Different genres of writing have different advantages relative to each other. Another way of saying this is that every genre of writing is inherently constricting. There is nothing wrong with this. In order for one kind of writing to be this kind rather than that, it must conform to certain norms regarding style, length, and even content whereby it is distinguished from other genres. Concomitantly, this means that certain matters may be more apt for certain genres of writing than others. For instance, citation-heavy work finds a better home in an academic article than a news column, even when it is treating some subject matter common to both media.
Today, the primary genre for philosophical writing is the journal article. Characteristic features of the article include its length (usually no more than 5000-7000 words), its breadth (relatively small – an article, characteristically, attempts to answer some small, manageable question that gets incorporated into a body of knowledge often oriented by some larger question or questions), and its need to be dialectically engaged with relevant and recent literature on the topic the article purports to treat.
It should be obvious that different genres lie relatively close or far from different dangers. The essay style dominant through early modernity, for instance, could easily lead to non-rigorous, superficial treatments of meaningful topics. And no one can seriously doubt that the concentration of philosophy in the form of the journal article has given inordinate attention to micro-problems (and occasionally even to pseudo-problems); that the proliferation of secondary literature on has obfuscated some topics more than it has clarified them; that length requirements have muzzled attempts to answer larger questions. If the philosophical canon consisted solely in the kind of philosophy written today, Plato’s Dialogues would be too aloof, Kant’s Critiques would be too long, Nietzsche’s aphorisms would be too baseless, and Rousseau’s essays would be too rhetorically bloated. Perhaps the only body of work that would remain intact would be the scholastic literature stretching from the 13th to the 17th century.
The posts of this page are just that – posts. This means, obviously, that they are not journal articles (you may access my articles on the my papers page of this site). Part of my aim in publishing them here has been to give voice to certain ways of doing philosophy that are very difficult, if not impossible, to do within the medium of the journal article. If what you see here is less polished than what you will find in an article, it is often more raw. If it is less connected to the literature, it is often more accessible to those who have no need for a literature. If its questions are occasionally too wide, no one will doubt that those questions are genuinely philosophical ones. My style will often rely more on personal experience and pithy observations than would be justified in a journal format. But this is just to recognize that such things have a place in philosophy, while still ceding to the article its place.
Lastly, many of the questions encountered in one way or another in these posts seek to shed light on the meta-theoretical structures governing the practice of philosophy today. What exactly, for instance, is referred to by the phrase “the literature”? What do the use of citation networks suggest about the way philosophical research is evaluated? What does it mean to characterize philosophy as a kind of “research” in the first place? For obvious reasons, these kinds of questions have no real place within the traditional media of the contemporary philosophical landscape.
That having been said, I hope that you enjoy what you find here. More importantly, I hope that it spurs you on to pay love and heed to that wisdom, forgetful though we are of it, in whose service we have been enlisted.