Google evaluates our reading level

Check out the results here. How to take the news? Should I be pleased that I blog in an accessible style or worried that the blog is only 18% advanced? I think this is a good “first principles” question for philosophers to ask themselves, especially since Google seems to be using sentence length and jargon-laden statistically improbable phrases as a a proxy for “advanced”-ness. Should we cultivate or cull the difficulty in our writing? Here’s Hegel:

This unaccustomed restraint imposed upon thought is for the most part the cause of the complaints concerning the unintelligibility of philosophical writings, when otherwise the individual has in him the requisite mental cultivation for understanding them. In what has been said we see the reason for the specific charge often made against them, that a good deal has to be read repeatedly before it can be understood – an accusation which is meant to convey something improper in the extreme, and one which if granted to be sound admits of no further reply. It is obvious from the above what is the state of the case here. The philosophical proposition, being a proposition, calls up the accepted view of the usual relation of subject and predicate, and suggests the idea of the customary procedure which takes place in knowledge. Its philosophical content destroys this way of proceeding and the ordinary view taken of this process. The common view discovers that the statement is intended in another sense than it is thinking of, and this correction of its opinion compels knowledge to recur to the proposition and take it now in some other sense.

Hegel makes a good point: philosophical propositions tend to be difficult because they’re expressing a sentiment at odds with common sense. But I’m not convinced we should celebrate that difficulty so much as look for ways to ease the burden on our readers.





Second Opinions