Which is one step below “honourable mention”, which itself is just under the actual winner. Or, in other words, we lost.
Several months ago Roger Kimball instituted a contest:
Name the silliest argument to be offered by a serious academic in the last 25 years and to be taken up and be gravely masticated by the larger world of intellectual debate.
Our entry was moral equivalence, particularly as manifested in the doctrine of diversity:
Diversity, as in â€œwe value diversity in our student body.â€ One major ivy-league university, for example, states that it â€œis committed to extending its legacy recruiting a heterogeneous faculty, student body and staff; fostering a climate that doesnâ€™t just tolerate differences but treasures them [etc.]â€ You cannot now find a university that isnâ€™t constantly and loudly devoted to diversity.
However, we can be sure that by this they do notâ€”and should notâ€”mean intellectual diversity. This should be obvious. For if we merely wanted to increase intellectual diversity, we would create classes and recruit subject matter experts in â€œHow to Murderâ€, â€œAdvanced Pedophiliaâ€, â€œCreative Robberyâ€, â€œMarxist Theoryâ€, or similar idiocies.
Back when I joined, I predicted the outcome would be the same as the famous contest by (the late, great) philosopher David Stove to “Find the World’s Worst Argument.” Stove won the contest himself by entering first.
Kimball also entered before any other, and so had the same enormous advantage Stove did. We were in the contest, but rose no higher than “noteworthy” which, we can console ourselves, is still above the rabble.
Kimball’s winning entry:
I would like to thank all who participated for helping to populate this little menagerie of intellectual hubris and folly. Several of the contributions must come high on anyoneâ€™s list of stupid ideas that have had a pernicious influence. Nevertheless, I am going to award the palm to my own original contender: Francis Fukuyamaâ€™s â€œEnd of Historyâ€ thesis. Claiming to distinguish between â€œwhat is essential and what is contingent or accidental in world history,â€ Fukuyama wrote that
What we are witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or a passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankindâ€™s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.
Fukuyama wrote this in 1989. He had noticed that the Soviet Union was imploding. But Fukuyama was drunk on the philosophy of Hegel. Hence he mistook the collapse of one tyranny for triumph of freedom. In fact, what we have been witnessing for the last quarter century is the accelerating retribalization of the world. What Fukuyama described as â€œmankindâ€™s ideological evolutionâ€ has turned out (so far, anyway) to have given rather short-shrift to â€œthe universalization of Western liberal democracyâ€ in favor of other, more vivid alternatives, e.g., Islamic fundamentalism. The Bombay atrocity. The newly rampant Somali pirates. Even the anti-democratic march of the European Union. Western liberal democracy is a pleasant option. But only a fool would believe that its success was inevitable.