What can be said at all can be said clearly; and whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.
It would surprise some for an anti-philosopher to quote Wittgenstein but there we are. In that matter, he was quite right.
One of the major tasks of my students at university was to take tomes by seemingly eminent writers and to spend 70% of the available time translating them into a form of English that an educated English speaker could comprehend, thence to break down the key concepts into clear writing and the remaining 10% of the time both internalizing the points made and deciding if they were worth the effort of undertaking the exercise in the first place.
I reject utterly the thesis that in order to be labelled intellectual, one must speak or write in an unintelligible manner, coining obscure personal definitions and bamboozling the hoi-polloi with one’s erudition. There is, unfortunately, in academia, this attitude that to retain one’s chair, one must speak and write in a learned [read opaque] form and there are various assumed unassailable truisms, e.g. Voltaire had something edifying to say.
The thing one must never do is to mock the holy cows, something I very much did in my piece on philosophy being sophistry. You’d need to be a roamer of the hallowed halls to appreciate how badly that post would have gone down in certain circles and how ‘lager loutish’ the writer of it would be viewed by his erstwhile colleagues. ‘Philistine’, ‘pseudo-intellectual’ and ‘amateur’ are just three ad hominems to be flung at such a one who would thus betray his peer group.
It’s not the philosophy itself which I take issue with but the way certain assumptions about the deist position are taken as read before the discussion even gets underway. The false syllogisms and the false first premises in philosophical discussions, as taught in university courses, can be both breathtakingly specious and horrifying at the same time, especially when ad hominem is projected back onto the detractor, never an acceptable position in a philosophical discussion in the first place.
Hence my charge of sophistry in the manner in which philosophical discussion takes place in so many instances.
Cassandra may be right to say that philosophy does not equal sophistry but the two certainly have a nodding acquaintance with one another in the halls of academia.
On Saturday there’ll be a short post showing how the use of gobbledegook to reinforce, in the initiate, the all-knowingness of the adept is a key strategy in the broader community, particularly with groups like Common Purpose.