• StreetlightX
    4.1k
    The basic rule of philosophical writing is: respect the intelligence of your reader as you would your own. If you find yourself being asked to to 'explain like you would to a child' to another fully grown human being, then you may as well be asking them to go intellectually fuck themselves. If you don't ask something of your reader, if you don't attempt to wrest their mind from torpor ever so slightly, you may as well not bother. Become a politician or something instead.
  • PoeticUniverse
    622
    Titles thread: "Obfuscatory Discourse".
    — StreetlightX

    hehe, what, does that seem a pedantic title to you?
    ZhouBoTong

    The use of "Obfuscatory" was probably intentional, a kind of joke on the OP.

    I once attended a pretentious, cultured art lecture at Vassar College in which they went on and on and raving about the sticking to the 'canon' and especially pointing out the exquisite use of "particulate matter"—which turned out to be 'sand'.

    I think there's a new support group for sophisicate babblers, called 'On and on, anon.'.
  • ZhouBoTong
    456
    The use of "Obfuscatory" was probably intentional, a kind of joke on the OP.PoeticUniverse

    Agreed, I think that is what @StreetlightX was pointing out anyway. And you are probably right that @rlclauer was well aware of what he was doing there.

    especially pointing out the exquisite use of "particulate matter"—which turned out to be 'sand'.PoeticUniverse

    Yes. This could be a dictionary example of pedantic. There may be times and places where jargon or complicated vocabulary are necessary (or at least helpful in some way), but this is an example where all the use of 'particulate matter' accomplished was to reduce the number of people that understood the message being delivered.

    I think there's a new support group for sophisicate babblers, called 'On and on, anon.'.PoeticUniverse

    I often tell students the best reason for a big vocabulary is comedy :smile:
  • S
    11.4k
    Why would I, when no one asked me for it. And usually no one asks, for one of two reasons: no one cares enough, or, it’s so much easier to make fun of the writer, then to query for an understanding of the written.Mww

    I don't think that we should have to ask. I think that you should write clearer in the first place to avoid that scenario. If something is excessively unclear in wording, seemingly deliberately as a matter of style, then that puts me off asking for a clarification, because then it might just be more of the same.

    And making fun of it is almost a given. Can't let an opportunity like that slip away.
  • S
    11.4k
    Do S and riclauer find Janus' explanation clear? Clearer?Coben

    Definitely clearer.

    Perhaps this was clear in context back there that he was working with Kant's ideas. Did S miss that?Coben

    No. This is Mww we're talking about, after all.
  • Serving Zion
    53
    A nice person will write for the reader's benefit, and that means to write as simply as possible. A person who complicates their language is, of pride, seeking the reader's approval. One has transcended all power that criticism has, while the other is still enslaved to their personal insecurities. Another observation is the transcended one shares selflessly for the other's benefit (doing love), while the other shares self-servingly, to inflate their ego at the expense of the reader's humiliation (sin). So sin and love are opposite motives in speech, having opposite effects: love heals and delivers freedom, while prideful knowledge does harm, to intimidate or provoke fear, or defensiveness and contention, that propagates insecurity.
  • Mww
    994


    Knock yourself out.
  • Coben
    832
    Thanks.
    I guess there seem like other possibilities. I don't think Janus' clarification was a dumbed down post. IOW there's no need to apologize, but you have the option of reaching perhaps more people without dumbing down. Or not. That's up in the air. But it seems like a possibility. Of course the appeal of this depends on your goals.
  • Coben
    832
    I guess I see not reason to assume, when writing generally to people in a philosophy forum, that one should assume they are in a torpor. And if we look at Janus' version, one page back of Mww's post, it is not a post for a child. I think it takes steps to give context and concrete examples to make a very abstract post clearer to educated adults. IOW if I read you post it seems like there are two options: dumb down or take on a role as waking people up, no compromises. Though compromise can even sound pejorative. Communication is meant to reach people, usually.
  • TheMadFool
    3.9k
    I would be curious to hear anyone else's opinion. One final thing I would add here, is the quote from Einstein,

    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
    rlclauer

    How beautiful. I have great difficulty comprehending and always struggling to grasp that meaning or concept or theory.

    As a counterpoint to Einstein, I have the following:

    Every complex question has a simple answer which usually isn't correct.

    I'm paraphrasing so forgive me for any errors. What do you make of that?

    By the way Einstein's theory of relativity is not easy.

    Then there's Feynman who said "if you understand quantum physics then you don't understand it."


    It's crazy what people say. I guess Schrodinger's cat is both dead and alive.
  • TheMadFool
    3.9k
    Become a politician or something instead.StreetlightX

    They're the sharpest of the lot. If only they'd chosen science what wonders we may have achieved!
  • S
    11.4k
    The phrase "dumbing down" is just an emotionally charged way of saying "simplifying" or "putting clearer".
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    I guess I see not reason to assume, when writing generally to people in a philosophy forum, that one should assume they are in a torpor.Coben

    Oh you need to spend more time on a philosophy forum (although on second thought...).

    Anyway, it just strikes me that alot of the the circle-jerk of mutual-agreement going on in this thread is a apology for condescension. It reeks of a lack of respect for the intelligence of the other, or else just intelligence in general. Not even children ought to be spoken to like children, who generally deserve much better than we give them. The OP's linked essay has a very nice point about how, when writing about tough topics, one ought to be 'dual-lingual': able to flit easily between specialist and lay writing. This I quite like.

    Politicians universally speak like fucking morons, as though to an audience of equally moronic dolts. It's insufferable.
  • TheMadFool
    3.9k
    Politicians universally speak like fucking morons, as though to an audience of equally moronic dolts. It's insufferable.StreetlightX

    I must say that the so-called "intellectual" is the real moron as absurd as that sounds. Not trying to contradict you. Just a feeling I have. :smile:
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    Just a feeling I haveTheMadFool

    I don't doubt it.
  • Coben
    832
    Oh you need to spend more time on a philosophy forum (although on second thought...).StreetlightX
    Did I say something disrespectful to you? Or am I misreading the parethetical?
    Anyway, it just strikes me that alot of the the circle-jerk of mutual-agreement going on in this thread is a apology for condescension.StreetlightX
    It seems to me there has been quite a bit of disagreement in the thread. I see no mention in your of the specific example of Janus' clarification of Mww's post, I mentioned, or the false dilemma I was responding to in your post.

    And sure, many people are in a torpor, including in philosophy forums. I don't see that entails one assumes the role of waking people up from that. I don't see many good examples, in my long history with philosophy forums of people being woken up by dense posts. Doesn't mean I haven't appreciated some very dense posts, it's more like I don't know what you're on about. In any case, it seems you just repeated your position, instead of responding to my post. I am sure you have been successful waking people up out of their torpors by insulting them for no reason and not responding to their posts. But many of us may lack the miraculous grace that surrounds your posts.

    Oh, and circle jerk was a really nice addition. I suddenly realized something about Kant I never got before.

    Amazingly my experience in philosophy forums had led to encounters with people who can't really respond to other people's posts but see other people's posts as a chance to repeat their assertions and attitude.

    You'll pardon me if I ignore you from here on out. Must be my love of torpor.
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    Or am I misreading the parethetical?Coben

    I meant that you should save yourself from the torpor is all! It was a dig at forums, on which I waste plenty of my time too - not you. Apologies it it came off otherwise.
  • Shamshir
    743
    When you serve someone a meal, add a little salt - and more thereafter, if needed.
    Don't be excessive, lest they throw your meal away.
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    I think there is a lot of value in a sort of "blue collar philosophy," where the object is clearly communicating ideas in ways which are in line with the common patterns of communication. The objective being transferring information to another person, who very well could be a lay person or a non-specialist, as opposed to posturing as a deeply intellectual savant.

    I would be curious to hear anyone else's opinion. One final thing I would add here, is the quote from Einstein,

    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
    rlclauer

    I can't disagree, but we don't always understand our subject matter. Perhaps because we're still learning about it? Nevertheless, I think we all accept (?) communication is optimised if we are able to employ simplicity and clarity. In English, there's always E-Prime to consider too. All it really does is to express your thought(s), clearly, without implication, inference or magnification.
  • removedmembershiprc
    113
    Good points. I do agree I think there is a lot more nuance than what my OP seems to suggest. I do think there are occasions where my post is apt, and others where it is not applicable.
  • removedmembershiprc
    113
    Yes, I would agree, that most people would agree that optimizing communication can expedite transmitting ideas (which is supposedly the point of communicating). I had never heard of E-Prime, that is quite interesting, and I will have to look more into it and possibly try it out as a writing style. It says in that Wikipedia article:

    "Korzybski observed improvement "of one full letter grade" by "students who did not generalize by using that infinitive"."
  • removedmembershiprc
    113
    I agree with the general sentiment, and this is what makes writing in overly complicated ways (and by this I mean in ways that are not necessarily complicated) tiresome for readers.
  • TheMadFool
    3.9k
    l Good points. I do agree I think there is a lot more nuance than what my OP seems to suggest. I do think there are occasions where my post is apt, and others where it is not applicable.rlclauer

    I'm just offering a different opinion. That's all.

    I actually think you're correct. When you understand something then you can probably see through the incidental aspects of an issue and see its essence. The best analogy I can come up with is a beautiful woman letting her clothes drop to the floor and allowing you to "grasp" her essence. Shed of distracting "nonessential" components we could say that it is "simpler" than it appeared when you began. I think Einstein was/is right.
  • removedmembershiprc
    113
    I think a great analogy for this, is people who create artificial difficulty in video games. (like challenge runs) Some people have a taste for it, others do not. However, you can play the game like an average person and have a great time, but some people like to push a bit harder. When those artificial difficulty people talk to "normal gamers," they talk about the game in common terms, and they "go down to their level." They do not think it is condescending to the "normal gamer" to do this either.

    If an artificial difficulty person goes to a "normal player," and tries to speak to them about the intricacies of imposing difficulty on oneself, it would probably be lost on the normal player, and if the difficulty person said "well you are just not a good player and you need to get better, I would not lower my skill level or knowledge of the game lore to speak with you, that would be insulting to you," the "normal player" would shrug and look at them like, "ok?"

    It's all well and good if you are a super intelligent savant and you have read 100s maybe 1000s of books and you have wrestled with the loftier points of human intellectual achievement. I think that is something to celebrate. I agree, there is something to be said for challenging writing styles and speaking to bring the mind to rise to the occasion. But there is also something to be said for clear communication, in order to begin to illuminate the minds of those who have not arisen to those luminous heights through their own toil.
  • removedmembershiprc
    113
    Fair enough. I think that is a good analogy, and captures the idea behind this. We can be like the blind men describing the bits of the elephant we are interacting with, or we can stand afar and perceive with vision the entire elephant, and consequently be able to transfer what we see to the blind men, clearly, in ways that they might be able to understand. It's like when a doctor tells you what's wrong with you, they say it in plain, common language. They do not recite a passage from a medical journal.
  • ZhouBoTong
    456
    The OP's linked essay has a very nice point about how, when writing about tough topics, one ought to be 'dual-lingual': able to flit easily between specialist and lay writing. This I quite like.StreetlightX

    Sounds like you acknowledge there are times when pedantic language is a problem? Why bother with the lay writing?

    It reeks of a lack of respect for the intelligence of the other, or else just intelligence in general.StreetlightX

    Huh? I don't measure intelligence based on vocabulary (at most, vocabulary shows an education level). Using common language is showing that I DO respect their intelligence, even if they don't know fancy words (I still want their opinion on the subject). When I am asked to explain a word, I don't lose respect for the questioner, I analyze what I said to see how I could communicate better next time.
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    Why bother with the lay writing?ZhouBoTong

    To make a point comprehensive. As the essay says, putting something in lay-writing often doesn't simply restate a point, but transforms it, or at least elaborates it in a different way. To weave between 'bi-lingual' writing is to make that writing comprehensive. One should speak to the lowest common denominator no less than the highest, each affording a new and different light on what is said.

    Huh? I don't measure intelligence based on vocabularyZhouBoTong

    Good. Neither do I, which I why I didn't speak of vocabulary, let alone even use the word.
  • alcontali
    538
    What may seem to be clearly stated to someone with the requisite knowledge of the subject matter may sound like nonsense to someone who is not familiar with the terminology and issues.Fooloso4

    Don't automatically assume that what seems to you like an abstruse post is a sign of "intellectual posturing."SophistiCat

    At least 50% of the arguments on the forum come from people using different meanings for the same words.T Clark

    One final thing I would add here, is the quote from Einstein,"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."rlclauer

    There is a good historical example for the Einstein quote.

    When Algoritmi wrote his book in the 9th century, the "Liber Algebrae", he needed hundreds of pages to explain what in modern math is just a one liner of sorts. The big book started circulating in Europe in the 12th century, and caused a stir, because Algoritmi proposed a complete solution for the quadratic (degree=2).

    That was something that nobody had been able to pull off till then.

    So, it was considered some esoteric magic that came from mythical Arabia with its harems and 101 nights, that contained secret spells. So, "Don't tell anybody else that you now know about the secret!" before they passed on the secret to the next person to be initiated.

    It took a long while to solve the cubic (degree=3) and the quartic (degree=4), mostly because the Catholic Church did not like the subject at all. The Medieval Italians who finally unravelled it, had to hide that they were working on it, and did stints in prison while frantically trying to avoid getting burned at the stake.

    The Soviet historian I. Y. Depman claimed that even earlier, in 1486, Spanish mathematician Valmes was burned at the stake for claiming to have solved the quartic equation. Inquisitor General Tomás de Torquemada allegedly told Valmes that it was the will of God that such a solution be inaccessible to human understanding.

    The solution of the quartic was published together with that of the cubic by Ferrari's mentor Gerolamo Cardano in the book Ars Magna.


    They were first secretly circulating encrypted drafts of parts of the half-finished solution:

    The solution to one particular case of the cubic equation had been communicated to him in 1539 by Niccolò Fontana Tartaglia (who later claimed that Cardano had sworn not to reveal it, and engaged Cardano in a decade-long dispute) in the form of a poem.

    Cardano was arrested by the Inquisition in 1570 for unknown reasons, and forced to spend several months in prison and abjure his professorship.
  • ZhouBoTong
    456
    Good. Neither do I, which I why I didn't speak of vocabulary, let alone even use the word.StreetlightX

    Huh? I thought the thread was 'obfuscatory discourse'? Isn't vocabulary the biggest obfuscatator?

    Anyway, it just strikes me that alot of the the circle-jerk of mutual-agreement going on in this thread is a apology for condescension.StreetlightX

    I thought you were referring to the people here that are agreeing that pedantic language use can be a problem?

    It reeks of a lack of respect for the intelligence of the other, or else just intelligence in general.StreetlightX

    Since I am obviously wrong, what is the "it" you are referring to here?

    Not even children ought to be spoken to like children, who generally deserve much better than we give them.StreetlightX

    When you say "spoken to like children"...you are NOT talking about vocabulary? What, is my grammar going to be too complex for them? Surely it is the VOCABULARY that they would have trouble understanding, so that would be the part is 'dumbed down'...what am I missing here?
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