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The end of our civilization

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Old Main, USU


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• Is the world eternal? YES
• Do humans have contra-causal free will (i.e., can humans do otherwise)? NO
• Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? YES
• Do humans have souls? YES
• Are there natural rights? YES
• Is it morally permissible to eat meat? NO
• Is the unexamined life worth living? NO
• Is truth subjectivity? YES
• Is virtue necessary for happiness? YES
• Can a computer have a mind? YES
• Can humans know reality as it is in itself? YES
• Is hell other people? YES
• Can art be created accidentally? NO
• Can we change the past? NO
• Are numbers real? NO
• Is it always better to know the truth? YES

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A student passed this along to me.  It is a list of the most cited authors in the humanities in 2007.  It is terrifying.



  1. Huenemann says:

    I don’t get why it’s so terrifying. This is just a count of references to published works, right? That’s not very meaningful. The top folks cut across several disciplines, and some of the disciplines are more loosey-goosey and name-driven than others, so it’s not surprising that they get such numbers. Old classics like Plato & Co. probably are frequently referenced very often, but not cited in footnotes.


    • Kleiner says:

      I think you are much too confident in what sort of work people in the humanities and social sciences are doing. For every dissertation on Plato, aren’t there a dozen of some crazy Foucault / deconstruction variety? Here is the great thing about Foucault – he allows you to create endless dissertations on various marginalized classes and their “identity” issues. I think if you were to look around, you would find “identity” dissertations all over the place in the humanities and social sciences. That is all code for Foucault / Derrida work.

      Here is a game: two are real and I made up the other … can you tell which is fake?

      “Exploring Transanarchism: A Study of Cisgender and Transgender Identity Creation in Native American Populations.”

      “Meat Art: Carnality and Coagulation in the Paintings of Soutine, Marc, Nitsch, and Bacon”

      “‘Playing Stupid: On Sexualised and Gendered Manifestations of Stupidity in Philosophy and Visual Culture”


      • Clay says:

        I’m totally going to play. I’m not going to google any of them either. That would be cheating. Is the answer “Exploring Transanarchism?”


      • Huenemann says:

        I’ll go with “Playing stupid” as the made up one, since it’s the only one that sounds interesting.


      • Kleiner says:

        Clay got it right, I made up the Transanarchism one (but those are all real terms, and I may have just given someone a dissertation idea!).


  2. Huenemann says:

    P.S. – Vince – you don’t need to know anything about the top-rated figures. My guess is that many of those referring to them probably don’t!


  3. Kleiner says:

    A friend of mine emailed me this remark, which I thought was worth posting:

    People not listed (in order of the crime):

    1. Alexis deTocqueville (look, if Max Weber is cited 8th, no de Tocqueville is a crime).
    2. Hans Georg Gadamer (look, if Judith Butler [1956] is quoted above Gadamer, there is something fundamentally wrong with the humanities–not only is she above Gadamer, Gadamer is not in the top 50)
    3. The fundamental absence of great Christian thinkers. Imagine if in 1250 (or so) this list were generated. There are no Popes, great Christian Saints, theologians, or quotable Christian men. There is no Benedict or John Paul II. There is no Chesterton or Lewis. There is no Lonergan or Maritain, no Voegelin or Gilson.
    4. Obviously, this is a list of people who are “academics” in the strictest sense of the word. However, they are not possessed of great commonsense. Have you guys read Paul Johnson’s “Intellectuals”? This list make me think that the thesis of that book is absolutely true. Namely, our civilization is run by people who are neither capable of raising children nor manifesting practical intelligence in the most important daily affairs.


  4. Daines says:

    At least Ayn Rand isn’t there. And apparently, nobody else reads any Rorty.


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