What's The Big Idea?

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Years ago I owned a dog named Ziggy. Like many people and their pets, we were embroiled in a co-dependent relationship that prompted me at times to play games I knew would annoy him. One of my favorites was to take a doggy treat--a biscuit, say, or some hamburger--drop it into a glass bottle and toss it in front of him.

The bottle was big enough to let him smell the goodies but small enough to keep him from reaching in with his tongue. He would hop around in circles, trying vainly to push his snout into the thing as it slid and spun away from him.

One day Ziggy did something he had never done before. In a transport of sheer frustration, he picked the bottle up in his jaws and flung it. It struck a metal table leg and shattered. The doggy treat was free! Ziggy shot me a look of pure canine triumph.

Which brings us to the seven men and women in this final installment of TIME's series on Innovators in various areas of modern life. This month's choices are all thinkers exploring new ideas about economics and ethics, God and time, beauty and terror. But in their infinitely higher way, what they are after is a doggy treat--some essential social or intellectual goal. What they have all realized is that to reach it, sometimes you need to find a subtle and ingenious way to get into the bottle. And sometimes you just have to grab that sucker and bust it wide open.

The Innovators
Martha Nussbaum

John Milbank

Jessica Stern

Julian Barbour

Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri

Dave Hickey