Americas most famous thinker
August 15, 2004 9:36 PM   Subscribe

Interesting article about Francis Fukuyama "Americas most famous thinker", who comes up on MeFi about once a year, includes information about his latest book.
posted by stbalbach (26 comments total)

 
Fukuyama shills for the Moonies
posted by inksyndicate at 11:59 PM on August 15, 2004


...and the Moonies pay for Kim Jong Il's nukes... so that makes Fukuyama... yes, according to my calculations it makes him the Most Evil Man Evar, with a Bacon number of 666.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 12:42 AM on August 16, 2004


And while proclaiming the end of history makes good Business sense, it doesn't make any Actual sense.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 4:20 AM on August 16, 2004


Nah, I'm with Zakaria and Goldberg on this one - the boy Frankie was more wrong than right...

Apparently his book about science is bollocks too...
posted by dmt at 4:33 AM on August 16, 2004


For those going "Wha?" right now, here is the article in question:

Fukuyama, Francis, "The End of History?" The National Interest (Summer 1989).

The article itself is very famous, widely referenced, and basically made the man's career. The problem was that after he said that history was over in 1989, he was kinda stuck. In the face of an increasingly changing social landscape, Fukuyama had to stick by his guns in order to maintain any pretense of integrity. Note in the above paper how out-of-hand he dismisses Muslim theocracy as a vaible competitor to liberal democracy. Oops.

Fukuyama is merely the latest in a loooong line of philosophers to proclaim an end of history: Marx, Hegel, Jesus Christ, Plato. Each has proclaimed his system as the ultimate (that is, last) one. While the jury's still out, let me go out on a limb here with a prediction of my own: History will never end. As long as people change, so will the societies they organize themselves into. Predicting that one philosophy or ideology will be the last is a self-congratulatory intellectual circle-jerk: "Look how right we all are!"
posted by ChasFile at 7:05 AM on August 16, 2004


dmt, that Goldberg article supports Fukuyama's perspective.
posted by amauck at 7:12 AM on August 16, 2004


Chasfile: "The end of whig history"

Has anyone actually read his other book? I know that virtually all undergraduates in the social sciences are compelled to read his first book at some point, but the second seems to have disappeared from view.

As is immediately obvious, Fukuyama suffers from the syndrom of intellectual 'overfashionability' (I use the term intellectual loosely here) in 1989 he talks about the end of history, just as the Soviet Union. Now he talks about biotech just when we are seeing large-scale prosac consumption and cloned kittens. No wonder real academics don't take him seriously.
posted by amauck at 7:22 AM on August 16, 2004


Fukuyama had to stick by his guns in order to maintain any pretense of integrity

Integrity is about a commitment to the truth, not clutching at a discredited idea.
posted by rushmc at 7:41 AM on August 16, 2004


ChasFile: For what it is worth, late, mature Marx didn't really predict the end of history in anything near as absolute a terms as early Marx or early Fukuyama- was a lot closer to 'this is the near future, but change I can't predict will take place after that.' Marx's Revenge is a really interesting read in this direction.
posted by louie at 7:53 AM on August 16, 2004


Imminent demise of Metafilter history predicted...

I'd argue 'America's most famous thinker' would have to be Unca Noam Chomsky, who is (or was, from 1972 - 1992 at least) the most cited living author on the planet.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:22 AM on August 16, 2004


Nope, it is probably Dewey. We don' have very many famous American Philosophers, but in terms of influence Dewey certainly outweighs Chomsky. Pragmatism is, after all, probably the only American school of philosophy evr produced.
posted by amauck at 8:36 AM on August 16, 2004


I think America's most famous thinker has to be that guy who dresses up in the question mark suit and finds us all of that free government grant money.
posted by Peter H at 8:47 AM on August 16, 2004


Matthew Lesko!
posted by amauck at 8:55 AM on August 16, 2004



!!!!!!!!indeed!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by Peter H at 9:28 AM on August 16, 2004


rushmc: Integrity is about a commitment to the truth, not clutching at a discredited idea.

Integrity can also be about soundness, wholeness, ability to last, viz. "structural integrity," or "hull integrity." My point was that having made such a bold assertion and then basing the next 10 years of his career on that one basic premise, it is now extremely possible to back off from his 1989 stance without undermining or invalidating all of his subsequent work.

amauck: No wonder real academics don't take him seriously.

Indeed. His 1989 paper was pretty good and got him labelled a "visionary." Lately, however, in his desperate attempt to live up to the title, he goes fad hopping.

louie: True.

stavros: I'd agree, and damn does that piss me off. The only person who sucks Noam Chomsky's dick more than the New-Yorker-reading-psuedo-intelligencia he chides for being brainwashed by the media as he brainwashes them himself is Noam Chomsky. God I loathe him sometimes, and apparently this is one of those times. In other news, the language organ is bullshit.

amauck again: ok, among serious academics, I'd say Dewey over Chomsky, too. or maybe Martin Jay?

Also, whatever Lesko's on, I want some.
posted by ChasFile at 9:40 AM on August 16, 2004


it is now extremely possible to back off from his 1989 stance without undermining or invalidating all of his subsequent work.

I have no idea where the hell that came from. *extremely difficult
posted by ChasFile at 9:42 AM on August 16, 2004


Personally, I consider Lee Harris to be the most interesting Hegelian alive today. Such a strange cat.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 10:28 AM on August 16, 2004


Pragmatism is, after all, probably the only American school of philosophy evr produced.

Pragmatism has some of its roots in another, more ephemeral by design, American school of philosophy: Transcendentalism. Where would Emerson and Thoreau rate on the most famous American thinkers list?
posted by sic at 10:55 AM on August 16, 2004


And Chomsky can only be considered among the most famous American thinkers outside of the US. Inside the US he is relatively unknown. Compare his fame to that of Bill O'reily's, just to name one (very sad) example.
posted by sic at 10:56 AM on August 16, 2004


Emerson is close to the top. The only reason I would rate pragmatism as more influential than transcendentalism is that it is easier to apply in a variety of circumstances, and had a much greater effect on the continent. This does not lessen the importance of the transcendentalists, however.
posted by amauck at 10:58 AM on August 16, 2004


Agreed, Pragmatism has a wider-reaching effect, because it is so, well, practical and because one of the main components of Transcendentalism was the idea of every generation and every individual creating his own ideas (therefore making it nearly impossible to create lasting Transcendentalist institutions). But as far as "fame" goes, I'm not sure Dewey is as well known as Emerson and perhaps Emerson is slightly less well known than Thoreau and his Walden Pond and Civil Disobedience (although Ralph Waldo was more interesting than Henry David, in my opinion). Anyway, its not that interesting a debate, all four of them are worth reading!

Not sure I can say the same for Fukuyama, who strikes me as something of a hack.
posted by sic at 11:39 AM on August 16, 2004


The notion of "End of History" is precedent on the Hegelian Dialectic which is a philosophical approach to history. Hegel came up with a theory of how history works, and then set about proving his theory by matching the facts to his theory. The problem is, sometimes history didn't always match up with his theory, so Hegel basically got around that by ignoring those facts. Hegel is, IMO, a fraud. He is not a historian. He is a philosopher. Fukuyama is in the same school. So when he talks history it is not as a historian. Historians look at the facts of history and deduce from that. Philosophers come up with theories and don't always bother with the messy facts.
posted by stbalbach at 12:01 PM on August 16, 2004


As someone with a degree in philosophy and almost one in history, I agree with your point about Hegel. That is why many people turn to Nietzsche.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 12:25 PM on August 16, 2004


Chomsky can only be considered among the most famous American thinkers

Thinker, or a guy who says 'Hrmmmm here's a statement - The US of A is Fighting Terrorist....then goes looking for every historical reference to the US of A being a terrorist.'? And thus another round of 'spot the hyprocrite' begins.


I see Chomsky as the mirror the collective US of A doesn't want to look in. And bless him for being that mirror.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:19 PM on August 16, 2004


Fukuyama: "Americas most famous thinker wanker"
posted by soyjoy at 12:41 PM on August 19, 2004


In other news, the language organ is bullshit.

Organ grinder, meet monkey!

The evidence for the universality of a grammar engine in the developing brain is far from doodyland, I'd venture. Read some, get back to us.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:42 AM on August 20, 2004


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