William S. Lear rael at
Sat Dec 26 14:49:05 PST 1998

On Sat, December 26, 1998 at 11:33:16 (-0500) Doug Henwood writes:
>Obscurity as a phony marker of seriousness sucks, of course, but on the
>other hand, the anti-obscurity crowd neglects the difficulties of, say,
>Marx's Capital, or Hegel's Phenomenology, or even Milton's Paradise Lost.

I can understand and appreciate the obscurity of the latter. That is, in a sense, Milton was purposefully creating a rarefied work of art, that need not follow the same strictures of things that are designed to teach us about ourselves. I find Capital sometimes clear, prescient, deep, at other times fuzzy, contradictory, muddle-headed. As to Hegel, haven't read very much, but he strikes me as someone who got carried away with abstractions.

>Just how many examples are there of simple writing combined with deep
>thinking? Wordsworth's Lucy poems look simple on the surface but
>psychologically they're complex as hell. Just because something's hard to
>read doesn't mean it's profound, of course, but how many profound things
>are easy to read?

How about John Dewey? I've just been reading his *Democracy and Education* and it is, to me --- as is the rest of his writing that I have seen --- both profound and clear.

Debra Morris and Ian Shapiro, editors of Dewey's *The Political Writings*, wrote in their introduction that Dewey "was a public intellectual, one of the last of what seems to be a dying breed." They go on to quote Dewey, "Better it is for philosophy to err in active participation in the living struggles and issues of its own age and times than to maintain an immune monastic impeccability".

I really admire this approach, which seems to me to reflect a deep respect for others, and a willingness to invite others to share in your intellectual projects. I don't get those sorts of vibes from Butler.


More information about the lbo-talk mailing list