• Sunnyside
    33
    I agree with you. Some conversations become so difficult for a layperson (myself included) to penetrate that the whole point is lost.
  • Janus
    8.2k
    I am sure I am being stupid, but can you give me a non-art example of this? Or do you mean stuff like the word "red" cannot capture everything we experience when we see "red"...ugh, I hope it is not that as that example NEVER causes confusion in a conversation. I have never had someone question what I meant when I said "red".ZhouBoTong

    No, I wasn't suggesting anything like that.

    Consider the following passage from the preface of Difference and Repetition by Gilles Deleuze:

    "The subject dealt with here is manifestly in the air. The signs may be noted: Heidegger's more and more pronounced orientation towards a philosophy of ontological Difference; the structuralist project, based upon a distribution of differential characters within a space of coexistence; the contemporary novelist's art which revolves around difference and repetition, not only in its most abstract reflections but also in its effective techniques; the discovery in a variety of fields of a power peculiar to repetition, a power which also inhabits the unconscious, language and art. All these signs may be attributed to a generalized anti-Hegelianism: difference and repetition have taken the place of the identical and the negative, of identity and contradiction. For difference implies the negative, and allows itself to lead to contradiction, only to the extent that its subordination to the identical is maintained. The primacy of identity, however conceived, defines the world of representation. But modern thought is born of the failure of representation, of the loss of identities, and of the discovery of all the forces that act under the representation of the identical. The modern world is one of simulacra. Man did not survive God, nor did the identity of the subject survive that of substance. All identities are only simulated, produced as an optical 'effect' by the more profound game of difference and repetition. We propose to think difference in itself independently of the forms of representation which reduce it to the Same, and the relation of different to different independently of those forms which make them pass through the negative."

    What do you make of it? Is it meaningless to you? If so, do you think you would not be able understand it if you were familiar with the central ideas of the philosophers Heidegger and Hegel he refers to? If you do understand it, do you think what it is saying could have somehow been expressed in simpler, more "literal" language, and if so, without any loss of quality?
  • ZhouBoTong
    456
    What do you make of it? Is it meaningless to you? If so, do you think you would not be able understand it if you were familiar with the central ideas of the philosophers Heidegger and Hegel he refers to? If you do understand it, do you think what it is saying could have somehow been expressed in simpler, more "literal" language, and if so, without any loss of quality?Janus

    I asked several direct questions that I think would have shed more light on the situation, but fine, let's try it this way:

    The subject dealt with here is manifestly in the air.Janus
    pure pedantic garbage...right? It says NOTHING, right? I understand all of the words...but maybe their sum is greater than the parts? You have also pulled a random passage out of context, which may be why I am not picking up the full meaning.

    The signs may be noted:Janus
    I am not sure I even know what exactly they are saying here ("for example"? or "we know this is true because"? or "there are signs that we can record"? - the last one seems most direct, but as this passage is out of context, I can't say for sure (and if the last one right, why is it being said at all?). Seems a poor use of language.

    Heidegger's more and more pronounced orientation towards a philosophy of ontological Difference;Janus

    Here you are right, I don't know Heidegger. I like to think ideas existed before people became famous for them, but I can understand there are SOME TIMES (not a lot) where saying a name can act as a useful summary.

    the structuralist project,Janus

    yes. I would have to know what the structuralist project is

    based upon a distribution of differential characters within a space of coexistence;Janus

    while not terrible, this is verging on pedantic. This could be written in a way that is clear to more people without much effort.

    As I am not very interested in the content of the passage, and I think I have gone through enough to prove both of our points (and I don't want to torture you as I go through every line), I will stop there.

    What do you make of it?Janus

    Not written for me. I would lose interest after the hearing that "the subject is manifestly in the air".

    Is it meaningless to you?Janus

    Not meaningless, but you are right to assume there are allusions/references that I do not understand (and those allusions/references are the major ideas being referred to).

    If so, do you think you would not be able understand it if you were familiar with the central ideas of the philosophers Heidegger and Hegel he refers to? IJanus

    It would clarify the few sentences that require background knowledge. And obviously, the WHOLE passage requires context (much of which is the philosophy of Heideger and Hegel...but not all). And the random capitalizations (sometimes Difference, sometimes difference) suggest a writer who just IS NOT considering the reader at all.

    There is NOTHING I understand that I would explain so unclearly...but yes I am a moron, so oh well.
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    Isn't vocabulary the biggest obfuscatator?ZhouBoTong

    Hardly. Presumed knowledge, unarticulated concepts, references allusive or explicit, condensed presentation of reasoning and so on do far more to make a work hard to read than any 'big vocabulary'. If anything an unfamiliar vocabulary is the lowest bar of entry - vocabulary can be looked up in a dictionary, and in some cases, if you don't know the words, it's very likely that you either A) should educate yourself better, and B) realize that you're trying to have a conversation which you are not fit for. It's like people are too afraid to appear stupid and have to require the world to bend to their own inabilities.
  • god must be atheist
    588
    ↪Fooloso4 I do agree with you,removedmembershiprc

    ↪Terrapin Station I do not disagreeremovedmembershiprc

    Yes, that too!Fooloso4

    hat was expressed in familiar language (using words ranked in the most frequent 25% of the English corpus of 172,000 words -- that's still about 43.000 possible words -- or would you like to read texts composed with many of the least frequently used words (like cenacle) and freely borrowing from languages with which you are not familiar?Bitter Crank

    I agree with everyone else here, too.

    I just want to add that "obscure" scientific writing and journals full of it may use words that are less frequently used than normal, or they may be extremely little frequently used; but the vocabulary of these trade journals is surprisingly impoverished. They use, typically, 2000 words, except the words they use are esoteric.

    The more esoteric a trade or profession is, the more esoteric words they will use. But their word usage is not wide. AND the in common English rarely occurring words they use are those that relate to their trade. So I think -- despite agreeing with everyone else on this thread -- is that this thread is complete total ignorant bullshit.
  • ZhouBoTong
    456
    Hardly. Presumed knowledge, unarticulated concepts, allusive references, condensed presentation of reasoning and so on do far more to make a work hard to read than any 'big vocabulary'.StreetlightX

    Most of the threads on THIS website, a philosophy forum, do not require understanding of any of the difficulties you have mentioned above. A philosophy forum would be more likely to discuss issues that could be difficult, and yet most threads do not REQUIRE knowledge of technical jargon or references to a specific philosopher, to be understood.

    I am NOT saying that the more technical threads are all pedantic. Those are the passages you refer to when saying I (we) need to get educated or butt out - and I AGREE.

    But most communication, most of the time, should be communicated with the goal of being understood by as many as possible. Why not?

    is that this thread is complete total ignorant bullshit.god must be atheist

    haha, I feel like almost everyone is discussing a slightly different version of the same topic. If we each are visualizing a different scenario where complicated language is used, how can we agree on the usage?
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    But most communication, most of the time, should be communicated with the goal of being understood by as many as possible.ZhouBoTong

    Absolutely not. If you have a paper trying to solve, say, the Riemann hypothesis, the goal of that paper is to solve the Riemann hypothesis, and not cater to everyone and anyone with a passing interest. This isn't to say anything goes. Ideally, one ought to write to be understood by those with the technical knowledge and background capable of understanding the problem, and your proposed solution. But 'as many people as possible'? No. Just as many as you need. We don't just communicate in order to communicate, we communicate to make a point, pursue a goal, get something done, solve a problem, etc. "As many people as possible" is not your problem. Many people are idiots.
  • god must be atheist
    588
    haha, I feel like almost everyone is discussing a slightly different version of the same topic. If we each are visualizing a different scenario where complicated language is used, how can we agree on the usage?ZhouBoTong

    I thought that complicated language is not the issue, but the usage of esoteric words. If the language of a text is proper, it is never complicated. I guess I am not quite right in this statement; but the only exception I can find is legal documents. They don't need to use complicated words to say something complicatedly. "It is an offence notwithstanding paragraph 8, section 27, except exemptions of section (9) and sections (494) through to (49303). when and only if the sheriff's duties are delegated to a paralegal under the provisio of paragraph 4, section (44), regardless of however many wickets the crickets dicker."
  • god must be atheist
    588
    solve, say, the Riemann hypothesisStreetlightX

    Hypotheses are not to be solved. In math and logic, they are taken as assumptions, as givens, as accepted as true. In science hypotheses are to be supported, or shown some credibility by actual observations of test results or natural phenomenon.
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    Prove, apologies.
  • god must be atheist
    588
    Prove, apologies.StreetlightX

    Science proves nothing. Proof is not one of the aims or functions of science. In math and logic you don't prove hypotheses. You prove theorems.

    Sorry. Not my fault. I did not do it.
  • ZhouBoTong
    456
    Absolutely not. If you have a paper trying to solve, say, the Riemann hypothesis, the goal of that paper is to solve the Riemann hypothesis,StreetlightX

    Agreed. I would not expect to understand that paper...but seriously, what realm do you exist in where that is part of 'most' communications?

    So just so you get why I am arguing, I taught Martial Arts for 10 years. Since then I have taught middle school through high school, mostly history, but some math, and too much English as well. I want EVERY student to be able to understand. And fortunately, there is almost nothing taught at the high school level, that can't be explained fairly simply...most humans' academic level is WELL BELOW the knowledge learned in high school (they may know a lot about their job, but would struggle to compete with 6th graders at math and history).

    When I taught martial arts, I COULD have used all sorts of technical jargon, but there is this concept called code-switching which most people can do pretty easily. I used technical terms with people that get it, and common language with those who don't.

    Now I get you work at a college, where everyone is brilliant. But outside the ivory tower (hehe, I've never sounded so Republican before), there are very few subjects that can not be easily, simply, and clearly explained.
  • ZhouBoTong
    456
    I thought that complicated language is not the issue, but the usage of esoteric words.god must be atheist

    Fair enough, I was just trying to use 'complicated language' to summarize all of the different language issues that have popped up in this thread.

    but the only exception I can find is legal documents.god must be atheist

    makes sense, since they do NEED to be understood by everyone.
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    But outside the ivory tower (hehe, I've never sounded so Republican before), there are very few subjects that can not be easily, simply, and clearly explained.ZhouBoTong

    I agree. My quibble is with those who would take this as a general model to be universally applicable, so that anything that doesn't conform to this ease of communication is a mark of inadequacy. There is a space, a necessary one, for things to be hard-going. Not everything should be made easy, as though a matter of principle. There's a time and place. And we should respect those times and places. Just as we should respect situations in which simple explanation is warranted and necessary.
  • ZhouBoTong
    456
    There is a space, a necessary one, for things to be hard-going. Not everything should be made easy, as though a matter of principle.StreetlightX

    Entirely agreed. I do believe in prerequisites :smile:

    If a person tries to learn calculus before addition and subtraction, they are going to have a lot of problems.

    And there is that whole zone-of-proximal-development thing which says if stuff is TOO HARD or TOO EASY students will not learn to their potential.
  • alcontali
    538
    solve, say, the Riemann hypothesisStreetlightX

    Hypotheses are not to be solved. In math and logic, they are taken as assumptions, as givens, as accepted as true.god must be atheist

    The Riemann hypothesis is a question that arises under the assumptions of number theory (Dedekind-Peano), or a theory that encompasses it, such as set theory (ZFC).

    So, in the abstract, Platonic world generated by the axiomatic assumptions of number theory, a particular number pattern emerges. You can manually check it for any arbitrary value. Up till now, nobody has discovered a counterexample.

    What is now wanted, is a chain of provable, first-order logic that works its way back to the assumptions, and which therefore proves that the pattern will always occur for any arbitrary value.

    This particular pattern about the zeta function was first reported in 1859 by Bernhard Riemann (160 years ago).

    Some patterns in numbers are easy to derive from the construction logic of number theory, but other ones have resisted every attempt at bringing them back successfully. You can clearly see these patterns and pick examples to verify, but nobody has found a way to link them to the very construction logic of the world in which they occur.

    It is not possible to add the Riemann hypothesis to the axioms of number theory, because it may not be independent of the existing axioms. It could actually be provable from them, but that is exactly what is not known today.

    By the way, the Clay Institute pays out $1 million to anybody who figures out the Riemann hypothesis.
  • creativesoul
    6k
    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.StreetlightX

    :kiss:
  • Janus
    8.2k
    I asked several direct questions that I think would have shed more light on the situationZhouBoTong

    Sorry I missed your reply earlier. What were the direct questions you refer to? I'd be happy to try to answer them if you are still interested.

    The subject dealt with here is manifestly in the air. — Janus

    pure pedantic garbage...right? It says NOTHING, right?
    ZhouBoTong

    Firstly I don't think "pedantic" is an appropriate judgement in the context of what we are discussing here. Secondly I think it just means that the subject has obviously been much discussed of late ("of late" or "in the air" meaning at the time of writing of course) and so is of present philosophical significance.

    Anyway I don't think we can do very much with your comments on the text, so perhaps we need to try a different approach.
  • ZhouBoTong
    456
    Well upon re-reading, I don't think my questions are that helpful either. My bad. I will sort of re-phrase at the end of this post.

    Firstly I don't think "pedantic" is an appropriate judgement in the context of what we are discussing here.Janus

    If it is not pedantic, then the speaker has made overly complicated language their normal form of communication (you are right without 'knowing' the author did it with the intention of sounding smart, I can't say for sure it is pedantic - but it is still problematic).

    Secondly I think it just means that the subject has obviously been much discussed of late ("of late" or "in the air" meaning at the time of writing of course) and so is of present philosophical significance.Janus

    Exactly. So it said, "here is a current subject of interest"...Well, I sure hope so! Why else are you writing this whole essay about it?

    Oh and just in case it helps, I DO believe in prerequisites. I DO believe some subjects are so complicated that an uninitiated needs to go do some studying before participating.

    However, MOST of the time:

    Doesn't the speaker have some responsibility in being understood? When communicating with other humans that don't have master's or doctorate degrees, are phrases like "the subject is manifestly in the air" effective communication?
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    When communicating with other humans that don't have master's or doctorate degrees, are phrases like "the subject is manifestly in the air" effective communication?ZhouBoTong

    If a relatively benign phrase like that seems like too much to you, you shouldn't be studying philosophy. That something is 'in the air' is, if anything, a pretty colloquial expression.
  • ZhouBoTong
    456
    If a relatively benign phrase like that seems like too much to you, you shouldn't be studying philosophy. That something is 'in the air' is, if anything, a pretty colloquial expression.StreetlightX

    Too much for me? Who said that? Wasn't it fairly obvious that I understood it? Maybe not? It is just garbage writing. What percent of the English speaking world do you think would EXACTLY understand that sentence? If you say more than 10% I think you need to talk to some people that are not college professors. Was that one of those sentences you mentioned where it is important to make the reader think?

    That something is 'in the air' is, if anything, a pretty colloquial expression.StreetlightX

    Sure but it is used very causally as it doesn't say much (which is exactly how the author uses it). Adding the word manifestly is just going to ensure that some percent of your readers aren't EXACTLY following. Similarly, if I ask "do you have a preference for X?" I could ask the exact same question but be sure I have alienated some readers by asking "do you have a discriminating preference for X"?

    you shouldn't be studying philosophy.StreetlightX

    So what is the prerequisite? Who should be studying philosophy? Since disliking unclear communication is a dis-qualifier, is there a test I can take so that I know when I am ready to start studying philosophy?
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    Since disliking unclear communication is a dis-qualifier, is there a test I can take so that I know when I am ready to start studying philosophy?ZhouBoTong

    As they say in math, shut up and show your work. No work, no play.
  • joshua
    13
    There is a link to a pdf by Graff, which is a paper he wrote about the fact that academia has an unjustified culture of obtuse and obfuscatory communication styles.removedmembershiprc

    I read most of that paper. It itself has that academic smell. Not much is said, but it's puffed up with allusions and quotations. I find the same smell in lots of journalism these days. It's as if most of the work goes into signaling that the author is a particular kind of trustworthy, educated chap. What is the word for it? Depersonalized? Bogus?

    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.removedmembershiprc

    I like where you are going. Let's be fair to the other side, though. I've been personally frustrated by acquaintances who pose as interested in Big Questions who nevertheless don't read anything. Unless a person naturally lives in the conceptual realm (which is to say has a passion for getting it right), they probably won't read themselves 'up' to the level of good, relatively current conversation.

    Having given the other side its due, I still think that plenty of 'intellectual' writing is lost in the mirror.
  • ZhouBoTong
    456
    As they say in math, shut up and show your work. No work, no play.StreetlightX

    Cool. I only took a couple of philosophy courses in college, and they did not get into showing your work. Can you give me a quick example from this thread where you have "shown your work" so I know how to do so effectively?
  • god must be atheist
    588
    The Riemann hypothesis is a question that arises under the assumptions of number theory (Dedekind-Peano), or a theory that encompasses it, such as set theory (ZFC).alcontali

    Thanks for the explanation, Alcontali. I looked up "The Riemann Hypothesis" and this is the simplest explanation that I found:

    What is the Riemann hypothesis for dummies?
    The Riemann Hypothesis states that all non trivial zeros of the Riemann zeta function have a real part equal to 0.5.

    Well, f... me.
    :-)
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