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Old 12-15-2005, 03:00 AM
Scotch78 Scotch78 is offline
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Default Clarity

I've been rereading some of my textbooks and came across an important point that this forum generally avoids. The quote is from the third edition of Introduction to Philosophy: Classical and Contemporary Readings, edited by John Perry and Michael Bratman.

"Imagine going to the ballet. You are impressed with the ballerina, and decide that you want to become one. The day of your first ballet lesson arrives. You have visions of a whole new world opening up to you; you imagine yourself gliding across the floor, spinning, jumping. But you find that your ballet lesson isn't like that at all. You spend a lot of time stretching and doing exercises that you don't remember anyone doing when you saw Swan Lake.

Your first experience writing philosophy is going to be like that . . . . As a novice philosopher, your motto should be 'Truth, Profundity, Clarity, but the greatest of these is Clarity.' The reason is this. Our language is built around familiar ideas and situations. Philosophers often need to express thoughts that push the limits of language, because they want to consider unfamiliar ideas and odd situations. When doing this, it's relatively easy to sound profound, but very difficult to be clear. But if you are not clear, you cannot be sure that what you say is true, nor can you get the help of others to figure out whether it is (5)."

Scott
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Old 12-15-2005, 03:32 AM
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Default Re: Clarity

Certainly agree with that. In my experience posting on various Philosophy forums and from when I was a Philosophy undergrad:

Yes, it's difficult to write with clarity, I certainly wish I was better at it. But a bigger problem is a lot of Philosophy student types write in complex, superfluous and obfuscating prose to try and show off/sound clever. It's like there's some unwritten rule that the more it makes the reader frown and squint, the more profound the content. I'm reasonably convinced it's the opposite that's true. I'm not sure if anyone's with me on this, but this tendency annoys the crap out of me, since it's seems so anathema to the whole purpose of Philosophical enquiry.
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Old 12-15-2005, 04:14 AM
J. Stew J. Stew is offline
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Default Re: Clarity

Sounds good to me, say what you mean, adjust . . . rinse and repeat.
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Old 12-15-2005, 05:03 AM
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Clarity is indeed difficult when one is trying hard to obfuscate in order to sound clever. I struggle with this myself sometimes. Daniel Dennett is an inspiration for one trying to correct this.
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Old 12-15-2005, 11:49 AM
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Default Re: Clarity

Excellent post. This is something I need to work on especially, judging from the kind of responses I often get in this forum. Clarity takes a lot of time and effort but it's obviously necessary for getting ideas across. Plus when you take into account the natural barriers of language, discussing philosophy becomes a tedious task.
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  #6  
Old 12-15-2005, 12:06 PM
chezlaw chezlaw is offline
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Default Re: Clarity

Good post. Clarity is tough especially when under pressure to be brief.

I think its also important to give other people credit for making sense. Its so easy to dismiss what we read as stupid because we don't understand where they are coming from. Trying to understand what they are saying from their point of view is esential if we are to understand what they mean. This is extremely hard because some of what we read is stupid and its not always easy to tell the difference.

chez
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Old 12-15-2005, 04:57 PM
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Default Re: Clarity

[ QUOTE ]
But a bigger problem is a lot of Philosophy student types write in complex, superfluous and obfuscating prose to try and show off/sound clever. ... I'm not sure if anyone's with me on this, but this tendency annoys the crap out of me, since it's seems so anathema to the whole purpose of Philosophical enquiry.

[/ QUOTE ]

I agree. And formally invite anyone to call me on this if they think I'm ever obfustcating. I try to be clear. If I can't explain something in a simple way, then I probably don't understand it very well.
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  #8  
Old 12-15-2005, 05:00 PM
Scotch78 Scotch78 is offline
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Default Re: Clarity

[ QUOTE ]
But a bigger problem is a lot of Philosophy student types write in complex, superfluous and obfuscating prose to try and show off/sound clever. It's like there's some unwritten rule that the more it makes the reader frown and squint, the more profound the content. I'm reasonably convinced it's the opposite that's true. I'm not sure if anyone's with me on this, but this tendency annoys the crap out of me, since it's seems so anathema to the whole purpose of Philosophical enquiry.

[/ QUOTE ]

I agree 100%. Good philosophy is like Lysol. We're all full of [censored], but a philosopher's doesn't stink. Needless to say, "complex, superfluous and obfuscating prose" smells even worse than plain language.

Scott
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  #9  
Old 12-15-2005, 08:25 PM
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Not sure if your intention in quoting me is to point out the irony of me using loads of unnecessary language to make a point about people using unnecessary language. But if it is, you're probably right, apologies! [img]/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img]
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  #10  
Old 12-15-2005, 08:37 PM
Scotch78 Scotch78 is offline
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Default Re: Clarity

[ QUOTE ]
Not sure if your intention in quoting me is to point out the irony of me using loads of unnecessary language to make a point about people using unnecessary language. But if it is, you're probably right, apologies!

[/ QUOTE ]

Lol, no. My insults will be much more offensive than that [img]/images/graemlins/tongue.gif[/img].

Scott
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