November 01, 2005

Chomsky Named Top Public Intellectual

According to this news report, a joint internet poll by Prospect Magazine and Foreign Policy has named linguist Noam Chomsky the top public intellectual in the world today. Chomsky received nearly twice as many votes as runner-up Umberto Eco. The complete results can be found in Prospect Magazine.

Polls like this are pretty silly: the sample is self-selected, it is far from clear whether most people have the knowledge to vote intelligently, and the criteria are ill-defined: do we mean "most influential" or "having ideas of greatest long-term importance" or "having the most original ideas" or what? The news report cites University of Alberta historian Douglas Owram as making the following intelligent comment:

Owram said Chomsky wasn't a bad choice for the top spot. "It doesn't diminish my contempt for the whole notion of doing this, but in a sense Chomsky is a serious intellectual. He's certainly a worthy contender for this pseudo-crown."
Nonetheless, its nice to see a bit of recognition for linguistics.

Posted by Bill Poser at November 1, 2005 02:23 PM