What does it mean to be a Philosopher and a Friend?
Quick response: oversimplifying isn't telling the truth. Oversimplifying is lying by omission. Telling the simple truth becomes challenging when dealing with a child or someone who has very limited knowledge of the subject. To tell the whole truth with all the qualifications and disclaimers just wouldn't work. For example, a small child is taught not to steal. We don't put in the qualification, unless you are stealing a loaf of bread in order to feed your starving family. Such a qualification would only confuse a very young child.
Being clear and simple is a both a matter of the audience (as Richard suggests), but also the subject. Some subjects are complex, and the truth lies in their complexity. I've seen people (even during monthly meeting for business) make things more complicated than they need to be; at the same time, a lot of the things that seem small and perhaps picky are important. [A friend of mine who is a psychologist (but not a Quaker) notes that "black and white thinking" isn't just an informal fallacy, but also sometimes a diagnostic critera.]
"Plain-speaking" is a matter of truthfulness, and "simplicity" is a question of life-style. If we conflate truth with simplicity, perhaps we are making a category mistake, since truth is not always simple. I might even venture to guess that the simplest way to live is also not always the truest. I know these words are elastic (and should be), and my distinction here is forced and probably not sustainable (I would not stand by it), but I'm trying to get at something here that strikes me as important, namely, that the conflation of "plain" and "simple" might itself be an oversimplification.
In our Yearly Meeting the Monthly Meetings are asked to consider and give corporate answers to the queries. This leads to a lot of discussion of the various Quaker testimonies and one thing that emerges over and over is an appreciation for how the various testimonies connect up with each other. Lloyd Lee Wilson writes about Quakerism as a gestalt--how all the parts fit together into an organic whole and how the parts don't really work taken seperately. This is a somewhat long-winded introduction to my saying that I think that the testimonies of simplicity and truth are closely related. Quaker emphasis on simplicity of speech--avoiding rhetorical flourishes--serves the interests of truthfulness and truthfulness leads to greater simplicity of speech.Of course some situations are complex and oversimplifying in those cases is a kind of lying. But the two distinct norms of simplicity of speach and truthfulness of speech on the whole reinforce each other.
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