recondite; abstruse; esoteric

suspection111

New Member
Chinese
Hello. I find these three words, recondite, abstruse, and esoteric in Geroge Steiner's After Babel--Aspects of Language and Translation.

In my opinion, they all roughly mean the same thing, i.e. 'difficult to understand', but is there any nuances of connotation in them? For example, esoteric seems to remind me of something that is mysterious. But I'm not sure if I'm right.

So could anyone help expound on the nuances of meaning in them, if they ever have?
 
  • velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I think the first two might be used more often in a deprecatory way; difficult to understand, and unappealing. "Esoteric" can be used in a more positive way, I think because many people are interested in esoteric beliefs. Hence your perception of "esoteric" as something mysterious but appealing.

    It would be interesting if you posted the context in which Steiner used each of these words.
     

    suspection111

    New Member
    Chinese
    Thanks, velisarius. I'll list some of the sentences written by Steiner.

    1. (p.52) ...Indeed, if we lived inside one common language-skin, any other situation would appear very odd. It would have the status of a recondite fantasy, like the anaerobic or anti-gravitational creatures in science-fiction. But there is also another 'natural' model...

    2. (p.150)...Even today, there is a moving quality in the taut finesse, in the commitment to abstruse and transcendental worry, which animates these analytic texts...
    (p.221)...This notion and its treatment are technically abstruse but not I think, irrelevent to an understanding of questions of polysemy and ambiguity as they occur in translation...

    3. (p.191)...The secrecy of the text stems from no esoteric knowledge, from no abstruseness of supporting philosophic argument. By themselves the words are nakedly simple...

    QUOTE=velisarius;13501550]I think the first two might be used more often in a deprecatory way; difficult to understand, and unappealing. "Esoteric" can be used in a more positive way, I think because many people are interested in esoteric beliefs. Hence your perception of "esoteric" as something mysterious but appealing.

    It would be interesting if you posted the context in which Steiner used each of these words.[/QUOTE]
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    It seems to me that "abstruse" and "recondite" have roughly the same meaning of "obscure". "Recondite" fantasy meaning a fantasy "difficult to imagine". "Esoteric" is "understood by or meant for initiates". It has more the meaning of "secret" and "for the chosen few".
     
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