Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Why Do Philosophers Do That?

I've been reading a lot of philosophical papers lately. Now, I must say, pretty universally, these folks are very smart people. But modern, analytical philosophers have this weird habit of wanting to express everything in mathematical-looking variables. So the papers I'm reading often begin with something like, "Let us say we have a speaker." But then they stipulate that "a speaker" will henceforth appear as 'S'. OK, and this speaker makes some statements... but henceforth these are to be designated as σ1 to σn. And there are reasons for σ1 to σn, which are truth conditional on ρ1(t) to ρn(t), depending upon circumstances C.

And eventually, you're reading something like "When τ is in the set ρ1(t) to ρn(t), the χ value of the ιth of the μ2 matrix of the NX to the NX + N meaning subset of the n-invariant dominatrices of the set of all philosophers, is, of course, truth invariant."

Now, as someone who was a software engineer for 17 years, I'm pretty much all down with the value of formalism. But statements like the above are not statements in a formal language, they are ordinary English littered with pseudo-formal obscurities.

Why, oh why, philosophers, do you write like that?


  1. Because just shut up and publish the damn paper, will you?!

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Current review queue

Pearce: British Journal for the History of Philosophy Deneen: The American Conservative Chao-Reiss: Computing Reviews