"I certainly, shall we say, don't seek love from a lot of people. I can understand him saying that, and maybe I do have a fighting gene, but I think it's very important for our society today that you have guys like me," Icahn said. "I mean, that's how societies progress.
"We wouldn't have had the American Revolution if everybody just wanted to get along with the establishment in England. And you wouldn't have had Abe Lincoln and all the great presidents. You're looking at great presidents, I think they all have the fighting gene, the great ones. I'm not going to argue about the fact that I have a fighting gene."
Two weeks ago, Warren Buffett expressed reluctance to vote "no" on a Coca-Cola's executive pay package with which he disagreed, saying it was "kind of un-American" to vote against the iconic company. Buffett's decision not to voice his displeasure publicly elicited Icahn's weekend op-ed in Barron's, titled "Why Buffett Is Wrong on Coke."
On CNBC's "Halftime Report," Icahn said he agreed with Buffett's assessment that corporate boards were "collegial" groups.
"The only difference is that I think that this is a terrifying situation for our economy and our future," Icahn said. "I mean the fact that we can make so much money by just turning this company around prove it."
Icahn praised the fellow billionaire.
"I'm glad Buffett said he loved me, and I actually love Buffett, but I do agree that, you know, Buffett is a real lovable guy," he said. "I think I'm a likeable guy.
"I agree with a lot of things he says about not getting invited on boards. I don't generally get invited. I get invited back quite a bit, which is interesting," Icahn said. "But you don't get invited to country club either, if they think you're going to battle with them. But a board shouldn't be a country club. That's my whole point."
Icahn defended his tactic of waging public battles.
"Well, you don't get that result on boards if you do it in private. I don't see Coca-Cola changing their package," he said. "I don't think it's been effective."
Icahn praises Ackman
Icahn, who locked horns live on CNBC more than a year ago with Pershing Square's Bill Ackman, had words of praise for his one-time rival.
"You know, you can say I have a fighting gene. Maybe I do, but I don't enjoy grudge fights. I don't enjoy gratuitous fights. I fight to get something accomplished. My fight with Ackman is really sort of a gratuitous fight at this point," he said.
"I think it's so important in this country to change what's going on in this whole arena. And I will say Bill Ackman is right up there in trying to change it."
Icahn, who is worth an estimated $25 billion, said he was motivated by a higher purpose than his bottom line.
"I don't need the money anymore," he said. "I'm doing this—and I know maybe this sounds corny to you—because I think that this country could still be a great hegemony. And I grew up on the streets of Queens, and it's done a great thing for me, and so I'm trying to—I think my legacy is to try to change the situation. And I don't give a damn too much who likes me or doesn't like me as I'm doing it. I guess Warren's a little right about that. I mean, if I really cared about being in the social order or being in the establishment, I wouldn't do what I do."
Icahn recounts activism on Apple
Icahn, who pushed Apple and CEO Tim Cook to increase its dividend, declined to say that it was his activism that pushed the company to do so.
"Look, I like Tim Cook, so that's not one that my warrior gene has manifested," he said.
Icahn said he still saw the stock as attractive.
"I'm not ruling out buying it," he said. "I still think it's very undervalued."
—By CNBC's Bruno J. Navarro.