When you ask which passage is more eloquent, you’re using “eloquent” as a synonym for an honorific sense of “concise” or “simple.” You’re just asking which is better as a result of its being simpler and more concise. You can use words however you like in a technical way, but in this case you’d just be making a mess. English already has those other words, “brevity,” “concision,” “simplicity,” and so on. There’s no need to reduce “eloquence” to those other words. Stop picking on “eloquence.” What did that word ever do to you?

I agree with you about the defects of academic writing. (I did a Ph.D. in philosophy, so I also experienced it firsthand.) However, your contention that academics “profit” from those defects is preposterous. Hardly anyone reads the academic journals, so where’s the profit in writing such turgid prose? Many academics these days have unstable jobs because big corporations are taking over the universities and colleges and are inclined to run the academy like Walmart or Amazon (with wage slaves). In the humanities, at least, there’s stiff competition from the internet. Few academics get tenure anymore, and tenure isn’t what it used to be. Many classes in the humanities are taught by struggling TAs and by overworked, underpaid adjunct professors. So again, where’s the profit in being an academic or in writing like one?

No, the reasons for academic writing include the following two, plus a third I’ll come to in a moment. In the arts or humanities, they write like that out of science-envy (they use jargon to seem hyper-precise and rigorous), and they do so out of defensiveness, meaning they intimidate average folks so only fellow sucked-in academics will judge the merits of their work. Average folks might be inclined to dismiss the obstruse, pretentious prose as obfuscating BS.

To the extent, then, that academics are hiding behind overly complicated jargon, they may lack integrity, and simple, plain writing might indeed be more honest, as you suggest. But that’s a red herring. The reason simple (not eloquent) prose is popular on the internet isn’t because it’s more honest. It’s because the internet is a democratic environment, which lowers the standards for entry. To take an analogy, the movies that sell the most tickets aren’t the most meritorious according to movie experts. No, the broader the appeal, the dumber, more innocuous the product must be to compete. The individuals’ tastes cancel out to form the mob’s bestial demand.

So “simplicity” is encouraged on democratic media to reassure the mob that writing doesn’t require hard work and deep thought. Technically, anyone can publish their work on the internet if they have access to a computer; therefore, everyone deserves to publish their work. That’s the non sequitur that must be hidden by articles like yours, which confuses eloquence with simplicity to make average writers feel like their simplicity (i.e. their superficiality, low vocabulary, and illogical, conversational tone) is really the prize of eloquence.

You say it’s good to get to the point. Sure, it can be tedious to wade through digressions and ostentatious verbal displays. And I agree that the internet and social media are hardly opposed to eloquence in the sense of emotional intensity. On the contrary, conflict sells, so publishers encourage inflammatory headlines, exposes of hot-button issues, and so forth to keep viewers’ attention. But this is missing the forest for the trees.

Eloquence as sheer emotional intensity is just demagoguery. What would be ideal is emotion in the service of reason. We should be persuaded to agree with what’s true, not just with what feels right. So the problem with simplicity, brevity, and the internet’s tendency to inflame and to degrade discourse is that these media don’t encourage serious thinking. You’re swimming upstream if you’re trying to talk about serious matters in a serious way on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or even Medium, just as independent, visionary movies aren’t likely to sell as well as brainless blockbusters.

This brings me to the third reason for academic obfuscation: it’s a nobler kind of defensiveness since the jargon and intimidating complexity can protect the public from the antisocial implications of a higher education and of rational investigations in general. The hyper-partisanship, stream-of-thought bluster, and vapid, uninformed editorials that are commonplace on the internet because of its low bar for entry result in so many distractions from the philosophical enterprise.

The question is which side we should take. You can tell it like it is, regardless of whom it offends (Leo Strauss was appalled by that "modern foolishness”), or you can make excuses for the preference for exoteric superficialities, such as for the substitution of self-help’s crypto-consumerist flattery for philosophy or authentic religion.

I didn’t say you should be ashamed of marketing. I said it makes for a conflict of interest. We all have those conflicts, one way or another. To write on Medium, I’ve had to dumb-down my trains-of-thought by writing in itsy-bitsy baby paragraphs to avoid intimidating the readers who would rather be watching cute cat videos or getting back to work in their tech startups.

Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

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