Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sense and Non sense

I have been reviewing past one semester on the readings which are given to us, in my Masters Pro gramme. Though initially it was a boring job, later only turning out to be monotonous, I'm glad that this semester we get to read Philosophy, and 'reflect' on what philosophers wrote, and because of that the word review has been now changed to 'reflections':)

Often many of us have wondered, what is is that caught the attention of the philosophers? that all they do is babble in a language not only hard to understand, but harder to hear. However that is not the case. This is a piece I wrote reflecting on a chapter written by Bryan Magee titled "Sense and Nonsense". Go ahead...take a look. Who knows, it might just make a lot of sense to you....:)

The question of the ‘sense’ and the ‘nonsense’ in Philosophy as put forth by Bryan Magee, itself seems like a philosophical surge to seek an answer to a problem or perhaps a notion that has been associated with philosophy since decades or so.

The question that ‘what’ philosophers write and the ‘way’ they write, does it make sense at all? Not only to those in the profession, but to those outside it? And the innumerable questions they raise about the ways of life etc. are they relevant to ‘us’ humans in any ways?

More often than not philosophy as a subject and a field has been considered akin to something that is ‘complex’ and incomprehensible. While all philosophers do not fall in this bracket, but the reason, that many do makes philosophy a seemingly or perhaps ‘actually’ a ‘difficult’ subject to make sense of, and comprehend for students and many others. However, as Magee says, there were philosophers like Bertrand Russell, Austin, Moore, who did made an impact both within and outside the field of philosophy by their style of writing and more significantly by the clarity of thoughts which they penned down on paper.

The author presents to us two critical thoughts as far as the matter of ‘clarity or complexity in writing style’ is in philosophy. One, where he quotes Weisse when he justifies the much critical lack of clarity in his writing style by contending that the deepest problems of the human spirit could not be solved for the benefit of the mob. On the other hand where he says that philosophers want to portray themselves as individuals who are ‘clever’ and these they very well reflect in their writing style. Weiss’s justification can be questioned, as it itself raises a question against the value of philosophy as a discipline, when he says ‘that the deepest problems cannot be solved for the benefit of the mob’. Certainly, many people do think of philosophy as a useless discipline not contributing to the mankind the way the natural sciences do, but this is not to negate the ‘human’ qualities we essentially possess today and the evolved mind of ours, all thanks to the questions raised on many matters, which our ancestors indulged in.

The author further tells the readers that many philosophers are intentionally unclear, for they fear that their popularity or the reputation of a philosopher might undergo a drastic change lest they be clear. Thus in order to show that ‘they’ have gained mastery over some (difficult) aspect that bothered the human race since time unknown, what they engage in is in a style of writing that comes to be far more complex than the thought is.

Magee makes a profound impact in this essay of his when he reaches out to the readers sharing with them what truly an impressive style of writing is. He tells us that it is not something that is obscure, and creates a mist in the thoughts and the minds of the readers that counts to be as ‘rich’ in philosophy, but that which is simple and clear, for the clarity is what reaches out to people, and instead of undermining a philosopher’s position rather creates more respect. The reason being, that the philosophers’ thought then reaches out to the masses in a way that is understandable and makes an impact for itself. His thought may ignite many more thoughts in ways which can lead to any kind of a change unknown to the philosopher himself!

Many a time’s beginners in the art of writing have this misperception that ‘only’ the writing or the writers who use an excellent vocabulary or a heavy language are ‘good’ writers. But the points which Magee makes the readers come across are substantive and reasonable enough. He makes his point, in a clear, precise and in an extremely effective way. This is to say, then, that it is not being vague or obscure that counts, for it only adds to the confusion. What matters is the clarity and the lucidity of the thought and the way it is expressed in writing, as the impact which a clear mind makes is far more powerful than a complex one!

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