Elegant variation.

Reading the introduction to this essay I’ve just started, I realise how boring John Broome has made my style become:

Aristotle argues that virtues are reliable dispositions of character to choose acts for their own sake which are constitutive of well-being. He claims that justice, courage and wit are virtues.

Hume argues that virtues are reliable dispositions of character to act in ways that enhance well-being. He also claims that justice, courage and wit are virtues. But unlike Aristotle, Hume further claims that cheeriness, politeness and cleanliness are virtues.

Neither Hume nor Aristotle claim that creativity is a virtue. This paper will argue that given their theories of virtues, both should have done.

But entertainment isn’t the aim in philosophy. Clarity is. Broome has strongly urged me to avoid “elegant variation”, explained by Henry Watson Fowler as follows:

It is the second-rate writers, those intent rather on expressing themselves prettily than on conveying their meaning clearly, & still more those whose notions of style are based on a few misleading rules of thumb, that are chiefly open to the allurements of elegant variation. . . . The fatal influence . . . is the advice given to young writers never to use the same word twice in a sentence — or within 20 lines or other limit.

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2 thoughts on “Elegant variation.

  1. It very much depends on what he and you mean by philosophy — if it follows the tradition of B. Russell, the job of the philosopher is to communicate in perfectly scientific prose, but if in the tradition of a Nietzsche, singing may be more truthful than prose (see ‘Attempt at Self-Criticism’).

    The question is, really, what questions matter. Are they the questions of the academy as discourse permits or can pursuits be broader, and even art?

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