The course of events

From a historical perspective, there is no "course of events," other than what actually occurred, to be "interfered with" or "hijacked" by some "intervention." As Oakeshott noted, the actions of some monarch or pope were not "interferences" with the course of events: they were the course of events.

Generally when you see phrases like this, you are in the presence of partisanship. So, when Fukuyama says that democratic movements were "hijacked" by nationalists, what he means is that the actions of the nationalists are unfortunate from his point of view. When a modern libertarian claims that Progressives "hijacked" liberalism, all it really means is that he wishes liberalism had developed differently.

21 comments:

  1. Gene,

    Sifting through your blog a few times a day can reveal interesting tidbits. Looking through the site on liberalism, Progressivism, and libertarianism gave me some amazing new insights: as you have said before, libertarians really *are* just Progressives!

    In fact, given the interesting (and it seems, correct) view that liberalism places the will above anything else, it certainly seems as though libertarianism is, in fact, liberalism in the real sense - and that both branches share the common Progressive trait: the placing of the will above everything else. It seems (and please point me out if I am wrong) that the will is absolute to these people. Property rights and John Stuart Mill's "Harm Principle" are only means to this sort of end. In fact, it seems that both absolute property rights and the Harm Principle ground themselves on not violating the autonomy of the individual and his will. To the extent that the Kantian Categorical Imperative justifies actions that are against the will, you will often find liberals - and especially libertarians - arguing that it either a) really doesn't justify these actions, or b) these justifications are wrong.

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    1. Just so, Alex: Voegelin is especially good on this point. (Don't give me too much credit on this: I am really just forwarding his insights here.)

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  2. I have yet to read Voegelin's "The New Science of Politics": it has been sitting on my bookshelf, eyeballing me since the beginning of this semester - that, and Idealism: A Guide for the Perplexed.

    But to use nerd talk, Voegelin seems like the Progressive's worst nightmare.

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  3. So, for instance, it's incorrect to say whether one country is more or less interventionist then another from a historical perspective?

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    1. That is a different meaning of "intervention".

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    2. This post is talking about the idea of a person or group "intervening" in the course of history. So Fukuyama might say Mussolini "intervened" in the increasing liberalization of Italy.

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  4. Not sure if you'd be interested in this at the moment, but I stumbled upon a scientist playing philosopher who you might want to take to task: Michio Kaku: Why Physics Ends the Free Will Debate. Here's the first few words he says: "Newtonian determinism says that the universe is a clock.".

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  5. I think it's fair to say the Bolsheviks intervened in Kerensky's government. Hijacking seems an apt description. A small group who seized control and altered the direction of the government and society. I don't see how you can deny that without denying the use of historical counterfactuals in toto.

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    1. Well, from the point of view of Kerensky, they certainly intervened!

      And all historical actions alter the course of society: that is why they are of any note. Feuding one perspective, history is nothing but a series of alterations of the course of society. But that course just is whatever those series of alterations bring about. History knows nothing of a "natural" way a society would develop unless that development is "hijacked."

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    2. "From one perspective": Siri!

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    3. Oh, and historical counterfactuals: more later.

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    4. "Oh, and historical counterfactuals: more later." I look forward to that post. I would find it really interesting if you thought historical counterfactuals were meaningless or unknowable. To me, "A caused B" means "A happened before B and if A had not happened then B would not have happened." So if you can't reach conclusions about what historical counterfactual statements are true or false, then you can't reach any conclusions about historical causation.

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    5. 'To me, "A caused B" means "A happened before B and if A had not happened then B would not have happened."'

      I don't believe you. I think you were taught that definition, but I don't believe that is actually the way you use the word "cause." If someone asked you? "Keshav, what caused that car accident?" I don't think you would feel you were giving an adequate answer if you replied, "the formation of the solar system." And yet per your definition above, you are.

      There is no single definition of "cause." It has different meanings in science, in history, and in practical life.

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    6. I honestly do think that that's what the word cause means. Under my definition, an event can have multiple causes. So the car accident would be caused by the evolution of the solar system, the invention of the automobile, the birth of the people involved, etc.. The only reason why I wouldn't answer the question by giving those causes is that it's obvious that those things caused the accident. But what's nontrivial is to say something like "the failure of the breaks caused the accident", because that's not a cause that would be immediately obvious just from the fact that an accident occurred.

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    7. Well, I can't see why you would think that. In my OED, cause has 12 different definitions. Why would you think yours is THE correct one.

      The reason why "the solar system" is the wrong answer when someone asked "who caused the car accident?" Is that they are using a different MEANING of cause than the one you give: they are asking "who is to blame?"

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    8. And your definition simply gets historical cause all wrong: what caused Cesar to cross the Rubicon was his understanding of his political situation vis-à-vis Pompey. But that doesn't mean if he did not have that understanding, he would not have crossed the Rubicon. He might instead have simply made an error, or felt like seeing what was on the other side, or any of a number of other things.

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    9. "But that doesn't mean if he did not have that understanding, he would not have crossed the Rubicon." Well, I disagree with that. It's true that he *might* have crossed the Rubicon if he did not have that understanding, but that's different from saying that he *would* have crossed it.

      Let me just make sure we're using terms the same way. To say "he might have crossed it" is to say "there is some possible world in which he did not have the understanding but still crossed the Rubicon." On the other hand, to say "he would have crossed it" is to say "in the closest possible world in which he did not have the understanding, he crossed the Rubicon." Are we on the same page?

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  6. In short, the historical perspective is "crap happens"?

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