PDA

View Full Version : Brevity



rusmeister
02-11-2011, 09:24
No, this post is not going to be brief! :)


Originally Posted by rusmeister

The trouble with assertions is that they really are only opinion. They reference nothing objective, and so prove nothing. A person with a good argument always trumps the assertionist. People of intelligence recognize the difference; those without do not.

Drtnsnw said:

Or they try to exert intellectual superiority by post long winded diatribes when a simple sentence or two will do.
__________________

If I say, "Explain quantum physics so that it shows where both Einsteinian and Newtonian physics are wrong, and keep it brief! A simple sentence or two will do!", what could a physicist say to that? He is put in an impossible position, one that he cannot defend.

It is said that brevity is the soul of wit. I think that sometimes it is coincidentally true. Other times it is simply false.

On any issue of deep and complex truth, brevity only serves to increase confusion and misunderstanding. If one is brief, 90% of the time you won't know the context for anyone saying anything that contradicts "conventional wisdom", what people do not question and take for granted (for example, at tolerance is good and discrimination is bad, that voting represents real power and that everyone ought to do it, and that in doing it we have democracy, and that women were generally always second-class and oppressed creatures throughout history).

I do question all of those things- at least, I think they are assumed and unquestioned, and represent an absence of thought rather than any presence of thinking, and yet, to talk about why one disagrees, being brief is generally impossible. People can raise at least ten to twenty objections to each short answer, and all the objections have to be dealt with to be able to claim intellectual honesty.

In short, there is a difference between "long-windedness" (with an implied wasting of breath, space, and people's time) and complete thought about a subject, which, under the limitations of language, can require exposition at length, something that colleges and universities tend to impose on people who want their diplomas.

Gypsy
02-11-2011, 12:31
True enough, but I would still fall on the side of Drntsw with this. I would have thought that anyone with genuine knowledge of a subject could condense a description of it into a brief explanation.

Larry Ellison once told a colleague of mine that he likes to ask the "elevator question". In the elevator at any of his offices he would pick on a member of staff and ask:

"So if you don't write code and you are not in Sales, tell me why I am paying you."

If they could not answer by the time the elevator reached the ground the person was fired.

His reasoning? Do they not know what they are doing? Can they not explain it? In either case they should not be employed.

Verbiage is a substitute for knowledge. (And I just made that up.)

rusmeister
02-11-2011, 15:45
True enough, but I would still fall on the side of Drntsw with this. I would have thought that anyone with genuine knowledge of a subject could condense a description of it into a brief explanation.

Larry Ellison once told a colleague of mine that he likes to ask the "elevator question". In the elevator at any of his offices he would pick on a member of staff and ask:

"So if you don't write code and you are not in Sales, tell me why I am paying you."

If they could not answer by the time the elevator reached the ground the person was fired.

His reasoning? Do they not know what they are doing? Can they not explain
it? In either case they should not be employed.

Verbiage is a substitute for knowledge. (And I just made that up.)

Hi Gypsy, I agree with you that explanations can be made brief

...except when there are objections to those explanations.

Your example of sales assumes that the person cannot explain it. I am speaking about somethingthat CAN be explained, but which people have objections to. If a sales associate uses unorthodox methods, he might need more "verbiage" to respond to his superior's initial objections to something the superior had not seen or thought of.

Again, is a literature course that requires a whole semester, or a degree that requires several years of studying verbiage a substitute for knowledge? If there IS something that the student doesn't know that he stands to learn, then obviously not.

For example, there is a constantly raised objection to the funds and effort spent on beautifying a church - people always ask (without ever seeming to hear the answers) why the money and effort is not simply given to the poor?

A short and simple answer is that we are to not only care for the needy in this life, but also to glorify God as best we can; that rich or poor, we will all die, and after this the Judgement and eternity.

That is a short response. It is brief. But other objections are immediately raised. By giving the short answer, I have not dealt with the dozen objections that will follow from most people. If I take the time and "verbiage" to deal with the objections in advance, then a much more complete answer is given, and the objections answered. Not so short, requires a little more time and thought, but the issue then is actually thought about. Any further objections must then be deeper and at a higher level. The intellectual tone is raised and people can then see that it is not a mere matter of "ignoring the poor".

Hope that helps!

mds45
02-11-2011, 15:57
No, this post is not going to be brief! :)


Originally Posted by rusmeister
.

Drtnsnw said:
.
__________________

In short, there is a difference between "long-windedness" (with an implied wasting of breath, space, and people's time) and complete thought about a subject, which, under the limitations of language, can require exposition at length, something that colleges and universities tend to impose on people who want their diplomas.

I'm not sure if I feel sorry for you for writing all this or the rest of us for thinking it may one day be worth reading.
I do like the "in short " start to the paragraph - quite witty.

The degree I have is in pure maths where everything is perfect nothing is superfluous, it was imposed on me to write clear and concise explanations without appearing to be patronizing , not the same for you eh

rusmeister
02-11-2011, 17:51
I'm not sure if I feel sorry for you for writing all this or the rest of us for thinking it may one day be worth reading.
I do like the "in short " start to the paragraph - quite witty.

The degree I have is in pure maths where everything is perfect nothing is superfluous, it was imposed on me to write clear and concise explanations without appearing to be patronizing , not the same for you eh

Hi, mds,
Maybe that's why you've been hostile, because you think I am trying to be patronizing? I'm sorry if that's how you take it. I guess I'd try to put the shoe on the other foot for you and ask how you'd feel if people were presenting mathematics as idiotic nonsense. Actually being a mathematician, you know quite a few things about that field that others obviously do not know, and you would understandably object to it being trivialized and falsified. You would try, as courteously as you could, to correct the mistaken understandings. Others might perceive your attempts as patronizing, though you would not intend it.

That is how people actually treat faith - as something incompatible with reason. I know better, and I know when people are falsifying what intelligent faith is. As long as you treat the idea of intelligent faith like an oxymoron, you are doing the same thing that idiots who belittle math as an unnecessary science do. But if you show that you do know better, then we might get along quite well. There are a few unbelievers on these boards that I have a fair amount of respect for, though I disagree with them.

I think, regarding the needs of the human soul, that what is superfluous may be somewhat subjective or relative at times. We are not robots to run on pure math and logic and nothing else. Math is one kind of truth, and a useful one it is. But it is not the whole truth of mankind. When our hearts are lonely, and we cry out for companionship, it is not mathematical formulas that provide our comfort. When I ask, what is the nature of man and what is my purpose in life, I do not find it by seeing Euclidean formulas in the stars, or even by calculating my grocery bill. I'm just saying that math has its useful place, but is not the whole picture.

I agree completely that people can write superfluously, and have no doubt that most of us, including myself, have committed this sin (for as such you surely see it). I also despise academic claptrap. But if you do not examine thought; if you show no evidence that you have even tried (even if only tried and failed) to understand, then you cannot possibly say whether it is superfluous or claptrap or not, because you have no idea. To all appearances, you seem to see a large text and to assume that it must be superfluous, rather than expressing complete thought. We would have to forbid colleges to require more than the reading of the occasional short paragraph or post; indeed, I am imagining the monstrosity of a university that teaches nothing more than what can fit into an expat.ru post. It might make for short degree programs, but would not yield much in the way of knowledge or understanding.

I guess the question for third parties is - whose position is more anti-intellectual? Mine or yours?

rusmeister
02-11-2011, 18:04
http://www.theonion.com/articles/nation-shudders-at-large-block-of-uninterrupted-te,16932/

WASHINGTON—Unable to rest their eyes on a colorful photograph or boldface heading that could be easily skimmed and forgotten about, Americans collectively recoiled Monday when confronted with a solid block of uninterrupted text.

Dumbfounded citizens from Maine to California gazed helplessly at the frightening chunk of print, unsure of what to do next. Without an illustration, chart, or embedded YouTube video to ease them in, millions were frozen in place, terrified by the sight of one long, unbroken string of English words.

"Why won't it just tell me what it's about?" said Boston resident Charlyne Thomson, who was bombarded with the overwhelming mass of black text late Monday afternoon. "There are no bullet points, no highlighted parts. I've looked everywhere—there's nothing here but words."

"Ow," Thomson added after reading the first and last lines in an attempt to get the gist of whatever the article, review, or possibly recipe was about.

At 3:16 p.m., a deafening sigh was heard across the country as the nation grappled with the daunting cascade of syllables, whose unfamiliar letter-upon-letter structure stretched on for an endless 500 words. Children wailed for the attention of their bewildered parents, businesses were shuttered, and local governments ground to a halt as Americans scanned the text in vain for a web link to click on.

Sources also reported a 450 percent rise in temple rubbing and under-the-breath cursing around this time.

"It demands so much of my time and concentration," said Chicago resident Dale Huza, who was confronted by the confusing mound of words early Monday afternoon. "This large block of text, it expects me to figure everything out on my own, and I hate it."

"I've never seen anything like it," said Mark Shelton, a high school teacher from St. Paul, MN who stared blankly at the page in front of him for several minutes before finally holding it up to his ear. "What does it want from us?"

As the public grows more desperate, scholars are working to randomly italicize different sections of the text, hoping the italics will land on the important parts and allow everyone to go on with their day. For now, though, millions of panicked and exhausted Americans continue to repetitively search the single column of print from top to bottom and right to left, looking for even the slightest semblance of meaning or perhaps a blurb.

Some have speculated that the never-ending flood of sentences may be a news article, medical study, urgent product recall notice, letter, user agreement, or even a binding contract of some kind. But until the news does a segment in which they take sections of the text and read them aloud in a slow, calm voice while highlighting those same words on the screen, no one can say for sure.

There are some, however, who remain unfazed by the virtual hailstorm of alternating consonants and vowels, and are determined to ignore it.

"I'm sure if it's important enough, they'll let us know some other way," Detroit local Janet Landsman said. "After all, it can't be that serious. If there were anything worthwhile buried deep in that block of impenetrable English, it would at least have an accompanying photo of a celebrity or a large humorous title containing a pop culture reference."

Added Landsman, "Whatever it is, I'm pretty sure it doesn't even have a point."

Vovochka
03-11-2011, 02:13
Rusmesieter,

All you needed to do was tell everyone else to f*ck off.

End of story.

rusmeister
03-11-2011, 07:53
Rusmesieter,

All you needed to do was tell everyone else to f*ck off.

End of story.

Hi Vovochka,

Not sure if you got the point of the Onion article or not.

I could do what you suggest, a lot of people here do. I consider that to be infantile.

But the real problem is when people say, "Let us embrace and tolerate all beliefs" also say, "Your belief cannot possibly be true; it is incompatible with reason" (talking about the more intelligent ones that don't take your suggested course of action).

As it happens, I find certain types (Note: not ALL types) of religious belief to be quite compatible with intelligence. So I say, "I can show that it IS.", and people say "Prove it!"
Then I put up blocks of text that can show that.

Then people say, "That's too long and boring!" (and act like the people in the Onion article).

To people who understand the need for actual use of words, sometimes a lot of them, in educated spheres, it looks like as a believer, I am pro-intellectual and the people who say "Keep it short!" (meaning down to one or two sentences, making it impossible for me to demonstrate much of anything), unbelievers, as anti-intellectuals. Rather the opposite of the scenarios usually imagined of the intelligent atheist vs the hick fundamentalist.

I was tempted to respond to you sarcastically, but am willing to give anyone a chance or two to see reason.

Gypsy
03-11-2011, 10:30
Hi Gypsy, I agree with you that explanations can be made brief

...except when there are objections to those explanations.

Your example of sales assumes that the person cannot explain it. !

No. I did not say that. I quoted Ellison's question which was: "If you do NOT write code and are NOT in Sales....." and I said that being unable to answer the question by the end of the elevator ride meant EITHER - the person did not know what they were doing, OR could not explain it.

xSnoofovich
03-11-2011, 12:05
xaxaxaxaxaxaxaxaxaxaxaxaxa




"Why won't it just tell me what it's about?" said Boston resident Charlyne Thomson, who was bombarded with the overwhelming mass of black text late Monday afternoon. "There are no bullet points, no highlighted parts. I've looked everywhere—there's nothing here but words."

SpinaPubica
03-11-2011, 12:18
http://www.theonion.com/articles/nation-shudders-at-large-block-of-uninterrupted-te,16932/

"

If you're curious about the article but too lazy to read it,

SPOILER!!!! 2 min summary with theatrical mimics for 2 beers at Booze Bub (PM me )




.

rusmeister
03-11-2011, 13:33
No. I did not say that. I quoted Ellison's question which was: "If you do NOT write code and are NOT in Sales....." and I said that being unable to answer the question by the end of the elevator ride meant EITHER - the person did not know what they were doing, OR could not explain it.
Fine.
But how does that address the problem of when being brief leaves objections undealt with, and complete thought requires taking the time to tackle the objections?

What people seem to object to is complete thought; of having to deal with the fact that there are not only short explanations, but responses to the objections raised to the short explanations. Specifically, people who reject faith seem to reject the idea that intelligent forms of faith have responses to their (as it turns out) simplistic objections, such as in the 'why churches strive for beauty in worship INSTEAD OF ministering to the poor' which has the response of "AS WELL AS ministering to the poor" - and then the references both to Scripture and Tradition that make sense of this approach. That can't all be fit into a couple of sentences.

I think that unbelief has more sophisticated objections - I need look no further than Bernard Shaw, for instance. But few today seem to rise up even to his level of intellect in unbelief (Jan is a recent example of a person who I think tries to rise up to that, and that's something that I can respect). And this demand that everything be made short and simple completely sidesteps the complexity of the issues.

To sum it up, a demand from the side of unbelief that belief keep its statements short and simple looks like nothing so much as anti-intellectualism selectively applied (which indicates a deck stacked, consciously or unconsciously, from the beginning - but it sure ain't intellectual honesty).

The Onion said it best.

Gypsy
03-11-2011, 13:57
Most of your argument rests on the example of religion. it is impossible to summarise the argument in its favour because there is not a single fact to support it. So obfuscation and verbiage are necessary.

But "that which can be advanced without reason can be dismissed without reason."

rusmeister
03-11-2011, 16:19
Most of your argument rests on the example of religion. it is impossible to summarise the argument in its favour because there is not a single fact to support it. So obfuscation and verbiage are necessary.

But "that which can be advanced without reason can be dismissed without reason."

I have already indicated at the problem of brevity must apply in the natural sciences, and logically in the humanities as well. It is evident that it must apply to history; that facts must be not merely KNOWN, but UNDERSTOOD as well. What is the significance of the battle of Lepanto, and how would history have been different if the battle had gone the other way?

There are hundreds of facts. There are even hundreds of facts in Church history, which I see no evidence that people are familiar with. Where did Protestant Christianity come from? The Catholic Church as distinct from the Orthodox Church? What was the cause of that split? What is the Filioque? How does it affect theology? You don't know how things got that way? Then how can you pretend to understand it?

I agree that we need common ground, and so in general only advance things on the basis of reason. Empirical proof is not possible regarding the supernatural, nor do I make any claims of empirical proof. But reason definitely supports my position. What we appear to actually have is you dismissing without reason things advanced with reason.

mikegulf
03-11-2011, 18:41
Gotta say that personally I don't find an internet blog site the place to discuss such lofty topics as religion, humanity, etc... If I want that then I usually go to a friends home and while away the hours discussing the possibility of life in the universe or try to solve the mysteries of life like why are women the way they are.

I float around this forum looking for witty and relaxingly short discussions that can be read in just a few lines. Rather like small talk among friends or acquaitances. That isn't to say I begrudge anyone their opportunity to write or read pages upon pages of mundane bable, I just skip over them when I run across them and carry on.

rusmeister
03-11-2011, 19:36
Rusmeister- Thanks for proving my point. :rofl:

"Proved" to you, dr.
To me it looks like the aborigine with the big spear laughing at the European pointing the tiny pistol at him.

rusmeister
03-11-2011, 19:40
Gotta say that personally I don't find an internet blog site the place to discuss such lofty topics as religion, humanity, etc... If I want that then I usually go to a friends home and while away the hours discussing the possibility of life in the universe or try to solve the mysteries of life like why are women the way they are.

I float around this forum looking for witty and relaxingly short discussions that can be read in just a few lines. Rather like small talk among friends or acquaitances. That isn't to say I begrudge anyone their opportunity to write or read pages upon pages of mundane bable, I just skip over them when I run across them and carry on.
That's fine. It's the "It takes all types..."

Thus thread is about people who kick what I believe and make claims that can be refuted, I refute them and then they complain a la the Onion article. They demand evidence, and when it is provided, they say it is too long/boring/difficult, and therefore must be nonsense.

If the shoe doesn't fit, don't wear it.

mds45
03-11-2011, 20:19
"Proved" to you, dr.
To me it looks like the aborigine with the big spear laughing at the European pointing the tiny pistol at him.

Ahh the new fact that you have a " tiny pistol" explains so much! Your extended post or making up for your lack of stature .

Vovochka
06-11-2011, 00:19
I was tempted to respond to you sarcastically, but am willing to give anyone a chance or two to see reason.
Thanks for the long answer, but I was just trying to be funny.

moscowmail
06-11-2011, 09:50
Guys, does it really make a difference?

Dr likes to use humour and and degradation to point his views across, and there is nothing wrong with that, Ru likes to write long words and stuff, again, that is fine, he doesn't want people confused regarding his meaning

Let there be love, peace and orgies, all will then be fine