Two of Them

So there (see below) are two of my operating assumptions. That many words important for our understanding and conversation are not transparent, not self-evident – indeed are worse than that, are apparently self-evident and straightforward but in fact not. Thus we have a false sense of security when we use them, we take them for granted and at face value, and assume that everyone understands them exactly as we do. But such is not the case. My second operating assumption is that this matters, it’s a problem, it causes problems, and should never be lost sight of.

Elitism is one of those words. I have a running argument with a friend, who is forever telling me that I’m an elitist and he’s not. But he’s quite, quite wrong. He’s thoroughly confused, and as far as I can tell his confusion stems from my failure to admire the writing of Stephen King. But I take that to be a very odd definition of elitism.

This musing is relevant to Butterflies and Wheels because conflicting ideas about elitism are central to a lot of Fashionable Nonsense. There are people for instance who like to accuse scientists, all scientists, scientists by definition, of elitism, and they like to do it in pointlessly clotted arcane jargon that seems to serve no other purpose than exclusion of outsiders. Who exactly is the elitist? It all depends how you define the word…

Comments are closed.