Lucidity and True Art

“There is of course no obligation to be both a thinker and a great writer; but when one compares James with other philosophers one is tempted to wonder whether in the world’s opinion lucidity and true art may not be a handicap. Clarity exposes every joint of the structure and leaves no difficulties for textual critics to build a career upon. Note how Kant and Hegel have given employment by their ambiguities, how Marx has generated flourishing schools by being obscure and confused, how Stendhal’s secretive journals and letters maintain an industry, how even Wagner’s lucubrations have lured good minds to tax their strength in the effort to make him a thinker. Nobody could make a name in this fashion by setting up as a professional clarifier of the lucid, of Descartes, Berkeley, or Schopenhauer, Berlioz, Diderot, or James. More than ever today, when interpretation (rebabtized hermeneutics, as if to make my point) is rampant, there is wisdom in being alluring yet inaccessible.” (Jacques Barzun, A Stroll with William James)

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