How Science Can Learn From Writing That Is “Not Even Wrong”

How Science Can Learn From Writing That Is “Not Even Wrong”

by Jim Davies

“Some truths are ultimately indescribable. The purpose of some abstruse texts is for you to generate that meaning in yourself, to feel or get the impression of truth, inspired but not explicitly described by the text. Can you communicate in sentences the feeling you have when you first go snorkeling? Not really: There’s nothing quite like it, and you have to experience it to know what it’s like. Can you explain what romantic jealousy is to even a precocious 7-year-old so he or she will really get it? Abstruse writing, both in scholarly work as well as in poetry, sometimes tries to generate mental states in the reader that are hard to communicate explicitly. This is part of why poetry, and arguably any form of art, is valuable. You can’t translate poetry into simple, unambiguous sentences without losing a lot of its impact.”
“Rather than looking at ambiguous writing as inferior, perhaps we should see it as being more like poetry. It has a different function. It inspires. More hard-headed writers can even use it to articulate their own clearer, falsifiable ideas, as Piaget did with Kant’s work. For some writing, whether it might be right or wrong should not be an important attribute, just as we should not judge a chair by its taste. For this kind of prose, what’s important is whether it generates ideas in us, and inspires us to think of new ideas.”
“A lot is lost in translation.”

From Nautilus


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