Thursday, August 27, 2009

Foe of persistent obscurity

Today is the one hundred and seventeenth birthday of the American idealist philosopher Brand Blanshard, author of the slim but indispensable On Philosophical Style (1954). His thesis in this seventy-page essay (originally delivered as a lecture at the University of Manchester) is that, although philosophy is a specialized intellectual activity, it examines questions which are of vital concern to everyone, and ought therefore to be written in language exacting enough for professional philosophers and yet accessible to the educated laity. When a man’s thought is incomprehensible, Blanshard held, there is something deeply wrong with it—or with the man.

Bill Vallicella, the Maverick Philosopher, offers a witty apothegm from the book: “Persistently obscure writers will usually be found to be defective human beings.”

He publishes the sentence under the title What Blanshard might have said to Derrida.

Patrick Kurp also wrote about Blanshard’s On Philosophicl Style early in his blogging career.