The End of Rationality

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One of my recent reads was Fukuyama’s Liberalism and its Discontents. He is best remembered for The End of History and The Last Man. Published in 1992, he asserted that the end of the Cold War and the Soviet Union was evidence that liberal democracy was the new norm because there were no better ideas.

Liberalism and its Discontents is him saying he had it wrong. That liberalism faced challenges from identity politics by progressives and nationalism from conservatives. However, that is not what I want to talk about (unless you would like to pay my standard speaking fee).

What got my attention was the chapter on rationality. Rationality has many definitions. In game theory, rationality is an actor’s pursuit of a specific goal. However, common usage is thinking sensibly or being endowed with reason. More simply, it is acting based on facts and reality. He argues that politics (who gets what, when and how) and policy (government distribution of resources) have lost their anchor. They are now the result of whims and emotion. Policy is now a speech act. Expressing an action is the same as its performance. So, if a politician says that something is true, it is therefore true.

“So, what is the point? I thought this blog was not political.” It’s not. It is, however, about the way we see and think about the world.

In previous posts (“Words, Words, Words,” “Free Speech?!”), I talked about how words have the power to define and how acceptable speech is used to halt speech. For example, a statement such as ‘The science is settled’ (a comment no real scientist would make) shuts down any further conversation.

Fukuyama has taken this one step further. The words are focused on emotions and not facts. Facts may get in the way because they negate the truthfulness of the statement. The American comedian, Stephen Colbert, coined ‘truthiness’ to describe the belief that information is true based on perception without evidence.

We do not have the end of history because liberal democracy is the ultimate political-economic system. Instead, we have each individual creating their own reality, which is the end of constructivism; people actively make their own knowledge.

What hope is there for making progress if there is no agreement about the status quo?

What hope for writers when everyone is already creating their own world?

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