We made “noteworthy”

Which is one step below “honourable mention”, which itself is just under the actual winner. Or, in other words, we lost.

Several months ago Roger Kimball instituted a contest:

Name the silliest argument to be offered by a serious academic in the last 25 years and to be taken up and be gravely masticated by the larger world of intellectual debate.

Our entry was moral equivalence, particularly as manifested in the doctrine of diversity:

Diversity, as in “we value diversity in our student body.” One major ivy-league university, for example, states that it “is committed to extending its legacy recruiting a heterogeneous faculty, student body and staff; fostering a climate that doesn’t just tolerate differences but treasures them [etc.]” You cannot now find a university that isn’t constantly and loudly devoted to diversity.

However, we can be sure that by this they do not—and should not—mean intellectual diversity. This should be obvious. For if we merely wanted to increase intellectual diversity, we would create classes and recruit subject matter experts in “How to Murder”, “Advanced Pedophilia”, “Creative Robbery”, “Marxist Theory”, or similar idiocies.

Back when I joined, I predicted the outcome would be the same as the famous contest by (the late, great) philosopher David Stove to “Find the World’s Worst Argument.” Stove won the contest himself by entering first.

Kimball also entered before any other, and so had the same enormous advantage Stove did. We were in the contest, but rose no higher than “noteworthy” which, we can console ourselves, is still above the rabble.

Kimball’s winning entry:

I would like to thank all who participated for helping to populate this little menagerie of intellectual hubris and folly. Several of the contributions must come high on anyone’s list of stupid ideas that have had a pernicious influence. Nevertheless, I am going to award the palm to my own original contender: Francis Fukuyama’s “End of History” thesis. Claiming to distinguish between “what is essential and what is contingent or accidental in world history,” Fukuyama wrote that

What we are witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or a passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.

Fukuyama wrote this in 1989. He had noticed that the Soviet Union was imploding. But Fukuyama was drunk on the philosophy of Hegel. Hence he mistook the collapse of one tyranny for triumph of freedom. In fact, what we have been witnessing for the last quarter century is the accelerating retribalization of the world. What Fukuyama described as “mankind’s ideological evolution” has turned out (so far, anyway) to have given rather short-shrift to “the universalization of Western liberal democracy” in favor of other, more vivid alternatives, e.g., Islamic fundamentalism. The Bombay atrocity. The newly rampant Somali pirates. Even the anti-democratic march of the European Union. Western liberal democracy is a pleasant option. But only a fool would believe that its success was inevitable.


  1. And there’s a prominent “diversity” link on the front page of every university’s website. Always.

  2. Joy

    Mr. PG
    “Bachelor of environmental design interiors” What!
    Do they learn all about grass cushions and bees-wax candles? Or is this about light bulbs again?

  3. Perhaps they’re too anxiety ridden about the fate of the Tasmanian Devil?

  4. Bernie

    No, PG’s research and Joy’s insatiable curiousity we appear to have found an example of Matt’s truly diverse institution – UTAS.edu.au . Given that it has achieved such lofty heights it no longers needs to aspire to diversity for it is truly diverse. The conundrum being that it exists in a society that is far less diverse than our own – go figure.

  5. Joy

    Bachelor of Environmental Design = Architecture (i.e. fabric of buildings & external landscapes)
    B of ED Interiors = Architectural interior finish, fittings & furnishings
    There’s considerable overlap between the two courses.

    I’m inclined to the view that we were better off when we had such courses in technical institutes, rather than academe.


    An eyeball guesstimate of student population would be 15% non-Australian: Sudanese, Indonesians, Japanese, Chinese, Malays, Indians etc. Of course Canadians, Merkins, Germans, Brits etc are “invisible” until they speak.

    The city of Melbourne on the Big Island to the north has the largest Greek population outside Athens. Australia’s population is very diverse though I have no idea how diverse relative to the USA. We do have much less interracial tension than the USA, something most visitors from there comment on.

    FWIW, Keith Windschuttle’s “The Killing of History: How Literary Critics and Social Theorists are Murdering Our Past” is an interesting rejoinder to Fukuyama and his ilk.

  6. Small addendum to the above:

    Bachelor of E D are three year degrees. An additional year of study is required for becoming a fully fledged ‘k’n’Architect (I use the engineering term here) 😉

  7. Joy

    Mr. PG,
    There’s hardly anyone in Taz. That’s why people go there, to get away. I have an Aunt in Taz who “runs” a farm, also an old flame from there.
    How many of the students are at the university in Taz to make up the numbers? There wouldn’t be enough native Tasmanians to fund the university I’d guess.
    What’s a Merkin? Is that the black furry thing the man’s holding on the university home page?

  8. Joy

    No need, I’ve just googled it. That’s horrid Mr. PG.

  9. Population of Tas is approximately half a million. University student population is around 10,000 IRC.

    I find that people who come here to “get away” usually return to whence they came. The people who remain do so because they have found a better home.

    Yes, a merkin is usually a black, furry thing; however, when used as a synonym for American it’s a term of deep affection. It also keeps alive a word that fell out of common use centuries ago.

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