Monday, December 19, 2005

Cross Currents: No shame no brains 1

Oh what a day there are having at Cross Currents. First, YM confuses pluralism with relativism - a common mistake, but unforgivable all the same. Then Toby spins a Jewish history fantasy.

First Menken: "Pluralism, as Rabbi Epstein pointed out, requires the acceptance of all views—even those which are themselves non-pluralistic."

Well, no, not exactly. As Isaiah Berlin, (who may be no Rabbi Espetian but is still the most famous pluralist of all time) put it "I am not a relativist; I do not say “I like my coffee with milk and you like it without; I am in favor of kindness and you prefer concentration camps”—each of us with his own values, which cannot be overcome or integrated."

Properly understood, pluralism embraces not every idea under the sun as Menken foolishly believes, but the reality that there are in the world a plurality of legitimate values that men can and do seek. These values don't all align, and sometimes they conflict, but what they have in common is that you can pursue them and still retain a semblance of what it means to be human. Nazism, for example, would be beyond the pale.

Incidently, when Menken himself talks approvingly about Popes and Christians he, himself, is acting as a pluralist. Popes don't subscribe to Menken's absolute truth, according to the rules of absolutist thinking, Mencken should give them no quarter. Yet he does, because, like most of us he, beneath the bluster, recognizes the pluralism is the real state of the world, though we may quibble about the details.