Why some of us dislike Plato

by Yule Heibel on January 11, 2004

Mark on Wood’s Lot excerpts a great essay by Isaiah Berlin on Pluralism. Berlin begins by explaining what differentiates him from a relativist. While there might be a plurality of values that men and women can seek, their number is not infinite, however. And because their number is finite, one woman can understand another woman, regardless of her different values: this is what constitutes our humanity. Berlin then defines the enemy of pluralism:

The enemy of pluralism is monism — the ancient belief that there is a single harmony of truths into which everything, if it is genuine, in the end must fit. The consequence of this belief (which is something different from, but akin to, what Karl Popper called essentialism — to him the root of all evil) is that those who know should command those who do not. Those who know the answers to some of the great problems of mankind must be obeyed, for they alone know how society should be organized, how individual lives should be lived, how culture should be developed. This is the old Platonic belief in the philosopher-kings, who were entitled to give orders to others. There have always been thinkers who hold that if only scientists, or scientifically trained persons, could be put in charge of things, the world would be vastly improved. To this I have to say that no better excuse, or even reason, has ever been propounded for unlimited despotism on the part of an elite which robs the majority of its essential liberties. [More…

On the topic of Wood’s Lot, I’ve had some interesting experiences with how the web works (or doesn’t) vis-a-vis his blog (or rather, the relationship between my ISP and his, or his server). A while ago, I wrote here that I couldn’t get to his blog at all — and I still can’t: I read the Isaiah Berlin entry at the library. I emailed a couple of other bloggers who link to Mark, but didn’t get very far in terms of help — it was getting on close to the holidays and people started travelling. I tried emailing Mark, but my messages bounced right back into my mailbox as undeliverable. I finally got my husband interested enough to try to help, and he initially thought that Mark’s server had to be down. But it wasn’t, since others could — and can — access it (while we still can’t). When we did a tracert and a ping, they timed out somewhere in Ontario with Hydrotelecom. Then we called our ISP (Pacific Coast Net or PCnet, not to be confused with Politically Correct Net, although this is the Left Coast, or so I’m told). They couldn’t get to Mark’s blog, either, nor to his server at Carleton University in Ontario. We got them involved on Friday, and this being the weekend, not much has happened, but I’m hoping that they’ll get back on the case tomorrow. What astonishes me — a non-techie — is this notion that the web apparently can develop a hole or a break, and unless you’re really avid, you might never know it or get it fixed: you’ll just get the message, “can’t connect to server” or something like that, and accept it. But it shouldn’t happen; in this case it’s happening because there’s some machine in Ontario that “drops the packet” when it comes with a PCnet address… It’s not Carleton, it’s not PCnet itself, it’s some third party machine in Ontario that just decides, “Aeh, don’t like PCnet, fukc ’em,” and dumps the request. Does it for hits to Mark’s blog, does it for hits to the Carleton server, does it for email based on the Carleton server if they originate from PCnet. Isn’t that weird? Is it just my technopeasant mentality that lets me think this is weird, or is this weird? Well, I’m glad I went to the library today (Emma had to pick up a hold), because that Isaiah Berlin essay is a bright spark of sanity in an increasingly monist world. While I’m at it, Dave Pollard has some terrific recent entries: his Writing Our New Story of Jan. 4 is really inspiring, as is his commentary on Malcolm Gladwell and Learned Helplessness of Jan. 8. (Sorry, but someone explain to me how to do a “trackback” — I notice it has a different handle, but where would I put it here? Too complicated by half….) And Jeneane Sessum at Allied has been on a roll for days now, too. In particular her Jan. 10 entry on Ron Suskind’s book, and her commentary of Jan. 4 on Bush’s proposed relaxation of immigration laws, the excerpts on writing by Robert Louis Stevenson (also on Jan. 4), the damning pointer to the USA Today article on blogging (also Jan. 4), and the entries on Augusten Burroughs (also Jan. 4 — hey, what were you taking that day??), and the entry on whacko Florida, and and and… really, the whole blog is just terrific: check it out now!
PS update: oops, my mistake, those entries aren’t all from Jan. 4, which is the date the permalink gives (archives week, maybe?). The articles are spread out over a couple of days — just cruise over the page and you’ll see them! As for me, not much happening here. I’m way behind in correspondence, and I’ve got 3 days full of school planning meetings coming up (yes, yes, we homeschool, but the kids take courses through South Island Distance Education School, and I’m on the Parent Advisory Council — isn’t that a hoot?). My dishwasher broke — at age 14 months, its timing so perfect on the heels of the typical one-year warranty’s expiration that one would think it was planned, but I have an extended warranty contract, haha! — and I’m mired in dishes until the repairguy deigns to show up. (The dishwasher, incidentally, is a water- and energy-efficient Bosch — so much for German quality, eh? — I put my money where my mouth is and spent $$$ more on getting water saving appliances, including a front-loading washing machine, but I’m not terribly impressed by the quality so far…) But, I have to gloat about no longer living in the deep freeze East: it’s just lovely here in Victoria…. Our highs are currently around 10C or 50F, we had lots of sunshine today, the distant mountains visible to the south and east looked spectacular in their new blankets of snow, and spring bulbs are starting to pop up: I saw snowdrops blooming today, and narcissi are pushing through. The grass, unlike in summer when it’s brown from heat and drought, is a deep rich emerald colour that’s a balm for the eyes…. UPDATE: someone got their needle and thread out and mended the web — on the weekend, no less (must’ve been a woman!). I can now again link to Wood’s Lot, saints and sinners be praised!

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