I make freely available two main categories of things. 1) Online writing/video/audio. This is non-interactive and distribution costs are approximately zero. 2) Interactive discussion, which is expensive in terms of my time. It overlaps with (1) because people are welcome to read the discussions without saying anything. There’s also overlap the other way because people can start a discussion about e.g. a blog post.
Most of my online material can be found within a few clicks from https://elliottemple.com
There’s a huge amount of material. I’ve written ~50,000 public contributions to discussions, in addition to the blog posts, essays, YouTube, etc. I also sell digital products which are much cheaper than consulting because they aren’t personalized – the same work can be sold to multiple customers.
How many people read books by a great author and become even 1% as great as the author? That’s very rare! Non-interactive stuff helps people, and it’s easier to engage with, but the results are usually pretty limited. People read/watch too passively and uncritically, don’t think of enough questions or pursue enough followup issues, understand stuff vaguely and think they agree (too low standards), and don’t apply/use the ideas enough. And they misunderstand parts which causes misunderstandings of later parts, which causes even more misunderstandings of later parts, which can spiral out of control.
So what about discussions? I’m available for free discussions primarily at the FI email group (and the Curiosity website which is similar). I visit other forums periodically but you can’t rely on that.
I discuss primarily because it's part of being a philosopher – I can get questions and criticism, learn things, practice writing, practice understanding people, share ideas, think about issues, etc.
Participating effectively in FI discussions is hard and doesn’t work well for most people. I know lots of specific problems people have, but there’s a fundamental issue:
The FI group is about reason and intellectual progress. To use it well requires being good at those things or being on a path to get good at them.
Discussion methods and skills are, essentially, thinking methods and skills. One has to be a good thinker to discuss effectively. This is because thinking is self-discussion, or, put the other way around, discussion is externalized thinking.
The same epistemology governs both discussion and thinking. The same methods for resolving a disagreement between ideas apply if those ideas are in one person or in multiple people.
Relevant skills include dealing with criticism rationally, organizing ideas effectively, being able to look at issues objectively (avoiding personalizing and bias), coming up with questions, knowing when you do or don’t know enough, and figuring out how to apply ideas.
Learning to use the FI group well is a somewhat equivalent problem to learning to think well. So that’s hard.
A tip for using FI: If you think something is bad (e.g. that a person was rude, mean, demanding, pushy, dumb, not listening, etc.), ask about it. People (especially the better posters) often do things on purpose for reasons. The online discussion group is 25 years old and has developed and refined its approach intentionally (guided especially by David Deutsch and myself). If you choose to silently disagree with something, you should to be tolerant, not have it start building to a bigger problem. This comes up particularly because of violations of social-cultural norms.
Second tip: Be careful when people aren’t talking to you directly. When speaking to a newer poster people often try to write something that’ll make sense to him, which doesn’t require as much background knowledge. But other posts may build on years of prior context and can easily be misunderstood by newcomers who don’t ask tons of questions.
Paid consulting is about helping the customer with what they want help with. In free discussions, my primary goal is my own learning, and I interact with people when our projects overlap. What my goal is has large consequences for what happens.
When consulting, I make things easier for customers and they can control the topics. In free discussions, I often ask topic-changing questions and I’m often interested in judging people and filtering out irrationality and dishonesty. In free discussions, I often don’t take hints and I often want things to be made clear that other people don’t want to make clear.
In consulting, I help organize what happens and help take responsibility for the other person achieving their goals. In free discussions, I expect people to manage their own affairs (like deciding how much time to spend, when, on what). I volunteer help less and expect people to take reasonable steps for making progress such as reading books and critically discussing as they go along.
Free discussions are mostly text, asynchronous, often partial effort/attention, sometimes slow or no reply, and are a permanent part of the public record. In paid consulting customers reliably get high attention and effort, and can get faster help, voice chat, real time interaction, and privacy.
Free discussion replies are often generic on purpose. Instead of giving personal help, I take the issue someone brought up and write an answer that would be of interest to many other people too.
People often don’t really understand what sharing ideas publicly means. It means your post is just like an article or book by a public figure. People can scrutinize it, discuss it, criticize it harshly, misunderstand it, analyze things the author (you) unintentionally revealed about himself, etc., and the author has no control over any of that. The author doesn’t have to participate or read what’s said, but what he wrote is now evidence to be used by others as they choose. Your post can become a permanent example or reference point about irrationality or some other flaw. FI posters sometimes bring up quotes from years ago.
Lots of people think they want the role of a responsible intellectual/adult/peer/equal in a rational discussion forum. “Reason? Of course I want that! Sounds great!” But that’s hard and people usually don’t like it, and they'd be better off buying help. Admitting weakness and inequality, and publicly taking on more of a student/learner/child/beginner role, also doesn’t work well for most people (they both dislike it and don’t know how to do it well).
Another reason for consulting: in the medium or long run, to get much value from others, there’s no good way to get out of offering value to others. Money and rationality are both values one can offer. Money exists in greater supply and is easier to come by and offer. Intellectual progress is hard and finding ways to throw money at the problem can be good. (I would personally be thrilled if I could find effective ways to spend more money to get philosophical benefits.)