Some readers of this column may very well remember the late ‘70s-early '80s sitcom, Mork and Mindy. Mork, played by Robin Williams, was an alien from the planet “Ork” who had been deployed to Earth in order to discover more about the ways of its inhabitants. At the end of each week’s episode, audiences would watch as Mork relayed his findings to “Orson,” his superior.
Now, imagine if a Mork-like being were to visit our planet for the sake of acquiring knowledge regarding America’s politics. What would he discover?
The Internet is very much like television in that it takes time away from other pursuits and provides entertainment and information, but in no way can it compare with the warm, personal experience of reading a good book.
Millions no doubt have read or heard the Hans Christian Andersen tale of how some alleged weavers of long ago convinced their emperor that the new clothes they were selling him were made of such fine and rare material that only the stupid and incompetent could fail to see the exquisite threads. The emperor, not wishing to be exposed as either stupid or incompetent, bought the story and the invisible “clothes.” He wore nothing else as he went though the streets in a grand parade, hearing nothing but praise from his subjects on the excellence of his royal attire. Until one simple, unschooled child broke the spell by crying out the simple, unadorned truth: The emperor was wearing no clothes at all.
The nature of the relationship between “universals” — Humanity, Justice, Goodness, etc. — and “particulars” — this human being, this instance of justice, and that instance of goodness — is a matter that philosophers have been busy at work trying to iron out for millennia. On a reasonably broad spectrum, there are two rival poles: the one is represented by Plato, the other by John Locke.