14 January 2004

Gideon Strauss and multiple choice questions

Gideon's weblog is not always easy to get to since he changed servers a few months back, but it is always worth reading when and if you can manage to find it. Here is a gem from today which I am tempted to inscribe on a blank page just after the title page of my book, if it goes into a second edition:

There is a Victoria Roberts cartoon that The New Yorker often uses in its own advertisements. A middle-aged woman in a big chair says to a seated, suit-wearing man holding a drink, "Don't worry, Howard. The big questions are multiple choice."

There is a sense in which that is not a joke. The universe being structured a certain way, it is likely that the big questions do have answers that are wrong and answers that are right, and it is also likely that the range of answers, both wrong and right together, is limited by the possibilities embedded in the structure of reality. The challenge is less that of forging a brand new answer out of the depths of your creativity, than that of slowly, carefully, discovering the options, and then seriously, passionately, seeking to identify the truth.

Which truth may, on the other hand, come at you blazing out of a burning bush when you are just going about your everyday business.

Perhaps I can use this to justify my treatment of only five ideologies rather than twenty-five.

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