Saturday, September 29, 2007

the end of history

In 1964 I had a half-time job at the University of New Hampshire publications office, writing for myself the rest of the time, and also taking a course each semester. That spring it was an explication de texte of W. T. Stace's The Philosophy of Hegel. By April we were up to 'Essence As Ground of Existence'. Then many things happened at once, and the upshot was that I was on my way to Saigon. I dashed off an apology to the professor, and much later discovered that he'd incorporated my note in the final exam: 'When Mr. Ford [we were more formal in those days] left the course, he said he was sorry he couldn't stick around to see how it all turned out. How did it all turn out?'

So I am not in a good position to critique Hegel's philosophy of history, except to say that I don't like it. Too mechanistic! The world doesn't work that way; life doesn't work that way. They are messy.

I'd extend the same objection to Karl Marx, Josef Stalin, Alexandre Kojève, and (not least) Francis Fukuyama. At least Stalin got a 50-year run with his brand of historical determinism! Poor Fukuyama squeaked out a decade of plausibility at best, between the End of History and the collapse of the World Trade Center twin towers. And to think that he fretted about 'centuries of boredom'! I can think of a lot to say about the 21st century, but boring it hasn't been. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

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