SIR ERNST GOMBRICH AND THE BARBER FROM TUSCANY
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In the spirit of Sir Ernst Gombrich, this essay uses an anecdote - a chat between Gombrich and a barber from Tuscany - to illustrate a deeper point, namely, how cultural memory, tradition, and a canon give rise to an implied language of culture and cultural value. Gombrich staunchly defended tradition against relativism. By relativism, he meant something like 'radical subjectivism'. To his mind, subjectivism (in the cultural and social sense of the term) is not only impossible, since meaning is conferred through culture and society, but it is also dangerous (in the cultural and ethical sense of the term), since it denies the existence of shared values. Against consensus on the one hand and radical subjectivism on the other, Gombrich advocated a middle way: criticism and self-criticism to ensure latitude; the search for 'truth; to ensure a limited plurality of interpretations.
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