In honor of the ever-contagious March Madness, and inspired by the quirks and shenanigans of M.L. and his Singapore colleagues, I’ve created a bracket. One that unabashedly exposes my own biases and will, with any luck, generate controversy among the intellectual historians, philosophers, and brainy men and women I’m fortunate enough to call friends.
Said bracket is a tournament of the intellectuals. Composed of sixty-four European intellectuals from the 19th and 20th centuries, it’s one possible way of exploring the levels of influence each thinker has had on our lives in the 21st century.
The intellectuals are grouped by birthplace. (I attempted to organize it by language of writing, but it was too hard to limit the French and German lists that way.) I tried to choose a wide range of trends by including leftists, conservatives, phenomenologists, existentialists, feminists, and people who are simply defy categorization. I also sought to make sure, at least in the first round, that the two thinkers going head to head were as equal in influence as possible. Putting Kant or Hegel, for example, up against anyone except one another would have been an unfair fight right from the start.
Although the decisions as to who won each round were largely arbitrary, I did have a few criteria in mind:
- Did this person’s ideas cause a war? (If so, s/he will not advance to the next round.)
- How much influence did this thinker have on future intellectuals? (The greater the influence, the better the chance of advancing.)
- Is this intellectual’s name “common currency” outside a philosophy or history department? Or have the been a major influence on a popular social movement? (Bonus points for popular appeal
- How much influence has this person exerted on my perception of the world? (Yes. In the end, it’s just personal.)
There you have it. I’d be really curious to hear how other people might have worked this. Are there intellectuals you would have included that I have not? Would you have chosen other winners in different rounds? How would you rank the influence of these women and men?
Alternatively you can play along yourself using this Google Doc. Please download or copy the document to change it. And then do share your own!