Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Obscurity

Barrett Wendell, in his admirable book on writing, points out that clearness and vividness often turn on mere specificity. To say that Major André was hanged is clear and definite; to say that he was killed is less definite, because you do not know in what way he was killed; to say that he died is still more indefinite because you do not even know whether his death was due to violence or to natural causes. If we were to use this statement as a varying symbol by which to rank writers for clearness, we might, I think, get something like the following: Swift, Macaulay, and Shaw would say that André was hanged. Bradley would say that he was killed. Bosanquet would say that he died. Kant would say that his mortal existence achieved its termination. Hegel would say that a finite determination of infinity had been further determined by its own negation.


--Blanshard, "On Philosophical Style"

Scotus is obscure, but he's not obscure like that.

2 comments:

Lee Faber said...

I don't care if no one reads us...I still find us more interesting than most of the other blogs out there. great quote

Kyle R. Cupp said...

Gotta love philosophy humor. That bit was funny.