Mark, Seth, Wes, and Dylan continue to delve into philosophical issues raised by our interview with Fukuyama. Chiefly, he recommends a “creedal national identity” as a solution for tribalism. Does this work?
More abstractly, Fukuyama takes this “demand for recognition” issue as coming from Hegel (or rather Kojeve’s interpretation of Hegel, which is much easier to understand than reading Hegel directly; see our discussion of Hegel’s master-slave dynamic), and seems to claim in The End of History that this dynamic whereby one puts one’s life on the line in a struggle for recognition not only gets the ball rolling with regard to historical political systems (which contra Hobbes don’t begin with a “contract” but with domination) but also is constitutive of human self-consciousness itself. To recognize yourself as someone with an inner life may also necessarily mean that you recognize yourself as having an innate dignity, which then should be recognized by others.
The focus on thymos also gives us a different perspective on ethics: To make any ethical claim is not just to point at an external rule of conduct, but (in many cases, at least) to make a dignity claim, i.e., to assert oneself (which could amount to asserting one’s group) as a determinant of value. For instance, many opponents of gay marriage still supported full legal equality through civil unions for gay couples. This was not enough for proponents, who wanted social recognition, while opponents specifically wanted that recognition denied. This was less about the opponents being mean-spirited than wanting their world view (their group, their beliefs) to be the entity that was defining what is to be officially declared as being of value. So while “identity politics” seems like something not really of much centrality to philosophy to you, the notion of identity may well be pretty central to ethics and mentality itself.
There’s also the question of how ideology infects political theory: F. was a student of Bloom, and we dismissed a lot of Bloom’s grousing as old-man conservatism and claimed that one can recognize (as Bloom was arguing) the value of Western Great Books while still not being as critical of liberals as he was. Fukuyama has himself been called a former neoliberal (former because he didn’t like Bush/Cheney’s war-mongering); does this affect his judgments regarding what we should be aiming for in the area of civic unity? To what extent do his political beliefs really come out of his analysis as opposed to shaping the analysis itself? Is there a fundamental difference between a philosopher and a political commentator such that one really can’t be both?
End song: “Cornerstone” by Richard X. Heyman, as discussed on Nakedly Examined Music #61.
Image by Solomon Grundy.