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Writing Clearly and Thinking Well

Writing clearly, and thinking about philosophical topics rigorously, are learned skills. No one is born with them. There is no shame in ignorance; the important thing is what one chooses to do about it. If the topics one hopes to write or think about are far beyond one's current capabilities, that's OK. One can improve.

Writing well is not just a matter of spending time and effort. Sitting down for 5 hours and expending great force of will is insufficient. One has to understand how to direct that effort; extensive knowledge about how to think and write well is required.

To create this knowledge involves a process of continuous self-improvement. One needs to care deeply about improving and always -- every day for years -- be on the lookout for ways to improve, and be implementing and refining strategies designed to learn and improve. [1]

Trying to learn to think and write well involves frequently making an effort to think and write well. Thoughtful writing is a byproduct.

On the other hand, writing without making a thoughtful effort is incompatible with always striving to learn and to write better. Writing shoddy posts indicates that one doesn't care strongly about bettering oneself in this area. [2]

[1] There are further requirements. For example, one must treat ideas and disagreements in such a way that if he is mistaken, he may find this out and change his mind. However, making an effort to learn and improve involves investigating what approaches are effective. Thus one can learn the further requirements early on in the process and doesn't have to know them in advance.

[2] People often make excuses. They are busy, they were just having a bad day, they could do better but they didn't give it their best effort, or emotions clouded their judgment. The fact is that everyone faces obstacles and encounters problems. Excuses are used by people with a victimhood mentality, who'd rather have something to blame than work on a solution. People whose top priority is to better themselves do not make excuses or denials; instead they try to overcome their problems and when they fail they try again and brainstorm ways to do better next time.

Elliot Temple on July 8, 2009

Comments (2)

Can I use that last sentence as a quote? :)

I'm also curious if you think it's bad to make excuses to get other people off your back?

Anonymous at 1:33 AM on July 9, 2009 | #1810
Of course you can quote it.

I prefer in most cases to stop continuing, or if there's an obligation then to tell people directly that I'm not interested in continuing. If that has some serious downside, then lying becomes an option to consider. I wouldn't call it an actual excuse if you're just saying it to affect other people; just a lie.

Elliot at 9:14 AM on July 9, 2009 | #1813

What do you think?

(This is a free speech zone!)