar. How about that.


colin said...

1. Well, classical music is topped by Phillip Glass which makes perfect sense as it must have been quite the insight to realize that an entire career could be built on the same chord progression repeated over and over and over and over.

2. I guess I would have nominated Dennett, Kripke and Habermas. Mainly to keep things reasonably diverse I suppose. Though I really wish that there was a better Continental guy... And maybe Searle instead of Kripke...

3. Who would you have suggested? (I'm guessing Macdowell would be on that list)

Duck said...

Early Philip Glass – up through the mid-70's or so – is really great, but that stuff had more impact outside classical music than in. Plus he seems to have been coasting since then, so yes, your comment is apt.

Naturally McDowell belongs; but the living philosopher to whom the word "genius" applies most, for my money, is Cavell. But that doesn't mean he's my favorite. For example, I think the word applies as well to Kripke, and he's way wrong on a lot of things. (For the record, I do like Cavell.) Dennett and Searle are way smart, but paradoxically they write too clearly and/or straightforwardly to impress you as geniuses. If we want another analytic, let's take Lewis. Habermas, on the other hand, makes things too difficult (smart guy too, though, no doubt about that).

Outside philosophy, I'm not sure. Again, I don't want to just pick my favorites; they need to have that certain something. Eno is the most natural choice; the other names that come to mind just now are Atom Heart, Bill Nelson, Tom Phillips, Andy Goldsworthy, maybe Ichiro Suzuki. Some great filmmakers are no longer eligible, alas. Who's left - Chris Marker, Jacques Rivette, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Hirokazu Kore-eda. Steven Jobs deserves his place - I forget which number he was. So much of it depends on your criteria. I think fame and influence ranked higher for them than, I don't know, talent. Your mileage is guaranteed to vary.

Duck said...

Whoops, Lewis is dead, isn't he.

coliny said...

1. in essence it's just silly to have a list of geniuses that compares such diverse categories, though that doesn't make it less fun. I think that artists/musicians tend to suffer the most. for example i think john williams (the composer) is very good at what he does (and the riches composer in history), but his genius is not the same as say John Adams'. Ok, this is getting silly again.

2. Re: Lewis. It seems like in Continental Philosophy that there has been something of a deck clearing in the past five years or so. Is that true as well for the Analytics?

3. i'm curious as to why you rank Cavell so highly.

Duck said...

Well, I suppose losing Quine (2000), Davidson (2003), Rorty (2007), Lewis (2001) (only sixty!), Rawls (2002), and Bernard Williams (2003) could constitute a "clearing of the decks."

But it's hard to see the analytic decks as really clear. Dennett, Searle, Stroud, Nagel, Dummett and Putnam are still around. (Plus there's a lot of young dead wood – deader even than the dead, if that makes any sense.)

Maybe I'll say something about Cavell when I get back to him. For now I'll just point to The Claim of Reason and Must We Mean What We Say?.

Daniel said...

I like that Stan Lee is a "publisher" on that list.

Who're the big Continental guys who've died in the last five years? I can only think of Derrida. Everyone else I can come up with died earlier than 2002 or is still alive now.

colin said...

(how did my name end up with a 'y' at the end?)

1. Derrida (2004), Gadamer (2002), Baudrillard (2007). Maybe it just seems like a bigger deal because it doesn't seem like any CP figures have quite stepped up to that level yet. Maybe Zizek I suppose. I think Badiou, Nancy, Critchley, maybe Casey, will be the next set of exciting figures. My only issue with Habermas, is I hate the idea of CP being represented by the Critical Theory folks.

2. I think Steve Reich is much smarter and more interesting than Glass (and maybe more influential in many ways). Eno I approve of. And Andy Goldworthy is absolutely amazing. What about Jim Jarmusch or Bertolucci for film makers? It's a shame that Bergman just died.

Duck said...

As I understand it, Badiou and Nancy are already very big. What little I know of Badiou does not impress me (Marxist Platonism?). Critchley is okay (I think I keep mixing him up with someone else though – Simon Glendinning maybe?). Who's Casey?

Daniel said...

I had no idea Gadamer died recently. I thought he'd been gone for decades, for some reason. I keep wanting to think of him as a contemporary of Heidegger, not a student.

Badiou appears to be about as big a name as Zizek; he just doesn't travel as widely. I don't think Nancy is actually up that high; Kotsko really likes the guy, but he's complained that he isn't as widely-liked as he ought to be, as I recall.

I recall Holbo once claimed that Badiou was basically reinventing Wittgenstein's ideas, from the Tractatus period; he noted in this context that Badiou's version of "analytic philosophy" seemed to stop with Carnap. I wish Holbo'd fleshed that out a bit more. IIRC, he used "Being and Event" for a class he taught.

I once read an interview with Badiou where he was asked why he held so fast to classical logic; apparently a central tenant of his philosophy, "the all-inclusiveness of the Void", is argued for by appeal to ex contradictione quodlibet. Badiou's response was that non-classical logics might be very useful for tracing out certain argument patterns, certain ways in which inferences are made or prohibited; for all he knew, intuitionistic logic might be the best model we had of how we actually reason. But classical logic (and Zermelo-Frankel set theory) were "correct"; this was tied into some sort of ontological decisionism. That was when my headache started.

colin said...

I can't claim to know enough about Badiou to really say whether i think that he deserves his reputation. actually i'm pretty excited because he is coming here to give a talk next week.

I really like Critchley especially Very Little...Almost Nothing, which is about responses to nihilism; and Things Merely Are, which is about Wallace Stevens. I like the figures he focuses on and what he does with them

Edward Casey is a phenomenologist who is doing really original work on the nature and aesthetics of place. I like him because I still find phenomenology the most fruitful aspect of CP and seeing someone do really original work (as opposed to more historical work) is exciting.