The language of
Radical Orthodoxy
by Tony Copple

A common criticism of Radical Orthodoxy is that those who write about it do so in complex language. I would comment that if you were to ask a scientist for a dissertation on water you would get complex language. Everything in the intellectual world starts with complex language and is then interpreted by popularisers. This does not invalidate the original thoughts. Bright people think complex thoughts.

I am reminded of Jonathan Miller who first came to notice as a member of the cast of Beyond the Fringe in the 60's. Frequently interviewed on his many areas of expertise, it was an exercise in concentration to follow his prose. His mind just worked faster than our ears, and was able to construct language on the fly worthy of a Henry James. One assumes Shakespeare had the same gift. The fact that such skills are largely lost to today's generation brought up on comics and newspapers written for an audience of a mental age of 13 is nothing to be proud of.

I see natural human capabilities on a continuum like a ladder stretching to the sky, with most of us on a low rung on that ladder. To climb, I certainly need more knowledge and to work smarter and delegate more. But also I would have to improve my emotional competance, and increase my speed of thought, which may not be possible to do. Most of us have experienced methods of slowing down thinking speed (alcohol, fatty food), but our performance on a good day is something we may each be given at conception.

Let us thank God however for those to whom he has seen fit to give the level of brainpower necessary to develop thought. How petty it is then to upbraid them for speaking in a wider vocabulary than is customary in a texting society. Language is a basic tool of philosophy, and it is our privilege every so often to hear or read the language of bright people.

Sept 2007

Radical Orthodoxy