Sunday, July 20, 2008

What's the point?

What is the point that you're trying to make?
It seems that this is the place to start. Without this there is no focus to the work.

A writer said to me: "I want to say all sorts of things, but I have been told I have to show them, not state them." Well, my response is to say that the place to start is still to understand what it is that you believe and what it is that you want to say. If you know that, then you can ask yourself why you believe that, and what evidence you could present to help others see why you believe it.

I speak of belief due to my skeptical heritage: following Hume, I don't believe that we really "know" things--that is know them with certainty. But even so, I think the responsibility of a philosopher--which is what those who aspire to the Ph.D. ought to all be--is to explore ideas with care: the philosopher explores and examines ideas and challenges them; the philosopher does not just accept whatever idea is suggested by others.

If we believe that something exists, then, as philosophers, we want to have reasons for believing; we want to understand why we have chosen that idea over other alternatives. If we believe that something exists: then we should be able to share with others the specific reasons that we believe the idea. And as philosophers, those reasons are usually developed by the "love of wisdom" (the etymological root of "philosophy"): our willingness to examine ideas because we are interested in understanding.

If we know the point we want to make, then we can begin to set up our communication of that point to others.

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