The Corner

In Defense of Heavy Lifting

In response to our brief discussion here yesterday on conservative writing, several readers have made the point that serious philosophy shouldn’t be easy reading. I almost agree with that. I have a problem with the “shouldn’t” part. I flatly do not believe that there is merit in making writing more complicated for its own sake. In fact, as a general principle I think that if something can be said plainly it should be said plainly (let’s leave entertainment out of it for the moment). The Ten Commandments, for example, has no big words or complicated sentences but lots of big concepts. Still, I’m perfectly willing to grant that some ideas cannot be properly communicated easily and simply. But that doesn’t excuse complicating simple ideas so as to seem like you’ve grasped something no one else can.

As I’m sure many of you know, this is a huge problem in academia today. I know for a fact that in many fields, at many schools, to say something is “well written” is considered a put-down. I went into much of this in my column “Orwell’s Orphans” (one of my better ones, if you ask me).

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