Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Teaching / Society / NoHier / DDD / Modules / “Rants” /
FLEX is of course the Free Learning Exchange, founded 1970, NYC.

One teacher tells us that Shakespeare is the greatest poet, ever. Another tells us it’s Homer.
The next teacher tells us that Shakespeare was really written by Lord So&So, the next that the sonnets were written TO Lord So&So, the next that Homer was a woman, that there were really two Homers, three …

One teacher told my class that Shakespeare was the smartest man that ever lived. On TV a scientist tells us that no one can ever possibly have been smarter than Newton.

These positions are easy when information is fractional. For an opinion on the greatest poet, shouldn’t the opinionator have read all poetry? with equal attention? Shouldn’t an invidious opinion on relative intelligence require that the speaker have known all men? all women? and all children? equally well? And maybe some chimps and porpoises too? How about aliens? How about gods?

We don’t even know what fraction of poetry was ever published. How many poems get submitted for one published these days? A thousand? Ten thousand? Are we to believe that the publisher published the best one? Are we to believe that the one published was good and the ten thousand were bad? Let’s assume that most of them were bad: Was only the one good? Seems to me that many of those published are bad; but it does not follow that those not published were bad.

In the world we live in publishers decided what to publish, also what to push once published. Publishers are influential in what then gets awards. In Godard’s La Chinoise all the books on the shelf are Mao’s Little Red Book. In the bookstore all the books in the window may be The Davinci Code. (I enjoyed that book. I do not think it was a very good book.)

Yesterday’s news reports the firing of a teacher who discussed an election platform issue the day before the election. The culture’s major religion tells of a great teacher getting not fired but murdered: tortured to death: after a monkey trial. Yet every culture then believes that it promotes knowledge, has wisdom, knows “right” from “wrong.”

FLEX didn’t claim to know right from wrong; it just promised to report what was reported to it: as accurately as it could. If the submitter of the information misspells his name, then FLEX should copy the misspelling. Supported, flexed to FIX — Free Information Exchange, FIX would have rendered publication of anything and everything cheap. For the first time, one theoretically could read all the poetry of a given year, in whatever languages the reader can read. FIX would make no assurances about quality: only assert that that’s what was presented.

Why we couldn’t have that?! Why then knowledge would be responsible!

Someone making claims about Homer or Shakespeare could be met with a barrage of disagreement: naming ten thousand names the claimant never heard of, never had assigned in school.

My ideal book store would have on the shelves one copy of every book in print: and a slip for every book not in print. One section could have books recommending which books you should read. The book store itself would make no recommendations: except as private opinion. If the clerk, if the cashier, if the manager, says “Oh, read The Davinci Code,” that’s fine. And another clerk can say, “That potboiler? The author gets his facts from Ripley’s.”

There’s another thing wrong with FLEX. Not only can the map never be the territory, but mapping takes time. It may take ten years to write five years worth of diary. The Smollet problem. Still, FLEX would have been the best possible non-coercive, non-invasive map: of the actual society; not the imaginary society someone wants us to believe in.

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About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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