The Difficulty of Obviousness

A reader was kind enough to draw my attention to this wonderful quotation from Ludwig Wittgenstein:

What makes a subject difficult to understand – if it is significant, important – is not that some special instruction about abstruse things is necessary to understand it. Rather it is the contrast between the understanding of the subject and what most people want to see. Because of this the very things that are most obvious can become the most difficult to understand. What has to be overcome is not a difficulty of the intellect, but of the will. [Section 86, pg. 405 of the "Big Typescript," von Wright catalogue number 213]

Perhaps this explains why no one can understand the simple sentence, “The financial failure of a few orchestras does not equal the death of classical music.” Perhaps this is why the people who were pointing out two years ago that the Iraq War would be a moral and political disaster couldn’t be heard.

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