Thursday, August 02, 2018


I wrote this as a facebook post a few days ago.

I am facing a familiar tension between writing for philosophers and writing for real people.

I have long had this image of a room, high atop a tower, with a long rough-hewn, old, and stained conference table and 10 chairs. There are 10 philosophers in discussion - some standing, some sitting. The walls of the round room are made of bare stone, with light coming through a windowless opening.

One philosopher writes an entry at the end of a thick book, sets down his quill, and announces, “It is done. We were thus agreed. Herein, we have written all of the truths of morality.”

I (a servant and eager student) then invite one to the window and point out to the lands below - lands filled with war and injustice, lies, thefts, and murders. A land of exploitation and abuse. I tell the assembled philosophers, “Teach them.”

To this, he responds, “Oh, no. This is far too complex for them to understand. We are, after all, great scholars, filled with knowledge and wisdom they cannot possibly comprehend.”

At which point, I say, “Then, it seems to me that you have failed.”

At which point they kick me out of the room.

Indeed, as I work on my paper on desires I am experiencing both of these pressures. I wish to create a document that the general audience that reads my work can get something useful out of. Yet, I find it to be full of technical jargon and details that I fear they would not be interested in. Yet, when I consider the document as being written for philosophers, it does not have enough of the academic flavor that I suspect that such an audience would want.

Of the two, I do find the task of writing for a general audience to be the more valuable. Unfortunately, a general audience offers no degrees or certifications.

And, just to be clear, this "general audience" is not, itself, a general audience. It is a more-educated-then-average-audience that wants to know more about a subject that it does not have the time or inclination to study in strict academic detail. And it is an important subject to know about . . . morality . . . the doing of right and wrong, good and evil.

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