In Our Time Greatest Philosophers Vote in The Guardian

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 10 June 2005

Earlier this week there was some press coverage for the In Our Time Greatest Philospher Vote in The Guardian, featuring an interview with Melvyn Bragg by Oliver Burkeman, containing this paragraph:

There is an element of ridiculousness to this initiative, and Bragg knows it. "I'm not terribly interested in the beauty-contest notion, even as applied to philosophy," he says. "Philosophers leapt on it, but I was a bit stand-to-one-side on it. As long as it doesn't interfere with the programme." This less-than-ringing endorsement illustrates the trickiness of Bragg's position as the BBC's custodian of high culture: you're forever negotiating exactly how far you can go in making your product appealing to audiences without degrading it, and the Greatest Philosopher vote comes perilously close to crossing the line.

[I should add that I am assuming that the quote 'Philosophers leapt on it' must have been 'Producers leapt on it'? We certainly haven't been leapt on by any dead philosphers in executing the online portion of the vote]

This isn't the only article from the press that has been a bit sniffy about the vote - I would point to my previous post on the matter (if I hadn't just broken my website and lost it in the binary ether), so Pete's response to it will act as an intelligent stand-in* - but I have been really impressed by how popular it has been. Watching the votes come in day-by-day, and seeing the leading contenders jockey for position has become quite fun for us in the office. It may be a popularity contest, but it has certainly captured some peoples' imagination outside the worlds of both the BBC and the 'serious' press.



* My previous (lost) post pointed out that the vote was fairly trivial, but building a micro-site about the 20 leading thinkers of the last few thousand years was probably *a good thing* to do and would outlast the broadsheet 'dumbing down' outrage.

Keep up to date on my new blog