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What is the value of obscure academic text?

 
 
Reply Sun 4 Dec, 2011 06:38 pm
I was thinking about this the other day with reference to a few thinkers, namely Adorno, Jankelevitch and Derrida.
Often, the ideas in the text spin out in such a manner that they're difficult to follow, and that's not me being dumb I don't think, that's a common complaint, especially for academics who pride themselves on their ability to be able to explain difficult concepts with clarity.

I was thinking: what is the point of the obscurity? And, is it a tool to gain power?
What type of academic, or at what kind of level do you have to be to use such a voice? Whatever the intentions, it appears to stamp more of a 'name' within the text, as in, it resists paraphrase or a 'take home message'.
 
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Sun 4 Dec, 2011 07:04 pm
@The Pentacle Queen,
The question you actually pose, a thesis worth on itself, wonders about the working operational value of obscurity in academic games of power, which is a very interesting question indeed...it can flow out of 2 circumstances, mainly and usually out of sheer incompetence, the author simply does n´t know what he is talking about but wants to sound deep and defend his credibility to stay in the game, and secondly, more rarely, the author is deliberately over elaborated to make the text inaccessible at large to society, in order to maintain the control over its practical value of application in the hands of a few pairs within the branch he represents in science...you see nothings is really for free and Darwinism also exists in the academy (specially in there)...the dream of a free open knowledge society is an humanistic utopia that never did came to happen, but that we all while young still tend to indulge...

Regards>FILIPE DE ALBUQUERQUE
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Sun 4 Dec, 2011 07:47 pm
@Fil Albuquerque,
...It is also true that some facts are really hard to explain no matter how much good will the professor commits in the clarity of the argument...still often that is not the case.
0 Replies
 
Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Sun 4 Dec, 2011 11:05 pm
It's a trick learned from politicians.
Philosophers need to eat too. Wink

The most esoteric philosophies can be expressed in clear language. But often the highest goal of someone publishing a book isn't to communicate their ideas clearly.
Unfortunately, financial interests compromising the integrity of a work or a product is rather common in our day and age.
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Mon 5 Dec, 2011 10:40 pm
@Cyracuz,
It seems to me that obscurantism may be a defense mechanism, putting the writer beyond the reach of easy criticism. It may also create an illusion of "depth."
Cyracuz
 
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Reply Mon 5 Dec, 2011 11:37 pm
@JLNobody,
That sounds reasonable in my ears. It seems curious though, if it is indeed the case. It would indicate a degree of insecurity on the part of the writer. Either that or a willful deception, wanting to appear to have wisdom to share...
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Dec, 2011 08:47 am
@JLNobody,
JLNobody wrote:

It seems to me that obscurantism may be a defense mechanism, putting the writer beyond the reach of easy criticism. It may also create an illusion of "depth."

You should make that into a needlepoint sampler.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Dec, 2011 10:19 am
Some of it could also be the product of the ineptitude of the author, he or she being unable to explain his or her ideas in a clear, simple manner. Even the most complex concepts should be amenable to simple explanations. At the worst, a concept can be explained in simple terms with a step by step process of building the entire concept through simple exposition.

I was reading the biography of James Murray, one of the fathers of the Oxford English Dictionary. It was written by his granddaughter in 1979--but the writing style could have been pure 1879 from a talentless author. It was so badly written that i never finished the book. So, for example, she took pages and pages to describe how he had decided to organize the work. I had to re-read those pages several times. It all could have been explained in about a page or a page and a half. She simply could not (apparently) organize her thoughts well enough to express them coherently in simple language.
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Dec, 2011 11:00 am
@The Pentacle Queen,
Karl Popper said something interesting about that: "In my view, aiming at simplicity and lucidity is a moral duty of all intellectuals: lack of clarity is a sin, and pretentiousness is a crime."
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Dec, 2011 03:05 pm
In my estimation, Kant is the only philosopher I've run across whose writing was obscure because it needed to be. The French deconstructionists, Hegel, and Heidegger (among others), on the other hand, were obscure because they were full of crap.
High Seas
 
  0  
Reply Tue 6 Dec, 2011 03:07 pm
@joefromchicago,
Objection, objection, and sustained - for Heidegger.

Surprising opinion, coming from you - you usually make sense. The French deconstructionists made no sense to anybody, ever, including to themselves.
joefromchicago
 
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Reply Tue 6 Dec, 2011 03:17 pm
@High Seas,
Question
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Dec, 2011 03:41 pm
@joefromchicago,
Didn't Karl Pooper have something to say about that?
joefromchicago
 
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Reply Tue 6 Dec, 2011 04:28 pm
@Setanta,
Not sure about that, but Schopenhauer sure had plenty to say about Hegel:

"But the height of audacity in serving up pure nonsense, in stringing together senseless and extravagant mazes of words, such as had previously been known only in madhouses, was finally reached in Hegel, and became the instrument of the most barefaced general mystification that has ever taken place, with a result which will appear fabulous to posterity, and will remain as a monument to German stupidity."
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Dec, 2011 04:29 pm
Oh wait, you said "Pooper." Missed that. Well, my post still stands. Hegel sucks. Schopenhauer rules!
ossobuco
 
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Reply Tue 6 Dec, 2011 04:41 pm
@JLNobody,
jl, do you remember a early paper on obscurantism? There was one with that title that I sort of treasured, no idea now, just when. This was before the internet accessing, so I'm blank on where I read it.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 6 Dec, 2011 10:45 pm
@joefromchicago,
Yeah, it was a joke . . . a lame one, i'll acknowledge. The "philosopher" i love to hate most is Plato, though.
JLNobody
 
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Reply Tue 6 Dec, 2011 10:58 pm
@Setanta,
When Dyslexia (Bob Wells) visited us we spent at least an hour disparaging Plato and Descartes. I agree with Bob that while they were fundamental to the formation of Western culture, their contributions (idealism and dualism) were less than nutritious.
My wife and I enjoy most of all Nietzsche and his mentor (whom he never met) Schopenhauer.
JLNobody
 
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Reply Tue 6 Dec, 2011 10:59 pm
@ossobuco,
I don't recall. I hope you will. Wink
fresco
 
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Reply Wed 7 Dec, 2011 01:56 am
@The Pentacle Queen,
I've recently used the "rejection of the ether" scenario to illustrate how cohesion of systems (electro-dynamics say) even in physics can still "work" even if the axioms on which they are based are discarded. A definition of "obscure" might be considered to involve "opaque axioms" which may or may not leave a comprehensive system ( vocabulary and principles) intact. Their "value" is obviously subject to social negotiation.
 

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