I’m privileged to know (and respect) both these fine scholars for having the courage of their convictions and speaking their minds not only in the classroom but in the public sphere as well. I had a number of teachers at Princeton who also became public intellectuals: Walter Kaufmann and Richard Rorty of the Philosophy Department. Walter, who was my senior thesis advisor, took great pride in challenging his students to examine their own beliefs and wrote influential books like “Faith of a Heretic” to address a larger audience. Dick was the second reader on my thesis, and I later returned the favor by serving as the editor of his book “Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature” (PUP, 1979), which catapulted him into the ranks of public intellectuals. Note that now Rorty is retrospectively being credited with foreseeing the results of our recent election way back when he wrote “Achieving Our Country” (1998). I wholeheartedly agree with Cornel and Robbie that quality is the primary criterion. It is that which also guided my activity as an acquiring editor at two university presses (Princeton and Penn State) where over the years I was the editor for books by Marxists/socialists (like G.A. Cohen), conservatives (like Hadley Arkes), libertarians (like Chris Sciabarra), and just about every other persuasion you can think of. What mattered was not the point of view but the strength of the argument—and it didn’t hurt if the author wrote eloquent prose as well.
In Response to: Conversation: Speaking Their Minds