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Tips for writing philosophical texts

3 Post author: Jan_Rzymkowski 31 August 2014 10:38PM

For about four years I am struggling to write a series of articles presenting few of my ideas. While this "philosophy" (I'd rather avoid being too pompous about it) is still developing, there is a bunch of stuff of which I have a clear image in my mind. It is a framework for model building, with some possible applications for AI developement, paradox resolving, semantics. Not any serious impact, but I do believe it would prove useful.

I tried making notes or plans for articles several times, but every time I was discouraged by those problems:

  • presented concept is too obvious
  • presented concept is superflous
  • presented concept needs more basic ideas to be introduced beforehand

So the core problem is that to show applications of the theory (or generally more interesing results), more basic concepts must be introduced first. Yet presenting the basics seems boring and uninsightful without the application side. This seems to characterise many complex ideas.

Can you provide me with any practical tips as how to tackle this problem?

Comments (16)

Comment author: shminux 01 September 2014 03:38:58AM 9 points [-]

Write a draft of one idea and ask for feedback, here or in PM/email to someone you think can evaluate it. People love giving advice.

Comment author: torekp 01 September 2014 05:33:41PM 1 point [-]

This. What level of knowledge do you want to write for? I'd classify myself as "beginner" on the topics you mention except AI, where I am "less than beginner". I'll volunteer if I'm in the right audience.

Comment author: Jan_Rzymkowski 01 September 2014 08:09:42PM 1 point [-]

I'd say the only requirement is spending some time living on Earth.

Thanks, I'd get to sketching drafts. But it'll take some time.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 01 September 2014 01:08:57AM *  7 points [-]

Motivate the reader upfront with a description of payoff at the end of the trip, and an outline of the path to get there, and why that path is necessary to get to the payoff.

It's simply death for an article to start by introducing a bunch of concepts that the reader knows nothing about and has no idea why they're being presented.

Comment author: TheAncientGeek 01 September 2014 08:22:53PM 5 points [-]

You could point the reader to an existing text explaining the basic ideas, and present your original work as a reaction to, or commentary on, it,

Comment author: ChristianKl 01 September 2014 12:14:18AM 5 points [-]

With philosophy something that might seem too obvious to you might not be obvious to other people. Expressing obvious ideas in a clear manner is very useful.

Comment author: LizzardWizzard 01 September 2014 08:43:53AM 3 points [-]

Explore "The back of the napkin" by Dan Roam - it can prove useful

Comment author: tkadlubo 01 September 2014 02:34:18PM 2 points [-]

Ship it. Get feedback from some readers. Use feedback to improve your ideas and your writing. Repeat.

Comment author: cameroncowan 02 September 2014 07:26:50PM 1 point [-]

The best way to overcome this is to take 50 or so pages and give the reader a basic overview of the background. Limit your discussion to 200-300 years back if that applies. So for example, if I am going to talk about test for existence I will not start at Decartes I will start with Nietzche (less time to transpire). Philosphical texts also tend to be self filtering. The people who would read that sort of thing in most cases have read and therefore already have the necessary knowledge at the hand.

No concept is superflous if you are writing about it, that alone makes it important especially if you are saying something new or adding a new voice to the topic. That goes for being obvious. Often times the most obvious idea is a complete mystery to another person.

For example take the game of The Green Glass Door:

Behind the Green Door there is green, glass, and doors, There are wheels but no bikes, books but no writers, stuffed things, and so on. Get the idea?

When I first hear this game I couldn't make the connection but once he told me what it was it was like it slapped me in the fact and I didn't notice.

GAME SOLUTION: The world of the Green Glass Door only has things with double letters.

Comment author: MrCogmor 31 August 2014 11:05:37PM 1 point [-]

Present the complicated problem and then break it down into understandable parts. Much of philosophy is basic but not widely understood because it is obfuscated by multiple meanings and ends up arguing about definitions such as "What is consciousness?". It is helpful to disambiguate these questions by choosing an objective interpretation and then answering that. For example "What is consciousness?" can be defined as "What makes a creature aware of it's environment?" "What process produces thoughts?" "What process produces sensation"?

Comment author: TheAncientGeek 01 September 2014 08:11:37PM 1 point [-]

Consciousness is subjective, so that approach misses the mark.

Comment author: MrCogmor 02 September 2014 12:30:52AM 1 point [-]

That was my point. Philosophy uses subjective words in order to confuse meanings. Once you translate it into one of it's objective interpretations it becomes simple. A good example is the concept of free will.

Comment author: TheAncientGeek 02 September 2014 09:48:54AM 1 point [-]

No. Consciousness is subjective as a thing. If you disregard a thing essential characteristic, it is you who are confusing yourself,

Comment author: Misovlogos 02 September 2014 01:11:30AM 1 point [-]

What is an 'objective interpretation' of a concept?

Comment author: TheAncientGeek 02 September 2014 09:50:24AM *  1 point [-]

A Procrustean bed.

Comment author: Transfuturist 02 September 2014 09:03:44AM 1 point [-]

"Concept" here is being used to mean a contestable term, and "objective interpretation" is presumably an operational definition obtained from one of the many possible interpretations of the contestable term.