1 Noam Chomsky
Still #1 after all these years.
2 Umberto Eco
Increasingly I find his fiction all but unreadable. 'Name of the Rose' was beyond dense but also a breathtaking endorsement of the Enlightenment, 'Foucault's Pendulum' was almost totally impenetrable - but I struggled through it, and 'Island of the Day Before' still languishes on my shelf only half read, but his essays still hold impressive punch.
3 Richard Dawkins
Dawkins is THE MAN. If it were up to me, he'd be #1. Best work is...hard to choose just one...ok...'Blind Watchmaker', no...wait....'Selfish Gene'...uh....'Unweaving the Rainbow'....hmmm...but then again I REALLY liked 'The Devil's Chaplain', ok, that's my pick, 'Devil's Chaplain'.
4 Václav Havel
A poet before he became the first president of post-Soviet controlled Czech Republic. I revere him for his fight against totalitarianism, but otherwise have never engaged his writings directly.
5 Christopher Hitchens
Ex-Trotskyite turned Liberal, turned Liberal Hawk, turned professional drunken lout and pundit. He'll spend the rest of his career trying to remove the stain of supporting Bush's war in Iraq from his resume and the merlot spots from his tie.
6 Paul Krugman
A writer for the NYT who I barely ever read. Thanks to NYT's move to place him behind a subscription wall, I never will again.
7 Jürgen Habermas
Communication and Political theorist best described as a neo-Marxist. A philosopher so in love with his own overly-complex thoughts only Europeans who once worshipped Michel Foucault could love him. I have two of his works in my library, and neither is coherent past the introduction without a steady intrvenous drip of caffeine and hallucinogens.
8 Amartya Sen
Indian economist whose work on social theory, famine and 'Arrow's Impossibility Theorem' emminettly qualify him. My exposure is through two essays in 'Critical Review' - neither of which were especially memorable.
9 Jared Diamond
After Dawkins, my favourite guy in this list (Yes, he's ahead of Chomsky). Read 'Guns, Germs and Steel'. Don't argue, just do it.
10 Salman Rushdie
Like Eco, I find Rushdie's novels far less interesting than his essays. Favourite is easily 'East/West', and of that collection his review of Terry Gilliam's flick 'Brazil' is a must read.
11 Naomi Klein
The No Logo-Girl is ranked #11? I guess. She seems more than a tad lightweight for a list of this kind. The Harriet Miers pick.
12 Shirin Ebadi
Persian lawyer and human rights activist. Confession time; I read the name and went 'who'?
13 Hernando de Soto
Chicago school trained (ie. Straussian) neo-con who was Fujimora's advisor while the latter ran Peru into the ground. Wouldn't make my list except as part of the 'who would I never put on my list' list. 1st of two Straussians to make the list (the other being Wolfowitz).
14 Bjørn Lomborg
Author of the 'Skeptical Environmentalist'. While he brings some sanity to the discussion of enviromental issues, I also find him too apologetic of global warming to my liking.
15 Abdolkarim Soroush
Islamic philosopher critical of the Iranian clergy. No, I'd never heard of him either.
16 Thomas Friedman
'The World is Flat' author can only make sense of things when presentable as an easily digested cliche'. Facile writer who has gotten away with mediocrity too long. Latest thought crime is defending Judith (the White House Plant at the NYT) Miller's alleged acts of journalism.
17 Pope Benedict XVI
Steadily moving the Catholic Church back to the dark ages.
18 Eric Hobsbawm
Un-apolgeticly pro-communist British professor. Nothing new here.
19 Paul Wolfowitz
One of the neo-con 'Vulcans' straight out of the American Enterprise think tank, and currently head of the World Bank. From his presence on the list this high up I conclude he has an excellent PR firm working for him.
20 Camille Paglia
Iconoclast US philosopher, she deserves to be much higher on the list. Eerily able to take the pulse of US culture, unafraid to make mistakes and recant them, my favourite critic of postmodern relativism in academia, and champion of gay rights while maintaining her Catholicism. Someone I'd adore to have over for dinner.