History Club
May 21, 2010 5:00 PM   Subscribe

History Club
In honor of my 1,000th visitor, I am re-posting a philosophy blog I started in December. It's changed considerably since its inception—a different address, some more comments (as opposed to zero when I first posted), and I've been so graciously featured on a fellow blogger's page. And, most importantly, 1,000 more visitors (most of that is probably spam, but I don't care!) Please tell me if there's anything important missing from it, or anything I could do differently.

If you've had the misfortune to read some of my AskMe posts, you know that I am planning on going into philosophy permanently, so obviously, I want you to comment on it. I'm trying to write on a range of topics (the tags are at the bottom), so there's something for everyone, I hope.

My ultimate goal is to submit to the Philosophers' Carnival!
posted by lhude sing cuccu (10 comments total)

It's well written. Not exactly my subject matter of choice these days, but you're writing is good. Where are you getting your visitor numbers from?

Just so you know, those can be wildly inaccurate. I get one number if I do my own parsing of logs, I get another number from google, and yet another number from my own CMS. There's a factor of 10 difference between one set.

There's also unique visitors, vs. return, etc. If you're getting comments your probably getting more visitors than you think.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:13 AM on May 22, 2010

I know it's not counting myself, because Wordpress told me so itself. I'd like to know who's subscribing to it (Google Webmaster tells me I have two subscribers and Wordpress tells me I have four). Plus there's a lot of visitors coming in from unknown referrers.

...So I'm sure there's a lot of strange stuff going on.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 12:02 PM on May 22, 2010

Yay! I remember a question you asked here last year, and I'm glad you've kept up on the blog. Reminds me that I should post more to my own...
posted by dreamyshade at 3:36 PM on May 23, 2010

Can't say much about the quality of your philosophical commentary/analysis/&c., but I can say that your writing needs a lot of work.* It's often vague and confused, which makes it a little obfuscatory. You also have a lot of sentences in the passive voice, and you tend to pack a lot of ideas into single sentences/passages/&c., which makes your work less accessible.

If you're submitting a paper for your thesis soon, you'll want to avoid sentences like this one:

>>It is known that we are inclined to filter out evidence that runs in opposition to our beliefs, but we are obligated to at least attempt to seek out counter-evidence before making some sort of divisive claim.

It is known? I don't know it. I guess someone else must know. Who? Counter-evidence? To what? And is the obligation to: make an attempt to seek; to seek; or to find evidence?

You're writing for the web, so your writing needs to be a whole lot of things, like 'punchy', and 'pithy', and 'certain'.

You also need to set out, early on, why your post is important to the reader. If you can't formulate a succinct sentence justifying your post's existence, you probably shouldn't be making the post. You're volunteering information, so the onus is on you to convince the reader of that information's importance.

Why do I care about justified belief? What is justified belief anyway? Will justified belief help me understand my dreams? Does it float? What relevance does it have to Obama's latest health plan?

These are all questions that visitors to your blog might be asking themselves before the end of the first paragraph. If you haven't answered them by then, they're gone, and you've missed out on a potentially enlightening discussion (or argument, more likely).

>>...as explained by the horrifically widespread assertions that “PowerPoints are good to use in the classroom”

Assertions that you fail to answer. I think PowerPoint presentations are good to use in the classroom!
*There's no way I don't sound like an asshole in this post - I really don't mean to offend. I think you have some interesting ideas but they're difficult concepts that demand clarity and purpose in their expression.

posted by doublehappy at 7:54 AM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well, my aim isn't so much to make it applicable to everyday life (i.e., I'm never going to mention Obama in a post, ever), as it is to prepare for graduate school. I'm not trying to convince you that you should be interested in justified belief, so much as to write out my own ideas and others' ideas. You're right though, my writing does get really vague too often.

And I knew that sentence wasn't going to end well, even while I was writing it!
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 2:03 PM on May 24, 2010

I came here to post what doublehappy did. The writing needs work.
posted by phrontist at 9:26 PM on May 24, 2010

Just to be sure, do you mean every post or the first one? I know the first one is kind of crappy. I think it gets better at least by the third post down, but do you mean other too, specifically?
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 5:59 AM on May 25, 2010

I got down to a post about consequentialism. It's all pretty tough going.

I want to give you lots of advice about confidence and arrogance and sentence structure, but I feel like I'm reading the blog I would have written when I was a first year philosophy student (had I the motivation).

I will tell you to be careful taking on a sprawling, complex topic for your thesis. You mention, disdainfully, that other students are addressing relatively simple philosophical questions. Once you get into it, you'll realise that: A. mastering these simple ideas is a necessary prerequisite to contemplating more complex ideas; B. it's easier to base an argument on a single coherent idea than three complex ideas; C. nothing is ever self-evident; and D. you're nowhere near as smart as you think you are, especially when critiquing philosophers whose ideas have persisted (and, in some cases, withstood criticism) for hundreds of years.

Finally, I want to discuss a passage you wrote about three pages into the archives. It's important, because, throughout your blog, you make unfounded claims (e.g. Some people say x...) and you make very little effort to refer the reader to the source material. Most Universities would consider such writing a form of plagiarism.

Similarly, plagiarism is generally considered immoral, but in many cases the person may not even be aware his words are being used, nor may anyone else. Someone may say he is being indirectly harmed, but this cannot be the case, for he is not being harmed at all—in any sense.

There are a few issues with this passage:

  • You claim that plagiarism is considered immoral, but you fail to provide any evidence.
  • You assume that a person must be aware of an act in order to be harmed by that act.
  • You introduce an irrelevant third party into the scenario, i.e. 'anyone else'.
  • You frame the issue of plagiarism as one of harm to the original author, when, in fact, it is one of the subsequent author's academic integrity, and has nothing to do with the original author. Every time you quote, copy, or paraphrase another person's idea, without acknowledgement, you defraud the readers, who must assume that the idea is yours alone. This devalues the authority of academic writing, and causes harm.

    I fell asleep while writing this, so haven't really checked for grammar, &c.

  • posted by doublehappy at 8:50 AM on May 25, 2010

    Good. Good.
    Oh, I won't deny that I'm probably that arrogant first-year student. But no one here is saying I think I'm a lot smarter than I actually am. I know I wrote too forcefully for my own good a while ago just to sound like I knew what I was talking about, and I've resolved to stop pulling that stuff.
    Some good advice, though, and I really should keep A. and B. in mind more often.
    posted by lhude sing cuccu at 1:36 PM on May 25, 2010

    But no one here is saying I think I'm a lot smarter than I actually am.

    You're writing a blog, presumably intended for people with more than a passing interest in Philosophy. If you're not smarter than your target audience then why would they read your blog? If you don't think you have a unique, interesting, and intelligent perspective - one that your reader doesn't - then why are you writing a blog?

    From reading a lot of your blog in the last couple days it sounds like you think that you're pretty on to it and that you know more than your lecturers (see your essay/review of your prescribed reading maybe three pages into the archives?), and that's great, that's how it should be. Just don't stop fine-tuning, listening to critiques, editing, and revisiting your ideas. Writing for an audience is the best way to weed out your bad arguments. If I'm not responding to your deconstruction of X, or your argument for Y, it's because you haven't convinced me.
    posted by doublehappy at 4:36 AM on May 26, 2010

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