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Writing philosophy

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• Is the world eternal? YES
• Do humans have contra-causal free will (i.e., can humans do otherwise)? NO
• Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? YES
• Do humans have souls? YES
• Are there natural rights? YES
• Is it morally permissible to eat meat? NO
• Is the unexamined life worth living? NO
• Is truth subjectivity? YES
• Is virtue necessary for happiness? YES
• Can a computer have a mind? YES
• Can humans know reality as it is in itself? YES
• Is hell other people? YES
• Can art be created accidentally? NO
• Can we change the past? NO
• Are numbers real? NO
• Is it always better to know the truth? YES

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We’re at the point of the term when papers are coming due, so it’s good to remind ourselves what makes for good philosophical writing. Recently I saw a nice aphorism (attributed to Timothy Williamson) that is relevant here: “To be precise is to make it as easy as possible for others to prove one wrong.” It’s really tempting to let one’s writing get slushy in the hope of currying the reader’s favor. But our task as philosophers is to get things exactly right, in as clear a way as possible, IN THE HOPE THAT someone will point out exactly where we have gotten things wrong. We won’t learn anything if others can’t point out our mistakes. And we do ourselves a disfavor when we write in such a way as to make this less likely to happen.



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