Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Measuring the Universe

“Man is the measure of all things.” Is Protagoras here making an argument for moral relativism? Actually, or at least in effect, no. “Man is the measure” directs us toward human universalism. “We should not,” it tells us, “search for the principles of universality in the physical world, but in man himself. What is it about our seemingly varied species that makes us unique and universally identical? There exists our cosmos. Is it simple self-interest and might-makes-right? Or can we find something less aggressive and more benevolent, like love, sympathy, duty, or equal rights?” The fact of the matter is, we we will discover nothing but empty definitions. It is a vain quest, doomed to failure from the start. Today, 2,500 years after Protagoras, we are floating in outer space, still plotting our course through the universe according to a gauge that never worked.

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