Is It Deep or Have You Been Duped?


In line with the principle of charity in cooperative communication, people will try to reconstruct the meaning of unknown terms on the presumption that what the speaker utters is true and relevant — particularly when they defer to the speaker as an authority. If what the speaker asserts seem bizarre or false on its face, it is prudent to suspect that the problem lies with your interpretation…. As with all mental heuristics, this charitable attitude towards speakers, particularly ones regarded as experts, is liable to exploitation. Not everything that is obscure or apparently bizarre will eventually resolve into something true and relevant….

It is important to emphasize the intimidating effect of unintelligible prose. In the midst of people who all profess to understand what is being said, it takes courage to stand up and admit that you don’t.

Maarten Boudry (Ghent University) discusses the psychology of interpretation that, he argues, allows obscurantism to flourish in some parts of the academy, at Scientia Salon.

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