Thursday, October 19, 2017

Practical and Impractical Advice for Philosophers Writing Fiction

Hugh D. Reynolds has written up a fun, vivid summary of my talk at Oxford Brookes last spring, on fiction writing for philosophers!


Eric Schwitzgebel has a pleasingly liberal view of what constitutes philosophy. A philosopher is anyone wrestling with the “biggest picture framing issues” of... well, anything.

In a keynote session at the Fiction Writing for Philosophers Workshop that was held at Oxford Brookes University in June 2017, Schwitzgebel, Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Riverside, shared his advice–which he stated would be both practical and impractical.

Schwitzgebel tells us of a leading coiffeur who styles himself as a “Philosopher of Hair”. We laugh – but there’s something in this – the vagary, the contingency in favoured forms of philosophical output. And it’s not just hairdressers that threaten to encroach upon the Philosophy Department’s turf. Given that the foundational issues in any branch of science or art are philosophical in nature, it follows that most people “doing” philosophy today aren’t professional philosophers.

There are a host of ways one could go about doing philosophy, but of late a consensus has emerged amongst those that write articles for academic journals: the only proper way to “do” philosophy is by writing articles for academic journals. Is it time to re-stock the tool shed? Philosophical nuts come in all shapes and sizes; yet contemporary attempts to crack them are somewhat monotone.

As Schwitzgebel wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed piece:

Too exclusive a focus on technical journal articles excludes non-academics from the dialogue — or maybe, better said, excludes us philosophers from non-academics’ more important dialogue.

[Hugh's account of my talk continues here.]


Thanks also to Helen De Cruz for setting up the talk and to Skye Cleary for finding a home for Hugh's account on the APA blog.

[image detail from APA Blog]

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