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Great Critical Thinkers
Know of a resource missing from this page? Let us know... 

Ten Outstanding Skeptics of the Century, from Skeptical Inquirer magazine.
"In a century filled with UFO sightings, psychic claims, doomsday prophecies, quack therapies, pseudoscientific gadgetry, conspiracy claims, New Age spiritualism, and paranormal mystery-mongering, which individuals rank as the ten outstanding skeptics of the last one hundred years? Who are the brightest champions of science and reason-exposing deception, uncovering fraud, identifying nonsense, and solving so-called "mysteries"?"

The Noam Chomsky Archive
"Welcome! Noam Chomsky is one of America's most prominent political dissidents. A renowned professor of linguistics at MIT, he has authored over 30 political books dissecting such issues as U.S. interventionism in the developing world, the political economy of human rights and the propaganda role of corporate media."  See also Chomsky's blog, Turning the Tide.

For a view from the other side, see The Hypocrisy of Noam Chomsky, by Keith Windschuttle.  Australia's roughest intellectual street-fighter goes a round with the greatest heavyweight of the Left. A knockout blow, or a kick below the belt? [4 Jun 03]

Richard Dawkins

Francis Bacon
What a pity... such a great critical thinker and not a decent website to his name... at least I haven't been able to find one yet. There are plenty of mediocre ones. The link above is a Google search on Francis Bacon.

Francis Galton 
Excellent site. "Despite his colossal achievements, contemporary reputation and far-reaching influence, Sir Francis Galton is no longer known or appreciated beyond specialist circles, perhaps because many of his views have ceased to command the respect of the polite society of university intellectuals.  This site corrects the record, collecting a large selection of Galton-related material, including the full text of his autobiography, and the complete, definitive biography by Karl Pearson. Pearson's outstanding biography has long been unavailable, rare even in libraries."

H.L. Mencken
"The most prominent newspaperman, book reviewer, and political commentator of his day, Henry Louis Mencken was a libertarian before the word came into usage. His prose is as clear as an azure sky, and his rhetoric as deadly as a rifle shot. Frequent targets of his lance were Franklin Roosevelt and New Deal politics, Comstocks, hygenists, "uplifters", social reformers of any stripe, boobs & quacks, and the insatiable American appetite for nonsense and gaudy sham." See also this review of Terry Teachout's recent biography, The Skeptic

See also the the Mencken Society Home Page, "Honoring the memory of and promoting the reading of the living works of Henry Louis Mencken,... the “Sage of Baltimore”, American author, critic, newspaper man and iconoclast."

John Stuart Mill
J.S. Mill would have earned his place on this list had he only wrote a single work: his classic defense of free speech, Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion. Yet there is far more to this great English philosopher. It is a pity that there is no great website to match. The one above is OK; try also this one from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, or this one from Björn's Guide To Philosophy. [Pssst... want to buy a term paper on Mill?]

George Orwell
Complete bibliography, short biography, and a whole lot of other stuff.

According to Christopher Hitchens Orwell was "remembered, with different and varying degrees of distinctness, as the man who confronted three of the great crises of the 20th century and got all three of them, so to speak, "right." He was right, early and often, about the menace presented by fascism and national socialism not just to the peace of the world but to the very idea of civilization. And he was right about Stalinism, about the great and the small temptations that it offered to certain kinds of intellectuals and about the monstrous consequences that would ensue from that nightmarish sleep of reason."

And Timothy Garton Ash writes "If I had to name a single quality that makes Orwell still essential reading in the 21st century, it would be his insight into the use and abuse of language. If you have time to read only one essay, read Politics and the English Language. This brilliantly sums up the central Orwellian argument that the corruption of language is an essential part of oppressive or exploitative politics. "The defence of the indefensible" is sustained by a battery of euphemisms, verbal false limbs, prefabricated phrases, and all the other paraphernalia of deceit that he pinpoints and parodies."

It is always good to have a critical counterweight: see Honest, Decent, Wrong by Louis Menand.

Karl Popper at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
"Karl Popper is generally regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of science of this century. He was also a social and political philosopher of considerable stature, a self-professed ‘critical-rationalist’, a dedicated opponent of all forms of scepticism, conventionalism, and relativism in science and in human affairs generally, a committed advocate and staunch defender of the ‘Open Society’, and an implacable critic of totalitarianism in all of its forms...Here we will try to trace the threads which interconnect the various elements of his philosophy, and which give it its fundamental unity."  [24 Jul 02]

Bertrand Russell at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
"Over the course of his long career, Russell made significant contributions, not just to philosophy, but to a range of other subjects as well. Many of Russell's writings on a wide variety of topics (including education, ethics, politics, history, religion and popular science) have influenced generations of general readers. After a life marked by controversy (including dismissals from both Trinity College, Cambridge, and City College, New York), Russell was awarded the Order of Merit in 1949 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950. Also noted for his many spirited anti-war and anti-nuclear protests, Russell remained a prominent public figure until his death at the age of 97."  See also The Bertrand Russell Gallery "Bertrand Russell, the third Earl Russell, is the twentieth century's most important liberal thinker, one of two or three of its major philosophers, and a prophet for millions of the creative and rational life." And Bertrand Russell on Critical Thinking by William Hare. "The ideal of critical thinking is a central one in Russell's philosophy... this paper reconstructs Russell's account, which is scattered throughout numerous papers and books."

Carl Sagan
Not the most professional page on this great advocate for a scientific worldview, but the most useful one I could find. [22 Jan 04]

David Stove 
"If he wasn't the greatest philosopher of the century, Stove was certainly the funniest and most dazzling defender of common sense . . ."

Last updated: 20 Jun 2007