Obscurantism (from the Latin obscurans, "darkening") is the practice of deliberately preventing the facts or full details of something from becoming known. There are two common senses of this: (1) opposition to the spread of knowledge—a policy of withholding knowledge from the general public; and (2) a style (as in literature or art) characterized by deliberate vagueness or abstruseness. 
In this article, obscurantism in the first and second senses are explained in the following two separate sections, respectively.
Friedrich Nietzsche distinguishes the obscurantism of metaphysics and theology from the "more subtle" obscurantism of Kant's critical philosophy and modern philosophical skepticism, claiming that obscurantism is that which obscures existence: "The essential element in the black art of obscurantism is not that it wants to darken individual understanding but that it wants to blacken our picture of the world, and darken our idea of existence. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (October 15 1844 August 25 1900 ( was a nineteenth-century German philosopher and classical philologist Metaphysics is the branch of Philosophy investigating principles of reality transcending those of any particular science Theology is the study of a god or the gods from a religious perspective Immanuel Kant (ɪmanuəl kant 22 April 1724 12 February 1804 was an 18th-century German Philosopher from the Prussian city of Königsberg Attributed to Immanuel Kant, the critical philosophy movement sees the primary task of Philosophy as Criticism rather than justification of knowledge criticism For a general discussion of skepticism see Skepticism. Philosophical skepticism (from Greek σκέψις - skepsis meaning "
The first and older sense of the term 'obscurantism' refers to practices that favor limits on the extension and dissemination of knowledge. It can be seen Plato’s “noble lie. Biography Early life Birth and family Plato was born in Athens Greece ” This is the lie that the ruler, (Plato’s philosopher king), would transmit to the people for their own good. Philosopher kings are the hypothetical rulers or Guardians of Plato 's Utopian Kallipolis. The notion that rulers or leaders know what is best for the people can be found in all forms of totalitarianism; as Bergen Evans warned, “obscurantism and tyranny go together. Totalitarianism (or totalitarian rule) is a concept used to describe Political systems where a State regulates nearly every aspect of public and private Bergen Baldwin Evans (September 19 1904 – February 4 1978 was an American Lexicographer, a Rhodes Scholar, a Harvard graduate and a "
Obscurantism in this sense is both anti-intellectual and elitist, as well as fundamentally anti-democratic, as it considers the people unworthy of truth. Anti-intellectualism describes a sentiment of hostility towards or mistrust of Intellectuals and Intellectual pursuits Elitism is the belief or attitude that those individuals who are considered members of the Elite &mdash a select group of people with outstanding personal abilities intellect Democracy is a form of government in which the supreme power is held completely by the people under a free electoral system The Marquis de Condorcet wrote extensively on the phenomenon during the period of the French Revolution, when obscurantism was widespread among the aristocracy. The French Revolution (1789–1799 was a period of political and social upheaval in the History of France, during which the French governmental structure previously an Later, William Kingdon Clifford, an early proponent of Darwinism, devoted some writings to rooting out obscurantism in England after hearing clerics who privately agreed with him publicly denounce evolution. William Kingdon Clifford FRS ( May 4, 1845 &ndash March 3, 1879) was an English Mathematician and Darwinism is a term used for various different movements or concepts related to a greater or lesser extent to Charles Darwin 's work on Evolution.
Though often associated with religious fundamentalism, obscurantism is a distinct strain of thought: Fundamentalism presupposes a sincere belief in religion, while obscurantism rests on the deliberate manipulation of faith by an enlightened few. Fundamentalism refers to a "deep and totalistic commitment" to a belief in and strict adherence to a set of basic principles (often Religious in nature a reaction 
Obscurantists may be atheists or agnostics themselves, but believe that some form of religion or superstition among the masses is necessary for a stable society, and thus seek to limit to a select few the awareness of evidence that counters common belief. Atheism Agnosticism ( Greek: α- a-, without + γνώσις gnōsis, knowledge after Gnosticism) is the philosophical view that the The term is used in this sense by modern-day skeptics, such as H.L. Mencken, in their critiques of religion, and by reformers within religious movements who are also pro-science. In ordinary usage skepticism or scepticism ( Greek 'σκέπτομαι' skeptomai, to look about to consider see also spelling differences 
One powerful source of supposed obscurantism is found in Plato's Republic, where he advocated the use of the "Noble Lie," the lie that the philosopher king finds necessary to guide society. Philosopher kings are the hypothetical rulers or Guardians of Plato 's Utopian Kallipolis. This notion is said to have been adopted by Leo Strauss and his Neo-conservative adherents. Leo Strauss (September 20 1899 &ndash October 18 1973 was a German -born Jewish-American political philosopher who specialized in the study of classical Neoconservatism (or Neocon is a Right-wing political philosophy that emerged in the United States from the rejection of the Social liberalism, Moral relativism 
Plato is also seen as a source for Neo-Platonism, Christian mysticism, negative theology, and the hermetic tradition, which have adopted linguistic and logical strategies that attempt to indirectly speak about the ineffable. To say that something is " ineffable " means that it cannot or should not be expressed in spoken words (as with the concept of true love or some Taboo) Such tendencies are seen as obscurantist by various critics.
Aristotle's ethics, because of its technical language and its being aimed at a cultured elite, has been accused of being a form of ethical obscurantism in recent discussions of virtue ethics. Virtue theory is a branch of Moral philosophy that emphasizes character rather than rules or consequences as the key element of ethical thinking 
The philosopher Leo Strauss has also been criticized for presenting a related notion of "esoteric" meanings in ancient texts that are not meant to be accessible to the "ordinary" reader or citizen. Leo Strauss (September 20 1899 &ndash October 18 1973 was a German -born Jewish-American political philosopher who specialized in the study of classical
In 2000 Bill Joy published the paper Why the Future Doesn't Need Us in which he argued (quoting the subtitle): "Our most powerful 21st-century technologies — robotics, genetic engineering, and nanotech — are threatening to make humans an endangered species. William Nelson Joy (born Nov 8, 1954) commonly known as Bill Joy, is an American Computer scientist. "Why the future doesn't need us" is an article written by Bill Joy, Chief Scientist at Sun Microsystems. " His proposal to limit certain knowledge for the sake of preserving society was quickly compared to obscurantism.
In the 19th and 20th centuries "obscurantism" became a polemical term accusing authors of writing in a deliberately vague and abstruse style in order to hide their vacuousness: the writer's ignorance is obscured. Philosophers who are not empiricists or positivists are often accused of such obscurantism. For various philosophical reasons, these authors may modify or reject verifiability, falsifiability, or logical non-contradiction. From this point of view, writing which appears clouded, vague, or abstruse is not necessarily a sign of a poor grasp of the subject matter. Unintelligible writing is sometimes purposeful and philosophically considered. 
Some critics associate obscurantism with the philosophy of G. W. F. Hegel and those influenced by his writings, especially Karl Marx. Analytic and positivistic philosophers such as A. J. Ayer, Bertrand Russell and Karl Popper have accused Hegel and Hegelianism of obscurantism. Analytic philosophy (sometimes analytical philosophy) is a generic term for a style of Philosophy that came to dominate English-speaking countries in the 20th century Logical positivism (later and more accurately called logical empiricism) is a school of philosophy that combines Empiricism, the idea that observational evidence is Sir Alfred Jules ("Freddie" Ayer ( October 29, 1910 &ndash June 27, 1989) better known as A Bertrand Arthur William Russell 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970 was a British Philosopher, Historian Sir Karl Raimund Popper ( July 28 1902  &ndash September 17 1994) was an Austrian and British Philosopher and a professor Hegelianism is a Philosophy developed by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel which can be summed up by Hegel's "the Rational alone is real" which means Arthur Schopenhauer wrote that Hegel's philosophy is: " . . . a colossal piece of mystification which will yet provide posterity with an inexhaustible theme for laughter at our times, that it is a pseudo-philosophy paralyzing all mental powers, stifling all real thinking, and, by the most outrageous misuse of language, putting in its place the hollowest, most senseless, thoughtless, and, as is confirmed by its success, most stupefying verbiage. . . "
Despite such criticisms, Terry Pinkard notes "Hegel has refused to go away even in analytic philosophy itself" Hegel was aware of his 'obscurantism' and saw it as part of philosophical thinking to accept the limitations of everyday thought and concepts and try to go beyond them. Hegel wrote in his essay "Who Thinks Abstractly?" that it is not the philosopher who thinks abstractly but the person on the street, who uses concepts as fixed, unchangeable givens, without any context. Given may refer to the goalkeeper Shay Given or to Given West Virginia, a community in the United States. It is the philosopher who thinks concretely, because he goes beyond the limits of everyday concepts to understand their broader context. The term "concept" is traced back to 1554–60 ( l conceptum - something conceived but what is today termed "the classical theory of concepts" is the theory of Aristotle This makes philosophical thought and language seem mysterious or obscure to the person on the street.
Karl Marx, and philosophers he influenced, have criticized German and French philosophy, especially German Idealism, seeing a tradition of German irrationalism, and an ideologically motivated obscurantism. German idealism was a philosophical movement in Germany in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries  Marx and Marxism have been criticized in turn for obscurantism by generally positivistic methodological individualists such as Karl Popper and Friedrich Hayek, who reject the reality of or appeal to collective entities such as class. Positivism is the Philosophy that the only authentic knowledge is knowledge that is based on actual sense experience Sir Karl Raimund Popper ( July 28 1902  &ndash September 17 1994) was an Austrian and British Philosopher and a professor Friedrich August von Hayek CH ( May 8, 1899 March 23, 1992) was an Austrian British Economist 
Ludwig Wittgenstein has been criticized for his position on the limits of language, and his abandonment of empirical explanation for linguistic description in his later works. Friedrich Waismann accused Wittgenstein of "complete obscurantism" because of this apparent betrayal of empirical inquiry. Friedrich Waismann ( March 21, 1896 - November 4, 1959) was an Austrian mathematician physicist and philosopher  This criticism has been further developed by Ernest Gellner. Ernest André Gellner ( 9 December 1925 &ndash 5 November 1995) was a Philosopher and social anthropologist, cited as one  Frank Cioffi discusses the various senses of obscurantism in Wittgenstein, which he designates as 'limits obscurantism', 'method obscurantism', and 'sensibility obscurantism. ' 
Martin Heidegger and some of those influenced by him (e. Martin Heidegger ( September 26, 1889 &ndash May 26, 1976) (ˈmaɐ̯tiːn ˈhaɪ̯dɛgɐ was an influential German philosopher g. Jacques Derrida) have been labeled obscurantists by critics from analytical philosophy and the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory. Analytic philosophy (sometimes analytical philosophy) is a generic term for a style of Philosophy that came to dominate English-speaking countries in the 20th century The Frankfurt School is a school of neo-Marxist Critical theory, Social research, and Philosophy.
Bertrand Russell wrote of Heidegger, "his philosophy is extremely obscure. Bertrand Arthur William Russell 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970 was a British Philosopher, Historian One cannot help suspecting that language is here running riot. An interesting point in his speculations is the insistence that nothingness is something positive. As with much else in Existentialism, this is a psychological observation made to pass for logic. " That is Russell's complete entry on Heidegger, and it expresses the sentiments of many 20th-century Analytic philosophers concerning Heidegger. Analytic philosophy (sometimes analytical philosophy) is a generic term for a style of Philosophy that came to dominate English-speaking countries in the 20th century 
René Thom and W. V. Quine have called Derrida's work "pseudophilosophy" and "sophistry. René Thom ( September 2, 1923 – October 25, 2002) was a French Mathematician. Willard Van Orman Quine (June 25 1908 Akron, Ohio &ndash December 25 2000 (known to intimates as "Van" " John Searle exemplified this view in his comments on deconstruction in the New York Review of Books: ". John Rogers Searle (born July 31 1932 in Denver Colorado) is an American Philosopher and the Slusser Professor of Philosophy at the University . . anyone who reads deconstructive texts with an open mind is likely to be struck by the same phenomena that initially surprised me: the low level of philosophical argumentation, the deliberate obscurantism of the prose, the wildly exaggerated claims, and the constant striving to give the appearance of profundity by making claims that seem paradoxical, but under analysis often turn out to be silly or trivial. "
Controversy surrounds Derrida's work, particularly among Anglo-American academics. The University of Cambridge awarded him an honorary doctorate, despite opposition from members of its philosophy faculty. Eighteen professors from other institutions signed a letter of protest saying Derrida's work "does not meet accepted standards of clarity and rigor. " Signatories included Hugh Mellor, W. V. Quine, David Armstrong, Ruth Barcan Marcus, and René Thom. David Hugh Mellor (known as Hugh Mellor) is an English Philosopher. Willard Van Orman Quine (June 25 1908 Akron, Ohio &ndash December 25 2000 (known to intimates as "Van" David Armstrong may refer to David Armstrong (English footballer (b Ruth Barcan Marcus (born 1921 in Bronx New York) is the American Philosopher and Logician after whom René Thom ( September 2, 1923 – October 25, 2002) was a French Mathematician. They described Derrida's philosophy as being composed of "tricks and gimmicks similar to those of the Dadaists. " The letter also said "Academic status based on what seems to us to be little more than semi-intelligible attacks upon the values of reason, truth, and scholarship is not, we submit, sufficient grounds for the awarding of an honorary degree in a distinguished university. "
Noam Chomsky has written that Derrida uses "pretentious rhetoric" to obscure the simplicity of his ideas. Avram Noam Chomsky (noʊm ˈtʃɑmski born December 7 1928 is an American linguist, Philosopher, cognitive scientist, Political He groups Derrida within a broader category of the Parisian intellectual community which he has criticized for acting as an elite power structure for the well educated through "difficult writing. " Chomsky admits he may simply be incapable of understanding Derrida, but is suspicious of this possibility. Chomsky's opposition to Derrida could reflect opposition to Derrida's linguistic and semiotic theories, and opposition to the greater part of modern French thought, and could be seen as an example of broader tension between analytic and Continental philosophy. 
Critical obituaries of Derrida were published in The New York Times and The Economist, both of which argued that Derrida was guilty of purposeful obscurantism. The Economist is an English-language weekly news and International affairs publication owned by The Economist Newspaper Ltd and edited in London
In Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, Richard Rorty argues without irony that Derrida in The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond purposefully uses words that cannot be defined (e. Contingency Irony and Solidarity (1989 written by American Philosopher Richard Rorty, is based on two sets of lectures given at Richard McKay Rorty (October 4 1931 - June 8 2007 was an American Philosopher. g. Différance), and uses previously definable words in contexts diverse enough to make understanding impossible, so that the reader will never be able to contextualize his literary self. Différance is a French Neologism coined by Jacques Derrida and homophonous with the word "différence" Rorty says that this way Derrida escapes metaphysical accounts of his work. Since his work itself ostensibly contains no metaphysics, Derrida has consequently escaped metaphysics altogether. 
At least one intellectual, Jacques Lacan, defended obscurantism, at least to some degree. Jacques-Marie-Émile Lacan (French ʒak lakɑ̃ ( April 13, 1901 &ndash September 9, 1981) was a French Psychoanalyst When students complained that he intentionally made his lectures difficult to understand, Lacan replied: "The less you understand, the better you listen. " In Encore — Lacan's Seminar from 1973 — he remarks that his Écrits were not to be understood, but would produce a meaning effect in the reader similar to some mystical texts. This is not because of Lacan's obscure prose style, but partly a result of his repeated Hegelian allusions derived from Kojève's lectures on Hegel, and similar theoretical divergences. Alexandre Kojève (Russian Александр Владимирович Кожевников Aleksandr Vladimirovič Koževnikov; April 28 1902 &ndash
The Sokal Affair was a hoax by physicist Alan Sokal perpetrated on the editorial staff and readership of a then-non-peer-reviewed postmodern journal of cultural studies Social Text. The Sokal affair (also Sokal's hoax) was a Hoax by physicist Alan Sokal perpetrated on the editorial staff and readership of the Postmodern A hoax is a deliberate attempt to Dupe, Deceive or trick an audience into believing or accepting that something is real when in fact it is not or that Physics (Greek Physis - φύσις in everyday terms is the Science of Matter and its motion. Alan David Sokal (born 1955) is a professor of Physics and faculty member of the physics department at New York University. Social Text is a postmodernist Cultural studies Journal published by Duke University Press. In 1996 Sokal submitted a pseudoscientific paper for publication in Social Text, as an experiment to see if a journal in that field would, in Sokal's words: "publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors' ideological preconceptions. Year 1996 ( MCMXCVI) was a Leap year starting on Monday (link will display full 1996 Gregorian calendar) Pseudoscience is defined as a body of knowledge methodology belief or practice that is claimed to be Scientific or made to appear scientific but does not adhere to the "
The paper, Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity, was published in the Spring/Summer 1996 issue of Social Text. On the day of its publication, Sokal announced in another publication, Lingua Franca, that the article was written as a parody, "to test the prevailing intellectual standards. Lingua Franca was an American magazine about intellectual and literary life in Academia. " Sokal's paper has been described as "a pastiche of left-wing cant, fawning references, grandiose quotations, and outright nonsense centered on the claim that physical reality is merely a social construct. The word pastiche describes a literary or other artistic Genre. Cant is an example of an Argot or cryptolect a characteristic or secret language used only by members of a group often used to conceal the meaning from those outside the group "
Sokal makes it clear that he created this hoax as a statement against what he perceived as an increasing tendency towards obscurantism in the social sciences:
Friedrich von Hayek uses the term somewhat differently, to describe the denial of the truth of scientific theories on the basis of disagreeable moral consequences, in his essay "Why I Am Not a Conservative. Friedrich August von Hayek CH ( May 8, 1899 March 23, 1992) was an Austrian British Economist " This use of the term is similar in meaning to the appeal to consequences fallacy. Appeal to consequences, also known as argumentum ad consequentiam ( Latin: argument to the consequences) is an Argument that concludes a