Obscurantism  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

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, art, philosophy, or theology) characterized by deliberate vagueness or abstruseness. In this article, obscurantism in the first and second senses are explained in separate sections, below.

The term derives from the title of the 16th-century satire Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum ("Letters of Obscure Men") based upon the real-life dispute between German humanist Johann Reuchlin and Dominican monks such as Johannes Pfefferkorn as to whether all Jewish books should be burned as un-Christian or not. The letters satirized the monks arguments for burning "un-Christian" works, Enlightenment philosophers used the term for conservative, especially religious enemies of progressive Enlightenment and its concept of the liberal spread of knowledge.

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."

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Obscurantism" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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