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Monday, March 02, 2009

Who's The Most Famous Philosopher of the 20th Century?

On Leiter's blog there was a poll on the question "who's the most important philosopher of the 20th century", prompted by the unqualified assertion by Jim Holt in a NYT book review that that would be Wittgenstein. The results were widely debated, e.g., on Crooked Timber. The reason the results were contentious, I think, is because the methodology was severely flawed and consequently the results were widely off. Of course the proper methodology would be to find a property that correlates with the property you're interested in, but that is objectively measurable. Obviously, the property you should be interested in here is fame. Below a ranking of the philosophers included in Leiter's list, sorted by fame (measured in dBHa, the international logarithmic unit of fame, see Schulman 2009).

Rank Name Rank Leiter Rank dBHa
1 Bertrand Russell 1 2 -1.9
2 Jean-Paul Sartre 2 10 -2.25
3 Michel Foucault 3 7 -2.75
4 J├╝rgen Habermas 4 20 -2.89
5 John Dewey 5 11 -3.83
6 Simone de Beauvoir

-3.98
7 Martin Heidegger 6 4 -4.01
8 Hannah Arendt

-4.26
9 Ludwig Wittgenstein 7 1 -6.29
10 Iris Murdoch

-6.9
11 Richard Rorty 8 22 -6.96
12 Gilles Deleuze 9 21 -7.28
13 Karl Popper 10 8 -7.44
14 Theodor Adorno 11 16 -7.91
15 Hans-Georg Gadamer 12 27 -8.03
16 Henri Bergson 13 24 -8.28
17 John Rawls 14 5 -8.75
18 Judith Butler

-9.43
19 Maurice Merleau-Ponty 15 23 -9.48
20 Alfred North Whitehead 16 26 -9.84
21 Julia Kristeva

-10.37
22 Bernard Williams 17 12 -10.38
23 Donald Davidson 18 17 -10.62
24 Ernst Cassirer 19 27 -10.69
25 Hilary Putnam 20 18 -10.78
26 Luce Irigaray

-11.21
27 G. E. Moore 21 15 -12.02
28 W. V. O. Quine 22 6 -12.83
29 Martha Nussbaum

-14.29
30 Rudolf Carnap 23 13 -14.65
31 Donna Haraway

-14.95
32 Elizabeth Anscombe

-15.3
33 P. F. Strawson 24 24 -17.08
34 Alfred Tarski 25 18 -17.14
35 C.I. Lewis 26 29 -17.88
36 Saul Kripke 27 9 -18.46
37 Michael Dummett 28 30 -18.52
38 Wilfrid Sellars 29 14 -18.79
39 Susan Haack

-21.89
40 Philippa Foot

-22.04
41 David K. Lewis 30 3 -23.06


The top 8 are B-list celebrities, 9-31 are C-list, by Schulman's standard.

UPDATE: Prompted by Rob Wilson's comment, I added a number of women philosophers to Leiter's original list.

References

Schulman, E. 2009, "Measuring Fame Quantitatively. IV. Who's the Most Famous of Them All?" Annals of Improbable Research Online, February 28. (see also AIR February 28)

18 Comments:

At March 03, 2009 5:16 AM , Anonymous Eric Schulman said...

I'm glad to see some people are taking my work seriously! :)

 
At March 03, 2009 9:34 AM , Anonymous W. Jim Jordan said...

Well, it sounds like there's a short presentation waiting to be made at a conference.

No one gets into philosophy for money; now we know there's no fame in it either.

 
At March 03, 2009 4:58 PM , Blogger Kenny said...

I'm slightly surprised that Russell wins out on this measure as well. I'm also a bit surprised that Dewey beats Heidegger and Wittgenstein, though I wonder how many of the hits for "John Dewey" are actually about the Dewey decimal system and some unrelated John.

It actually seems to me like -10dBHa is a sort of natural cutoff - the philosophers above that point are people that I suspect people outside the field will often have heard of, while the ones below it really aren't.

 
At March 03, 2009 5:38 PM , Blogger Richard Zach said...

I guess Dewey was also pretty important (more important) for writing on psychology and especially education.

 
At March 03, 2009 8:39 PM , Blogger Richard Zach said...

Er, I meant famous, not important.

 
At March 03, 2009 8:52 PM , Blogger Rob Wilson said...

Wow, no famous women philosophers in the 20th-century. But I guess that's just ONE century, and one that didn't have much going for it anyway. (It's my least favourite century. Except for all the others.)

 
At March 03, 2009 9:07 PM , Blogger Richard Zach said...

No women philosophers on Leiter's list. But here are some, and their fame in dBHa: Simone de Beauvoir (-3.98), Iris Murdoch (-6.9), Judith Butler (-9.43), Julia Kristeva (-10.37), Luce Irigaray (-11.21), Martha Nussbaum (-14.29), Donna Haraway (-14.95), Elizabeth Anscombe (-15.3), Susan Haack (-21.89). All more famous than David Lewis.

 
At March 03, 2009 10:04 PM , Blogger Richard Zach said...

Oh, and Hannah Arendt with -4.26 dBHa would also make it to the top (> -5 dBHa = B-list celebrity).

 
At March 09, 2009 10:08 AM , Anonymous Brad said...

What about Angela Davis and some of the activist/feminists? e.g. Gloria Steinam, Betty Friedan.

Another glaring omission is Peter Singer.

Though Raymond Smullyan himself is not a household name, his logic puzzles are infamous... I suppose this doesn't count though, unless the idea is attached to personal brand.

 
At March 09, 2009 10:18 AM , Blogger Richard Zach said...

Well, I just took Leiter's list to start with. But hey! If you want to make your own list, just read the cited paper, apply the simple method for calculating DBHa given there, and make your own list!

 
At March 09, 2009 11:02 AM , Blogger Jime said...

Judith Butler more famous than Rudolph Carnap, Donald Davidson or Hilary Putham?

Wow.

 
At March 09, 2009 11:06 AM , Blogger Mohan Matthen said...

Clearly, this is the most important work that has been done so far in this century. Eric Schulman and Richard Zack are geniuses.

 
At March 09, 2009 1:50 PM , Blogger Richard Zach said...

I'll never make it to E-list celebrity status if people misspell my name on the internets!

 
At March 10, 2009 11:33 AM , Anonymous (Br)ad said...

I checked out the google and realized that Mohan must be referring to Richard Zack, the E-list Entomologist. http://entomology.wsu.edu/Profiles/zack.html

Don't worry, Richard Zach, we may not know you, but we still love you!!!

Weren't you at my wedding, by the way ;) ???

 
At March 15, 2009 1:05 PM , Anonymous what? said...

Quine at 22? Below Davidson, Putnam, and some lit-crit wing-wangs? What the hell.

 
At March 17, 2009 12:37 PM , Blogger C.K. Loo said...

Hi Richard, it's been a while. I was curious, could you figure out how famous Gettier and van Fraassen are? I was actually a little surprised that they didn't make the list. They might not be well known outside of philosophy but I would have guessed that they'd be more well known than some of the other people who made the list.

 
At March 17, 2009 4:51 PM , Blogger Richard Zach said...

-28 and -24 dBHa, respectively.

 
At March 17, 2009 8:21 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

No Leo Strauss? You must be kidding.

 

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