Friday, December 17, 2004

The Big Ho on Lonergan

Caveat lector: Kevin Kim's is an X-rated site. Enter at your own aesthetic and moral peril. Gas mask and shovel recommended. The writing, however, is excellent.

Kevin Kim a.k.a. BigHominid complains that Bernard Lonergan is ". . . one of the densest, most unreadable thinkers I ever had the misfortune to study while doing grad work at Catholic University in DC.

[. . .]

Part of my problem with Lonergan is the typical frustration of the young student who finds himself face-to-face with a hard read: I want my philosophy presented in an easily digestible manner. Philosophers themselves will doubtless argue that I'm just being lazy, and they might have a point, because I am lazy. But I don't think I'm unjustified in asking philosophers, who supposedly aim for clarity of thought, to write readably. Readability and clarity are linked. I'd even go so far as to say they're fused.

Is this really such a hard task? If you philosophers grouse that we students need to work harder at understanding you, then I suggest you look in the mirror and do the same for us: work harder to make your ideas more accessible, dammit. I think it's possible to meet halfway.No need to dumb things down; I'm not asking for My Pet Goat. All I'm asking for is something elegant, for arguments and ideas that flow like the graceful rhythms of nature... instead of belching smoke and going nowhere, like a busted old car in need of constant attention.

I'll settle for Is My Pet Goat Real?

BV: I've had students who wanted their philosophy not only easily digestible but pre-masticated and served up on a silver platter as so much cognitive pablum. I know that Kevin is not asking for pre-mastication, and I concede that many philosophers are miserable expositors. But sometimes the truth is inelegant and messy and its excavation is a dirty and tedious business.

Here's my offer to the Big Ho, and it comes with my standard double-your-money-back-if-not-completely-satisfied-guarantee: Present me with a reasonably short passage from Lonergan that you find impenetrable, and I'll see what I can do with it, and whether your complaints are justified. (I know little or nothing about Lonergan.)