Dalrymple: Ninth-Rate Philosophy

“The medical profession used often to be twitted with the mortality of its own members: for if doctors knew so much, how came it that they died like everyone else?

I think a more interesting question is why people who study literature for a living write so badly. After all, death is a fundamental and inescapable condition of human existence; bad writing is not. It seems, however, to be almost an advantage nowadays in academic life, at least in the humanities, to write barbarously. Advancement is secure if you can veer between incomprehensibility and banality, while passing seamlessly through obvious error…

Academic literary study seems these days to be ninth-rate philosophy, or drunken verbiage without the alcohol. I’d rather listen to my local pub bore than to a paper entitled ‘Open Ended Poetic Closure and the Digital Interface’:’The aim of this paper is to read Plath’s work through the lens of contemporary hermeneutic discourse concerning the autonomy of text and language, while situating it within recent developments in digital poetry and electronic means of experiencing literary texts.’

I have sometimes tried to write parodies of such language, but try as I might, clarity keeps breaking out. The habit of using language to convey meaning is too deeply ingrained in me now ever to be overcome. I am a dinosaur.”

– Theodore Dalrymple, Second Opinion


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