Monday, June 19, 2017
Week 3 - June 19 - Post 3
William James receives kudos from all corners, but I wonder how many of the people that praise him so highly really understand him and what he is saying on any particular topic. His high and lofty speech leaves the common man and most academics struggling to understand as they ponder the meaning of it all. I think that many of those who claim to relate to and understand his teaching are embarrassed to admit that they do not understand and, in reality, have not a clue. For some people, claiming to have the ability to relate closely with James puts them in the club of intellectuals to which they aspire. It is more likely, however, that only those who have immersed themselves in philosophical studies and have dedicated their lives to the study of philosophy will have a firm grip on what James says and how he relates it to his audience. The balance of us is relegated to the fringes of understanding where we thrash about in a nebulous sea of murkiness and misunderstanding, trying to make sense of it all. I do, desperately want to understand the philosophy of James, but, at best, I only grasp bits and pieces, here and there, of his much praised profundities. I put the blame for this, not on me and the others that do not understand, but squarely at the feet of James himself. I do believe that most of us could understand, much more clearly, the meaning of James’ lectures if he had better communication skills. James’ word selection and sentence structure could radically be improved upon. George Orwell established six rules of writing that could easily be transposed to speaking. William James violates at least three of these rules on a regular basis. I am quite sure that before he learned to speak in such a manner, he first learned to speak in a way and manner that was compatible with and conducive to advanced verbal communication. The Austrian born philosopher of the early twentieth century, Ludwig Wittgenstein, once said, “What can be said at all can be said clearly….” Technical jargon and philosophical vernacular notwithstanding, if Wittgenstein is correct, James has failed miserably. It is a tragedy that the philosophy of James cannot be communicated to an audience of average or above average people in a coherent way. It is our loss.
 George Orwell’s rules for writing: https://thoughtcapital.wordpress.com/2007/04/22/george-orwells-6-rules-for-writing/