Constructively situating papers in the literature




In our July “how can we help you?” thread, a reader asks:

I have some questions about writing and situating oneself in the literature. Most commonly, I see people situate themselves by arguing against others, and I get that people disagree. But I’m wondering if there’s more positive ways to situate oneself in the literature without needing to be on the offence, and instead builds off of others more. What are your thoughts on this matter? And if you have any papers you think do this well, it would be nice to see them too.

This is an interesting question, and I’ve love to see some examples. I actually tend to favor constructive philosophy myself, as I tend to think it’s harder to build new things than to tear down arguments other people have given. But I’m also curious exactly what the reader has in mind–that is, what exactly would count as “building off of others more.”

I guess that when I think of my own papers that might be said to do this, the paper that most immediately comes to mind is my 2013 paper, “A New Theory of Free Will“, as in that paper I basically combine a bunch of previously defended hypotheses from metaphysics, philosophy of mind, computer science, and physics to defend a new model of reality and “libertarian compatibilist” theory of free will. Another one of my papers that seems mostly constructive to me is my 2015 paper, “How to Rationally Approach Life’s Transformative Experiences“, which basically argues that if L.A. Paul is right that transformative experiences challenge the dominant conception of rational decisionmaking in our culture, then we ought to adopt a different approach to our lives that involves cultivating resilience rather than control over life-events.

Are these the kinds of things the reader has in mind? In any case, I’d love to hear other examples from readers! Following the OP’s query, feel free to give examples of your own papers (but also, do feel free to give examples of other people’s work that you think is particularly constructive).

Originally appeared on The Philosophers’ Cocoon Read More