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10 Most-cited Writers in the Humanities

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I'm reading a book by philosopher/linguist Steven Pinker. He mentions the top 10 most-cited writers in the humanities in order. I wonder what your thoughts--if any--are on this:

  1. Karl Marx
  2. Vladimir Lenin
  3. William Shakespeare
  4. the Bible
  5. Aristotle
  6. Plato
  7. Sigmund Freud
  8. Noam Chomsky *The only living person on the list. I met him about 10 years ago, shook his hand, and we exchanged less than a minute's worth of words.*
  9. George WF Hegel
  10. Cicero
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I studied theater and communications.  Of the 10, I've definitely never heard of Hegel.  I was about 70% sure I knew who Cicero was, but I just googled it and I'm wrong.  I only know of Chomsky through you.  But the other 7 I have at least enough knowledge to sound smart for a solid five minutes or so.  Ha. 

I volunteered at a crisis/suicide hotline when I was getting my undergrad.  Most of the callers were clearly prank callers (I was going to say "unfortunately" -- but would it have been better if there were more people calling about actually committing suicide?  Probably not, I guess.)

Anyway, I only got one "real" suicidal call the entire time I was there.  I was alone, and this woman called who was clearly in distress.  She's talking about her life in New York and it's such a mess and her job is terrible and her boyfriend is terrible and her apartment is terrible and the rats are terrible and obviously I can't fix any of this for her, so I'm definitely struggling with what to actually say to talk her down so she doesn't kill herself.

But then she said something I'll never forget:

"I just feel like I'm trapped in Plato's cave, you know?"

Today, I have no idea what the fuck that means.  And if she's called me a week prior, I wouldn't have known then, either.

But as it just so happened, I had literally read Plato's Allegory of the Cave just a few days prior, for the very class that I was earning credit for by volunteering at this hotline.  So, she happened to catch me during like the brief 48-hour period out of my entire life in which I actually knew EXACTLY what the fuck she was talking about.  I was able to show her I absolutely got that reference, and could hold a deep conversation with her about it.

And it worked.  Once I got her talking about Plato, and we exchanged ideas about it etc, she remarked about what an insane coincidence it was to call a random help hotline and actually reach someone who could talk about Plato, and maybe it was a sign that she shouldn't kill herself after all.  And, hey, what the fuck do I know?  Maybe it was.  Or maybe it was just one of those insane one in a million chances, and maybe she called back a week later and I wasn't there to talk Plato anymore and so she decided it was a sign to die on that day instead.  I have no idea how that story ended, for her.

But for me, it was one of the craziest "right place right time" stories in my entire life.

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21 minutes ago, MrPotatoTed said:

Of the 10, I've definitely never heard of Hegel. 

He came up with concepts like "the end of history" and was possibly the main proponent of the "great man" theory. I think Napoleon, who was a contemporary, was the muse for both concepts. He had a lot of other philosophical ideas too. The main reason he's on this list is by sheer range. He sort of just organized all previously philosophy and then tried to answer what it all means and what it will all lead too. He and Kant are kind of like the last old school philosophers and the first new school philosophers. The newer school seems to focus more on linguistics and meaning, and the older school seems more interested in what are we and what is God. That's a little simplistic though. 

I barely remember Plato's Cave. I have a good surface-level knowledge of philosophy. I know all the names and concepts, but I can't necessarily talk about most of them with any real depth. 

I'm surprised Cicero is on the list. He was arguably THE guy in 1776 from this list. All the Founding Fathers were obsessed with Cicero. I'm not sure what killed him off, relatively speaking. Possibly when higher education no longer required learning Latin. 

Most people know Chomsky for politics, but his fame is in linguistics. He pretty much proved that the concept of language is innate from birth. He studied young children and analyzed their grammar and found the could reorganized sentence structure to rephrase sentences according to standards rules without even knowing what they were doing and things like that. His linguistic books aren't very engaging. I tried. Better to just listen to him talk about it. His political books are more interesting, even if I think many of them are even too radical, even for me. He identifies as a left-wing libertarian or anarchist socialist.

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30 minutes ago, Hestia said:


Real ones know that Gnome Chomsky > Noam Chomsky 

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