The Dark Side of the Loon. Explaining the Temptations of Obscurantism



After contrasting obscurantism with bullshit, we explore some ways in which obscurantism is typically justified by investigating a notorious test-case: defences of Lacanian psychoanalysis. Obscurantism abuses the reader's natural sense of curiosity and interpretive charity with the promise of deep and profound insights about a designated subject matter that is often vague or elusive. When the attempt to understand what the speaker means requires excessive hermeneutic efforts, interpreters are reluctant to halt their quest for meaning. We diagnose this as a case of psychological loss aversion, in particular, the aversion to acknowledging that there was no hidden meaning after all, or that whatever meaning found was projected onto the text by the reader herself.