In one posting typolattore said that there were some similarities between what I have written and what Ken E. Wilber has written. Not knowing who this guy Wilber was I looked him up in Wikipedia. Hereâ€™s a short quote from the article.
The article goes on like this for some ten pages. Is this good writing? The author stockpiles words like
at a rate that makes me pant for breath. It seems that the author has made a serious attempt to make his writing serious, complicated and impressive sounding. (And he did a damn good job of it). What does the following sentence actually mean?
Is there any substance behind this? Hard to tell without a translator. Could it be said simpler? If there is any substance Iâ€™m sure it could, but then it would probably not impress us very much. If there is no substance then it canâ€™t be said simpler since otherwise it would be reduced to nothing at all.
Bob, you’re responding sensibly to bad writing and cluttered thought. That disease began to infect the academy about 30 years ago with the spread of postmodern thought, mainly from French and German sources. Some thinkers in the movement are brilliant, and some write well (Barthes, Benjamin); others are appallingly bad (Derrida and Jameson are often parodied). Often the work is called “theory” but the ideas are rarely tested with evidence, for “facts” are ignored, disputed, or dismissed as inconvenient or “socially constructed.” The main goal is to insist that nothing in human experience is simple, plain, or self-evident.
The generation that embraced this ideology now runs many top departments; another factor in the decline of enrollment in the humanities. Students reject this stuff as bosh and it doesn’t help them to become writers. Critics who resist the trend are labeled old-fashioned or “too clear.” Maybe in another few decades, new fashions will sweep these out.
You can get an overview of what’s happened from these Wikipedia articles:
I call it “filler”. It is what happens when a writer really has nothing to say but either loves the sound of their own voice or is trying to hide the fact that they have no clue really at what they are trying to discuss so they do a “parlor trick” with large phrases and bloated sentences in order to convince the reader that due to their large vocabulary usage they just have to be correct and they have to know what they are talking about.
I have a widget that generates such text. Heres an example.
Competently expedite standardized services vis-a-vis multifunctional interfaces. Dramatically communicate distributed ideas whereas exceptional solutions. Competently provide access to state of the art action items after business technology.
Rapidiously negotiate multifunctional leadership through scalable manufactured products. Credibly leverage existing optimal total linkage before scalable meta-services. Authoritatively formulate enterprise leadership for value-added portals.
Appropriately facilitate 24/7 mindshare rather than covalent results.
Actually I am learning to write from this covalent conspiracy module.
The higher the score the more easy it is to understand your text. I entered my posting “What was there before the time came into being?” and got ease score: 65, which means that my text has the same reading ease as Reader’s Digest magazine. I also entered the text quoted in the first posting of this thread, the one beginning with “Wilber purports that many claims about non-rational states…” and got ease score: 16. Now the the Harvard Law Review has a general readability score in the low 30s.
The higher the number the more readable it is. Your note is doing fine. Has the same readability as Time magazine. On the other hand -73 is not the same as +73. Minus means less then zero, so the text generated by the widget is essentially unreadable.
There seems to be an awful lot of agreement here on what constitutes good or bad writing, as if this can be determined by any of us for any situation, or that there should never be attempts to change or refine it. I could go on a bit about how useless “good” and “bad” are for talking about writing, but let me please instead counter the approval for Sokal and the other “anti-postmodernists” with a very nice quote from Dwaipayan Banerjee from Sarai’s Reader-List (a great place to keep up with Indian intellectual culture if you’re interested - sarai.net ). This is not because I think the original piece of writing is “good”, but rather, this kind of debate always ends up with the assertion of clear lines for goodness and badness which tend to exclude anything new or different. And frankly, I don’t see the point.
“A word is a bud attempting to become a twig. How can one not dream while writing? It is the pen which dreams. The blank page gives the right to dream.”
I read the post on the Sokal-Bricmont affair a couple of days ago, and I have to say the currency it continues to hold years after the event is disconcerting to say the least.
To put it briefly, I cannot find many ways of distinguishing between those who blindly toe the Sokal line and the editors of the journal (not peer-reviewed let us remember) that the hoax was sent to. To me, they both represent the highest forms of intellectual laziness and lack of rigour. Why? Simply, because when Sokal and Bricmont make sweeping accusations about disciplinary masters such as Deleuze, Latour, Irigiray and Lacan, they have simply not bothered to train themselves in the disciplines they think they are at such liberty to condemn. To me, it is precisely the equivalent of someone ‘debunking’ Eistein’s theory of relativity because it did not make immediate sense to him as he flipped through it before bedtime. I am not for a moment arguing that there is no such thing as bad social science writing. I am just wary of people making judgements on such writing without the adequate training to do so.
I am honestly scared of a world and people that would walk into a Picasso exhibition without any understanding of painting and dismiss it summarily without any curiousity or desire to learn. I am also scared of a world with only the literature that is ‘easy’ to read and has no place for Joyce, Eliot and countless others. I certainly would not enjoy living in a world that ridiculed the hootings of a Charlie Parker because it did not make them immediately want to dance. In academics, as I make place for a host of mathematics and physics that I do not understand, I wish simultaneously that a similiar place would be made for philosophy and social studies of science rooted in philosophy (which of course are strengthened by a fundamental knowledge of the science examined). I am glad therefore for the many scientists and mathematicians who have come out over the last ten years against Sokal and debunked his ‘debunking’ so to speak.