Is this good writing?

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bobueland
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Thu Sep 20, 2007 12:42 pm Post

In one posting typolattore said that there were some similarities between what I have written and what Ken E. Wilber has written. Not knowing who this guy Wilber was I looked him up in Wikipedia. Here’s a short quote from the article.

Wilber purports that many claims about non-rational states make a mistake he calls the pre/trans fallacy. According to Wilber, the non-rational stages of consciousness (what Wilber calls "pre-rational" and "trans-rational" stages) can be easily confused with one another. One can reduce supposed "trans-rational" spiritual realization to pre-rational regression, or one can elevate pre-rational states to the trans-rational domain. For example, Wilber claims that Freud and Jung commit this fallacy. Freud considered mystical realizations to be regressions to infantile oceanic states. Wilber alleges that Freud thus commits a fallacy of reduction. Wilber thinks that Jung commits the converse form of the same mistake by considering pre-rational myths to reflect divine realizations. Likewise, pre-rational states such as tribal thinking, groupthink, and the occultism of the Nazis or Charles Manson may be misidentified as post-rational states. Interestingly, Wilber characterizes himself as having fallen victim to the pre/trans fallacy in his early work.


The article goes on like this for some ten pages. Is this good writing? The author stockpiles words like
pre/trans fallacy, non-rational stages of consciousness, trans-rational stages, trans-rational spiritual realization, pre-rational regression, pre-rational states, trans-rational domain, infantile oceanic states, fallacy of reduction, pre-rational myths

at a rate that makes me pant for breath. It seems that the author has made a serious attempt to make his writing serious, complicated and impressive sounding. (And he did a damn good job of it). What does the following sentence actually mean?
One can reduce supposed "trans-rational" spiritual realization to pre-rational regression, or one can elevate pre-rational states to the trans-rational domain.

Is there any substance behind this? Hard to tell without a translator. Could it be said simpler? If there is any substance I’m sure it could, but then it would probably not impress us very much. If there is no substance then it can’t be said simpler since otherwise it would be reduced to nothing at all.
Last edited by bobueland on Sun Sep 23, 2007 3:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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vic-k
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Thu Sep 20, 2007 2:04 pm Post

Bob,
It seems simple enough to me. This has to be the first time you`ve ever exhibited confusion about anything.

He`s talking about sex.

Vic
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druid
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Thu Sep 20, 2007 3:57 pm Post

Bob, you're responding sensibly to bad writing and cluttered thought. That disease began to infect the academy about 30 years ago with the spread of postmodern thought, mainly from French and German sources. Some thinkers in the movement are brilliant, and some write well (Barthes, Benjamin); others are appallingly bad (Derrida and Jameson are often parodied). Often the work is called "theory" but the ideas are rarely tested with evidence, for "facts" are ignored, disputed, or dismissed as inconvenient or "socially constructed." The main goal is to insist that nothing in human experience is simple, plain, or self-evident.

The generation that embraced this ideology now runs many top departments; another factor in the decline of enrollment in the humanities. Students reject this stuff as bosh and it doesn't help them to become writers. Critics who resist the trend are labeled old-fashioned or "too clear." Maybe in another few decades, new fashions will sweep these out.

You can get an overview of what's happened from these Wikipedia articles:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodernism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literary_theory

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bobueland
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Thu Sep 20, 2007 8:15 pm Post

druid wrote

bad writing and cluttered thought. That disease began to infect the academy about 30 years ago with the spread of postmodern thought, ... The main goal is to insist that nothing in human experience is simple, plain, or self-evident.
The generation that embraced this ideology now runs many top departments; ... Students reject this stuff as bosh and it doesn't help them to become writers...
You can get an overview of what's happened from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodernism


Thanks druid :D, I didn't know of this "drama", but it was fun to read about. Thanks for the link. I really loved the quotes from Dawkins and Chomsky. So I'll requote them here.

Richard Dawkins wrote in Postmodernism Disrobed
But don't the postmodernists claim only to be 'playing games'? Isn't it the whole point of their philosophy that anything goes, there is no absolute truth, anything written has the same status as anything else, no point of view is privileged? Given their own standards of relative truth, isn't it rather unfair to take them to task for fooling around with word-games, and playing little jokes on readers? Perhaps, but one is then left wondering why their writings are so stupefyingly boring. Shouldn't games at least be entertaining, not po-faced, solemn and pretentious?


Noam Chomsky wrote
There are lots of things I don't understand -- say, the latest debates over whether neutrinos have mass or the way that Fermat's last theorem was (apparently) proven recently. But from 50 years in this game, I have learned two things: (1) I can ask friends who work in these areas to explain it to me at a level that I can understand, and they can do so, without particular difficulty; (2) if I'm interested, I can proceed to learn more so that I will come to understand it. Now Derrida, Lacan, Lyotard, Kristeva, etc. --- even Foucault, whom I knew and liked, and who was somewhat different from the rest --- write things that I also don't understand, but (1) and (2) don't hold: no one who says they do understand can explain it to me and I haven't a clue as to how to proceed to overcome my failures. That leaves one of two possibilities: (a) some new advance in intellectual life has been made, perhaps some sudden genetic mutation, which has created a form of "theory" that is beyond quantum theory, topology, etc., in depth and profundity; or (b) ... I won't spell it out.
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Wock
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Fri Sep 21, 2007 2:57 am Post

bobueland wrote:actually mean? Is there actually any substance behind this? Hard to tell without a translator. Could it be said simpler? If there is any substance I’m sure it could, but then it would probably not impress us very much. If there is no substance then it can’t be said simpler since otherwise it would be reduced to nothing at all.


I call it "filler". It is what happens when a writer really has nothing to say but either loves the sound of their own voice or is trying to hide the fact that they have no clue really at what they are trying to discuss so they do a "parlor trick" with large phrases and bloated sentences in order to convince the reader that due to their large vocabulary usage they just have to be correct and they have to know what they are talking about.

In other words it is fancy BSing.

:-)
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Hu
Hugh
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Fri Sep 21, 2007 8:47 am Post

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, and no simpler." (A. Einstein)

A good rule for any writing, IMO.

Th
Thequietone
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Fri Sep 21, 2007 9:03 am Post

I have a widget that generates such text. Heres an example.

Competently expedite standardized services vis-a-vis multifunctional interfaces. Dramatically communicate distributed ideas whereas exceptional solutions. Competently provide access to state of the art action items after business technology.

Rapidiously negotiate multifunctional leadership through scalable manufactured products. Credibly leverage existing optimal total linkage before scalable meta-services. Authoritatively formulate enterprise leadership for value-added portals.

Appropriately facilitate 24/7 mindshare rather than covalent results.

Actually I am learning to write from this covalent conspiracy module.

Paul

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bobueland
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Fri Sep 21, 2007 9:18 am Post

Pual wrote
I have a widget that generates such text. ... Competently expedite standardized services vis-a-vis multifunctional interfaces...


LOL :D , Did you make the widget yourself are can be it downloaded?
Don't be a sissy, don't be a snob. Post a reply to Ueland Bob.

Th
Thequietone
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Fri Sep 21, 2007 5:05 pm Post

Here it is.
http://www.apple.com/downloads/dashboar ... ipsum.html

I got rid of a lot of widgets as the take up memory and at least with Wikipedia its "research"

Paul

Pr
PrimitiveWorker
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Fri Sep 21, 2007 5:59 pm Post

Ken Wilbur's background is in psychology. Jargon layers plague academic literature as a rule, placing precision over readability.

Or at least, that's the excuse I make for him.

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bobueland
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Fri Sep 21, 2007 7:08 pm Post

I found an interesting site called Readability index calculator at
http://www.standards-schmandards.com/exhibits/rix/index.php

The higher the score the more easy it is to understand your text. I entered my posting "What was there before the time came into being?" and got ease score: 65, which means that my text has the same reading ease as Reader's Digest magazine. I also entered the text quoted in the first posting of this thread, the one beginning with "Wilber purports that many claims about non-rational states..." and got ease score: 16. Now the the Harvard Law Review has a general readability score in the low 30s.
Don't be a sissy, don't be a snob. Post a reply to Ueland Bob.

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bobueland
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Fri Sep 21, 2007 11:00 pm Post

Jargon layers plague academic literature as a rule, placing precision over readability.


In Sweden we have a saying - What is poorly said is poorly thought.
Don't be a sissy, don't be a snob. Post a reply to Ueland Bob.

Th
Thequietone
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Sat Sep 22, 2007 12:20 am Post

The text generated by the widget was -73 which is damn good.

A note I had made to myself was scored at 53 so I will have to try harder.

Paul

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bobueland
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Sat Sep 22, 2007 5:27 am Post

The text generated by the widget was -73 which is damn good.

A note I had made to myself was scored at 53 so I will have to try harder.


The higher the number the more readable it is. Your note is doing fine. Has the same readability as Time magazine. On the other hand -73 is not the same as +73. Minus means less then zero, so the text generated by the widget is essentially unreadable.
Don't be a sissy, don't be a snob. Post a reply to Ueland Bob.

Ma
Maria
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Sat Sep 22, 2007 1:50 pm Post

bobueland wrote:
Thanks druid :D, I didn't know of this "drama", but it was fun to read about. Thanks for the link. I really loved the quotes from Dawkins and Chomsky. So I'll requote them here.

Richard Dawkins wrote in Postmodernism Disrobed


ALAN SOKAL and JEAN BRICMONT
post 1996
"Fashionable Nonsense. Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science."

and their inital article in "Social Text".

Best,
Maria