Saturday, 8 October 2016

Joad on Whitehead (from Guide to Philosophy)

Well Joad does admit the difficulty presented by Whitehead. His ideas he says are "intrinsically difficult to grasp. They involve a total reconstruction of our imaginative picture of the universe, and, even when the intellect is convinced, the imagination refuses to implement the conviction". Yes I heartily concur, even after having read Process and Reality and read in it a few times I more feel it than get it. Joad finds "Professor Whitehead's mode of writing (is) exceedingly obscure".

There are as I have hinted in the Introduction, two kinds of obscurity - the expression of obscurity and obscurity of expression. The first is pardonable, perhaps inevitable. There is, as I pointed out, no a priori reason why the universe should be such as to be readily intelligible to a twentieth century mind, or why a man of average intelligence should be able to grasp the profounder thoughts of a philosopher of original insight. But obscurity of expression is simply another name for bad craftsmanship. A writer should study to make himself understood, and the more difficult his subject, the more paramount is the obligation of clarity. It is by no means certain that Professor Whitehead has always recognised this obligation.

Joad has a go but confesses that this chapter is the least satisfactory in his book ; feeling that he "may have said either too much for adequate interpretation , and too little for adequate comprehension".

Aiding the readability of Joad is the fact that the writing is beautifully punctuated.

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