From The New Perspectives Quarterly: Francis Fukuyama’s ‘Is America Ready for a Post-American World?’

Full essay here.

I’ve often admired Fukuyama because he thinks deeply and is a moral realist enough to realize that American influence abroad has a strong military component.  However, he’s also hitched himself to the neocon wagon, which then hitched itself to the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq…and’s not a good time to be seen anywhere near those wagons.   I don’t think this invalidates much of Fukuyama’s thinking, but he’s been busy looking in other directions.

So, where does Fukuyama see us headed?

“This is not a story about American decline. The US remains the dominant power in the world, but the rest of the world is catching up.”

Why?  In part because we owe a lot of countries money, and they’re earning and saving their own money:

“The People’s Republic of China has $1.5 trillion in reserves; Russia, $550 billion; South Korea, $260 billion; Thailand, $110 billion; Algeria, $120 billion. The little states of the Gulf Cooperation Council collectively have about $300 billion in reserves. Saudi Arabia just by itself is saving money at the rate of approximately $15 billion every single month as a result of energy exports.”

Another of Fukuyama’s reasons is that we’re still operating on dated models of statecraft: 

“We are trying to use an instrument—hard military power—that we used in the 20th century world of Great Powers and centralized states in a weak-state world. You cannot use hard power to create legitimate institutions, to build nations, to consolidate politics and all of the other things that are necessary for political stability in this part of the world.”

Yet, if we are in a weak-state world, we must work with our allies more closely, and I suppose this includes the U.N.  The U.N has problems and we are currently rationally pursuing much of our interest outside of it.  Also, the weak-state world is only part of the world.  Russia seems happy to try and re-live the cold war days by being weak enough to need to do so, and powerful enough to succeed in some ways.

Fukuyama goes on to argue that our biggest problems are of our own making and need our own solutions.  There are three that he highlights:

“…first, the diminishing capacity of our public sector”  

“…second, a certain complacency on the part of Americans about understanding the world from a perspective other than that of the US…”

“…third, our polarized political system that is incapable of even discussing solutions to these problems.”

He characterizes his 1st point by example of FEMA, The Department of Homeland Security, and other enormously inefficient public behemoths. 

The second is kind a vague moral chastizement of Americans for meeting their moral obligations as they did during the cold war:

“It is a scandal that in this monstrous new embassy we’ve created in Baghdad, we only have a handful of fluent Arabic speakers.”

I don’t know what to say to this, other than the fact that it’s a pretty bad argument.  

I suspect the many Arabic speakers we do have in America aren’t entirely integrated into our society enough to offer their services to fill that new embassy even if they wanted to (however much the equity ideologues insist that it’s so).  Bush has committed us to Iraq in many ways we didn’t, and couldn’t, forsee.   It’s important to note that Fukuyama himself has been distancing himself from Bush, the necons, and precisely those elements that have decided where our moral obligations are to be pursued.

The third point may be news to nobody:

“Polarization has put off the table serious discussion of how to solve some of these long-term and very clear challenges that every public policy expert understands.”

I’m pretty unsure as to what to do about this either.

See Also:  Fukuyama’s The End Of History

Related On This Site: Charles Krauthammer From March 2006: Fukuyama’s FantasyA Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche ConnectionFrom Bloggingheads: Robert Kagan Discusses The U.N. Security CouncilFareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In Decline?Richard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set

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A Brief Review of Jesse Prinz’s ‘The Emotional Construction Of Morals’

Full review here.

“According to Prinz, moral emotions are those triggered by the detection of a conduct that violates or conforms to a moral rule. Prinz distinguishes between reactive moral emotions (namely, moral anger, disgust and contempt for someone transgressing a norm) and reflexive moral emotions (the varieties of guilt and shame felt when you are the transgressor).”


He claims that it is possible for the emotionist to be a (internal) realist about moral properties: “They are made by our sentiments, and, once made, they can be perceived”.

We can have moral progess, we just can’t derive that progress from any universal law, (or as the utilitarians would have it, perhaps just a sufficiently abstract moral law). 

But aren’t these theories about the emotions, theories that rely ultimately on epistemologies and disciplines (let’s choose chemistry) which are much more humble about the claims they make? (Chemists don’t claim knowledge of universal moral laws in their work, just universal physical laws that must correspond to experiment and observation, and better laws should they come along).      

I think Prinz may eventually succeed in his own statement and steer the disciplines he’s interested in back toward Hume:

I work primarily in the philosophy of psychology, broadly construed. I am interested in how the mind works. I think philosophical accounts of the mental can be fruitfully informed by findings from psychology, the neurosciences, anthropology, and related fields. My theoretical convictions are unabashedly empiricist. I hope to resuscitate core claims of British Empiricism against the backdrop of contemporary philosophy of mind and cognitive science.

See Also: Bloggingheads Discussion Of Moral RealismMore On Jesse Prinz. A Review Of “The Emotional Construction Of Morals” At Notre DameJesse Prinz Discusses “The Emotional Construction Of Morals” On Bloggingheads.From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On Kant

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From Nextbook: Philosopher Of Science Hilary Putnam On The Jewish Faith

Full post here.

It’s a Jewish publication, so I don’t expect a true questioning of faith as much as philosophy can obviously provide.  The word “God” is mentioned over twenty times in fourteen paragraphs.

“Hilary Putnam’s Jewish Philosophy as a Guide to Life is not disappointing. In a short series of equally short lectures on four important religious philosophers of the 20th century (Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, Emmanuel Levinas, and Ludwig Wittgenstein), Putnam outlines a rigorous and yet livable approach to Judaism.”

Ironically, I suspect the review’s author may be in part be motivated by the current identity politics of postmodernism.  Yet, of course, the questions (and Putnam too) run much deeper than that: 

Here are some leads if you’re interested:

  —Philosophy of science (and science itelf) have strongly agnostic philosophic traditions to draw upon, so my guess some of Putnam’s thinking has been influenced by Kant…here he is discussing his field: Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On YouTube.

—Martha Nussbaum suggests re-examining the religious roots of the founder of Rhode Island, Roger Williams (Williams College)…perhaps to prevent excessive and ideological secularism?:  Martha Nussbaum Channels Roger Williams In The New Republic: The First Founder

—Daniel Dennet (Christianty paved the way for much of science, it’s time to keep moving on) debates Dinesh D’Souza (who ironically brings up both Nietzsche and Kant to support his religious arguments…to his detriment?): Dinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy.

—The Templeton Conversation asks the question:  Does Science Make Belief In God Obsolete?  Responses range from Steven Pinker to Christopher Hitchens and onward…

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From The Washington Post: The Weather Channel’s Forecast Earth Team Fired

Full post here.

I don’t mind seeing them go, as the Weather Channel invested a lot in the heavy-handed green true believers…see the Heidi Cullen Junk Controversy Not Junk Science discussion to get you started on what was wrong.  Be sure and read the comments. 

Yet it seems the Weather Channel also got sold off to new management…a group of people who perhaps have aims other than those of the best of the weather channel…and they’ve been encouraging sexy competition in the mass market (a mass market rapidly changing thanks to the internet).

In my opinion, they provide too important a service (especially in times of catastrophe) and have too many dedicated, talented people there to roll over to the greens or short-sighted t.v execs…

See Also: Weather Channel Green Ideology: Founder John Coleman UpsetThe Weather Channel’s Green Blog: A Little Too Green

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From Bloggingheads: Jon Chait Not Convinced By ‘The Grand New Party’

7:00 minute discussion here.

If you have high hopes for Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam’s new book, and a more independent, reformist Republican party, you might want to keep hoping Jon Chait notes.

RealClearPolitics reviews Grand New Party here.

For my piece, the democrats have won, but clearly there’s lack of consistency in the party’s ideas (a bailout for the automakers and carbon credits?) I’ll maintain my skepticism and let the idealists and ideologues be used by the politicans thank you very much (of course this seems to be the fate of all true believers in politics…). 

Is there a case to make but Douthat and Salam just haven’t made it well enough?

George Will may still do it better.

See Also: George Will On Stephen Colbert: Can The Right Avoid Many Dangers Of Idealism?Andrew Sullivan On The Conservative Soul: A Conservative Crackup?

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Kay Hymowitz In The The City Journal: Love In The Time Of Darwinism

Full post here.

Hymowitz is still attacking feminism and post-feminism; mainly their effects on pop culture…and by Darwinism I think she means pop culture Darwinism as applied to dating:

“The reason for all this anger, I submit, is that the dating and mating scene is in chaos. SYMs of the postfeminist era are moving around in a Babel of miscues, cross-purposes, and half-conscious, contradictory female expectations that are alternately proudly egalitarian and coyly traditional.”

She sympathizes largely with young men who are stuck between the kinds of values they hopefully received from their moral(istic?) upbringing (be patient, tolerant, kind and sensitive) and the lack of reinforcement of such values in the broader culture, mainly by:

“…an uncompromising biological determinism that makes no room for human cultivation.”

A kind of moral dead-end and shallow replacement for what’s come before?  On this note, I think Hymowitz’s best point would be the moral depth sacrificed by current pop culture intellectual influences (equality ideologies, intellectually flabby secularism) aren’t deep enough to deal with…say.. the many biological differences between the sexes… 

Yet, I also suspect that there aren’t many thoughtful women who would sacrifice the recent gains of feminism for themselves, regardless of the obviously intellectually confused, ideological, and short-sighted nature of much of current feminism.  As such, it’s unclear what might be a better or deeper set of ideas Hymowitz might put in their place without making a lot of other sacrifices.

Related On This SiteLow European Birth Rates In The NY Times: No Babies?Kay Hymowitz In The City Journal: Child-Man In The Promised Land?

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From Bloggingheads: Anne Marie Slaughter And Stephen Walt

Full discussion here.

What’s first for the Obama administration? 

1.  The Economy  2.  Iraq   3.  Afghanistan  4.  Iran  5.  Nuclear non-proliferation….?

A good discussion.  I suppose we all have are own interests to protect, but Slaughter’s green thinking might be pretty wishful (as much to do with Princeton politics as with global politics?).  Walt’s push for Obama using all of his (Obama’s) political capital on a two-state solution seems to be serving his own interests.

We have to be a little more clever, and better players on the global scene.  A friend pointed out there’s as much possbility for creating havens for the noble and ignoble in the Bush administration’s foreign policy (the Axis of Evil) as there is in anti-colonialism (Robert Mugabe).  Maybe, maybe not…but something to think about.

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From Youtube: Lite-Brite Supernova

This won the youtube phylm prize (very prestigious).  Most astronomers believe that all elements other than hydrogen and helium come from supernovae.  So, in many senses, we are stardust.

Much of this understanding springs from the work of Subrahmanyan Chandrasekar in the 1930’s and the Chandrasekar limit (wikipedia). From wikipedia:

“A critical situation arises when iron accumulates in the core, since iron nuclei are incapable of generating further energy through fusion…”

“For more massive stars, electron degeneracy pressure will not keep the iron core from collapsing to very great density, leading to formation of a neutron star, black hole, or, speculatively, a quark star.”

Or the star can undergo a supernova explosion.

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Stanley Fish At The NY Times: Psychology And Torture. Plato?

Full post here.

Fish points out that the American Psychological Association has finally voted to ban its members from being part of Guantanamo interrogations.  In other words; if you want to be a member of the American Psychological Association (professional recognition, respect, opportunity, connections etc…) this base ethical obligation must be met.

Fish points out that psychologists are paid for their services elsewhere:

“Law firms employ jury consultants to assess the psychological make-up of prospective jurists…”

“Large corporations employ psychological profilers to help make them make personnel decisions.”

“Sports teams hire “coaches” whose job it is to motivate players and make them more aggressive.”

So why is Gitmo any different?:

“…the moment psychological knowledge of causes and effects is put into strategic action is the moment when psychology ceases to be a science and becomes an extension of someone’s agenda”

Well, it isn’t, according to Fish, it’s simply a matter of degree.  In this case that degree has been determined by the AMA, which he points out has followed the American Medical Association’s and the American Psychiatric Association’s to ban its members from Gitmo interrogations a while back.  In fact:

“Applied psychology can never be clean.”

So, unless knowledge is pursued for its own sake within psychology (and in psychology’s case I”m assuming he means abstract laws derived in part from science and applied to the motivations and desires of people) psychology is always falling away from truth? 

Fish certainly seems like a Platonist, and as the comment section demonstrates, he’s stirred up a lot of debate.

Addition:  You can well argue the truth value of such a claim that ‘applied psychology is never clean,” but would we want to hold psychology and other professions (law and even science) to such a standard?  I think Fish wants to point out the flaws and debatable epistemological foundations of psychology as much as anything else.

Related On This SiteStanley Fish In The NY Times: More Colorado FolliesSocial Scientists Serving In Afghanistan

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