obscurity in writing and thoughts

Wed, 6 Apr 1994 11:26:57 -0500

I have perused the recent comments on clarity and obscurity in writing
and thought with growing horror. As I understand the current academic
paradigm, our mission is seek truth (granted a nebulous concept in
many fields) and to disseminate that knowledge to others. Therefore,
I fail to understand how obscurity in writing can serve any purpose
whatsoever. To my mind, it can only obfuscate issues and hinder
academic dialogue. While obtuse or poor writing may make the writer
famous (infamous?) over the centuries as everyone tries to figure
out just what s/he meant, this does not add measureably to our
knowledge, only to the weight of rather useless paper gathering
dust in our overcrowded and underfunded libraries. To me, unclear
writing only demonstrates fuzzy thinking on the part of the author
or a premeditated desire to self aggrandize while hiding poor
thought behind confusing language.

When we continue to praise such poor quality work, we do a great disservice
to our profession and people in general, because we fail to uphold
the ethics we claim to follow. Knowledge must be for all, not for some
elite with the luxory to spend weeks deciphering a single paragraph,
or the knowledge of the convoluted vocabulary intrinsic to some
restricted subsubdiscipline. It was that attitude that enshrined
the Chinese scholarly tradition only within the very wealthy classes.
These are the ethics in academia that perpetuate caste systems and