(8) John Stuart Mill vs. (9) Humphrey Bogart

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(8) John Stuart Mill

Although he sometimes gets lost in the shuffle in discussions of history's great thinkers, Mill's genius bona fides are hard to question. He started early; at the age of three he was already speaking Greek. As a philosopher, he influentially espoused Utilitarianism, the notion that an action should be judged by how it affects the overall contribution it makes to society's happiness. As an economist, his book Principles of Political Economy was the key text in the discipline for almost 70 years. Furthermore, he was an early advocate of women's rights.

(9) Humphrey Bogart

The American Film Institute named Bogart the greatest male film star, and while it's easy to make a case for other screen legends, it's hard to take anything away from Bogie. From his turns as tough detectives in the legendary noirs The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep to his portrayal of lovelorn bar owner in Casablanca, Bogart managed to exude cool movie-star charisma even when he took on a downtrodden character. (Bogart's depiction of a deliriously desperate prospector in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre alone could earn him a genius nod.) On top of that, he bagged Lauren Bacall.

The Breakdown

Of all the brackets in all the world, Mill had to walk into Bogart's. He might not walk out. While Mill was incredibly sharp, his Victorian prose lacks the immediacy of Bogart's conflicted facial contortions and ownership of his dialogue. They're very different geniuses, but who do you pick here: the child prodigy political philosopher or the actor who got expelled from prep school?

[poll=24]

[See the whole bracket here.]

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March 19, 2009 - 7:15am
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