Sunday, May 06, 2007

I had to think about this ...

... Clarity. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A couple of comments: "... well-written papers in mathematical logic or category theory are said to be clear in this way: everything is laid out straightforwardly, simply, with good organization, careful analysis, precise argumentation. But it would be nonsense to suggest this allows readers in general to follow what they're saying ..."

But I think the point has to do with addressing readers in general, not one's fellow specialists. As C.S. Lewis pointed out, if you cannot express your specialized knowledge in the common tongue we have verey reason to suspect that you may not really grasp it yourself.

"... Heidegger can't be judged by any standards but how well people who are likely to read Heidegger with interest tend to understand him. This can be determined only by looking at how well they actually do understand him ..." But how can the general reader know the latter unless these people can make it all plain in the common tongue?

By the way, a text, it seems to me, is not obscure simply because it is textured, many-layered, and richly ambiguous.

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