A) Who do you consider the great thinkers are who have influenced the way you think today and why?
I like the way his thoughts evolved throughout his life.
B) Do you think great thinking often comes about by average thinkers debating together?
No, but I guess it would depend on what one calls "average". I do not believe great minds exist only in the realm of the well educated or affluent.
Money and education are enhancers that may unleash a great mind that is already there but so can other things such as exposure. Travel is one form of exposure for example.
I think there are great minds all around us, the way to find them is to be open eyed and eared enough to recognize them and focus on them. Just like the empty tin can makes the most noise - so it is with people. We have to really be aware to seek out the treasures amongst us.
as the song goes..."the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls"