Sunday, September 25, 2005

Educating Rori

Do you remember the charming movie Educating Rita (Michael Caine and Julie Walters) about a young married female hairdresser who signs up for a course at the Open University because she is eager to learn. Her husband urges her to have a baby and strongly opposes her decision to persue an education. Rita meets her tutor, a mildly successful middle-aged academic with a drinking problem who tutors because he needs the money. As time goes by, he overcomes his initial repulsion and when he sees how quickly Rita learns, he falls in love with his own creation.

This post is dedicated to the task of “Educating Rori” who expressed dismay at recognizing the names of only three intellectuals out of the list of 100 in the Prospect and Public Policy magazine’s survey. I’ll play the mildly successful professor and begin with my own selections. Not being myself an intellectual, I’ll rely on Wikipedia and Google for the following excerpts.

Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Alois Ratzinger) is one of the most influential academic theologians of the 20th century and author of many books including In the Beginning… A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall (1995), Introduction to Christianity (1968, new edition 2000) and Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions (2004). Ratzinger held the position of Professor at the Universities of Bonn, Munster, Tubingen, and Regensburg. In 1972, he founded the theological journal Communio now published in seventeen languages and one of the most important journals of Catholic thought. In response to an increasing de-christianisation in Europe, where secular humanism is influential, Pope Benedict particularly emphasizes what he sees as the need for Europe to turn back to its fundamental values.

Freeman John Dyson is an English-born American physicist and mathematician, famous for his work in quantum mechanics, nuclear weapons design and policy, and for his futurism viewpoints. Dyson worked for the British Bomber Command during World War II; after the war, he moved to Princeton and became a naturalized citizen of the United States. At Princeton Dyson demonstrated the equivalence of the two formulations of quantum electrodynamics which existed at the time - Richard Feynman's and Julian Schwinger’s. He is famous for the Dyson operator. Dyson worked on the Orion Project, which proposed the possibility of space-flight using nuclear propulsion and he is currently the president of the Space Studies Institute. Dyson was awarded the Max Planck medal in 1969.

Francis Fukuyama is an influential American political economist and author and Professor of International Political Economy and Director of the International Development Program at Johns Hopkins University. Fukuyama is best known as the author of the controversial book The End of History and the Last Man, in which he argues that the progression of human history as a struggle between ideologies is largely at an end, with the world settling on liberal democracy after the end of the Cold War. But he has also argued that since biotechnology increasingly allows humans to control their own evolution, it may allow humans to become fundamentally unequal, and thus spell the end of liberal democracy as a workable system. Politically, Fukuyama has been considered a neoconservative. He was active in the Project for the New American Century think-tank starting in 1997 and, as of 2004, he serves in the Bush administration as a member of the President's Council on Bioethics.

Christopher Hitchens is a British journalist, author, and literary critic now living in the US. He has been a columnist at Vanity Fair, The Nation, Slate, and a contributor to many other publications. Hitchens is known for his iconoclasm, anti-clericalism, and anti-fascism, as well as for his lacerating wit and his dramatic departure from the Anglo-American political left. He was long regarded as a socialist but a series of disagreements beginning in the early 1990s led to his resignation from The Nation shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Hitchens was deeply shocked by the fatwa issued against his longtime friend Salman Rushdie. This marked the beginning of a new period in his career, one in which he has been a vociferous critic of what he describes as "fascism with an Islamic face". Following the 9/11 attacks, Hitchens and the Socialist professor Noam Chomsky debated the nature of the threat of radical Islam and of the proper response to it.

Bjorn Lomborg is a Danish political scientist and former director of the Institute for Environmental Assessment in Copenhagen. In 2001 he was selected "Global Leader for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. Lomborg attained significant attention by penning The Skeptical Environmentalist, a controversial book whose main thesis is that many of the claims and dire predictions of environmentalists are exaggerated. Lomborg later founded and acted as director of the Copenhagen Consensus project, and served as editor of the resulting book, Global Crises, Global Solutions (2004). Lomborg was selected as one of TIME Magazine's 100 most influential people of 2004.

And my write-in candidate was the translator of Machialelli’s The Prince.

Harvey Mansfield is Professor of Government studies and teaches political philosophy at Harvard. He has written on Edmund Burke and the nature of political parties, on Machiavelli and the invention of indirect government, in defense of a defensible liberalism and in favor of a Constitutional American political science. He has also written on the discovery and development of the theory of executive power, is a well known translator of Machiavelli and is author of the best translation of Tocqueville's Democracy in America. His current research is a book on manliness. Mansfield has held Guggenheim and NEH Fellowships, and has been a Fellow at the National Humanities Center. Educating the Prince is a book of essays honoring Mansfield written by his former PhD students including Bill Krystol, editor of The Weekly Standard.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what are we to conclude? You have a drinking problem?


6:39 PM  
Anonymous Pamela said...

At last! I voted from the list of intellectuals.Took me awhile, because like Rori, I recognized very few. Some of the ultra-leftists and conservatives ( so few of the latter made the list)were easy to spot.
Before I made my choices, I read about 10 that I did not know.
Billy, I decided not to read about your choices 'til after I made mine.I deliberately tried to see if I could find 5 different ones. I did. Then went back to read about your choices, whom certainly would be on my top 10 list~ My choices: Gary Becker(U.S. economist) Hernando De Soto(Peru economist) Umberto Eco (Italian novelist) Salman Rushdie (British novelist,commentator) and Paul Wolowitz (U.S.A. Head of World Bank). Now, I will go back and read some of the ones I did not 'google'. Thanks for this brain-exercise :)

6:34 AM  
Anonymous Pamela said...

Billy, seems to me your Harvey Mansfield blows the entire list of 100 out of the universe!
I submitted Margaret Thatcher's name.I'm not sure she posesses intellectualism; which I sometimes equate to worldy madness of today's academia. But, she has been gifted with wisdom.

7:31 AM  
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12:52 PM  

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