Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Writing and Knowing

The essence of academic writing is the communication of the results of inquiry to people who know something about the subject. Writing ceases to be "academic" according to how little the reader is presumed to know. A text book, for example, is not, properly speaking, a piece of academic writing. Nor, of course, is a popular book.

"The popular scientific books by our scientists," wrote Wittgenstein, "aren't the outcome of hard work, but are written when they are resting on their laurels" (CV, p. 42). And they earn those laurels, i.e., their credentials, by the hard work they present in journal articles. It is hard work to explain something new to someone who knows a great deal about it in advance.

1 comment:

Mariana Soffer said...

Interesting blog. I like your comments about academia, like the things you say here about where is the real effort needed from the academic person, and how this differs from what he is generally acknowledge for.