More thoughts on Writing ‘Systematic Philosophy’: Necessity and Dialectic

I’m continually amazed at the manner in which writing a philosophical system is so different than the forms of writing I’m used to. In particular, the principle of sculptural economy.

I just got finished doing semi-final edits to a section of the manifesto book. As it gets closer to final form, I find myself asking of any section at all – what is this DOING here? Is it necessary to the structure of the whole? If not, what am I REALLY doing here, why must this section NEED to be here, or can I just scrap it? If I can’t scrap it, there’s this back and forth process to try to distill the necessity from what currently exists.

And then once the principle behind a section emerges, a process of continual back and forth between sub-sections, distilling the necessity out of each, then I can rework the section, from the perspective of the new organizing principle. Bottom up, top down, dialectic, multi-stage.

If done right, the result is lean. There’s a progression of necessity from one stage to the next, at least within the sculptural systematic whole. But it is so time consuming, so labor intensive. And its a labor that, if successful, shouldn’t leave traces.  Which isn’t to say that traces may not be apparent in other works that may describe the process. But all the unsteady steps towards systematicity, these are abandoned along the way.

It’s a very, very strange process.

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~ by chris on January 29, 2011.

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