Explaining is when we take ideas and make them clear and understandable. When explaining, try to think about what questions people might raise and address them. The best explanations are crystal clear, guide people through the material, answer their questions, and generally make it easy for them.

If an explanation doesn't hold people's hand every step of the way, but instead is kind of difficult to follow, what that really means is there are some blanks to be filled in. Since it doesn't say everything, the reader has to supply some ideas himself. And if readers have to do that, they aren't all going to fill in the blanks the same way. So there's going to be misunderstanding and ambiguity. The whole point of an explanation is to express ideas, so leaving stuff out for the reader to invent kind of defeats the purpose. The less you help the reader along and explain everything, the less you're explaining.

Explanation is better than raw data, facts, or evidence. Evidence is nice, but it has to be interpreted. What we really need is evidence combined with some explanation of what it means.

Explanation is better than argument. Arguments focus on who's right. But we can't reasonably expect to know who is right unless we understand the issues really clearly. And to understand really well, we need good explanations. Philosophy should be a cooperative effort which focuses first and foremost on clear explanations.

Once we understand things, we do need to use judgment too. That should be done fairly and with an open mind. It doesn't matter who proposed an idea — even if it was our own idea — ideas need to be evaluated based only on their content.

Now here's an important fact. Criticism is a type of explanation. It's one that explains a flaw or problem with something. Rather than getting upset, the best reaction is to see criticism as a helpful explanation that clearly expresses ideas. Then use criticism to improve. Criticism is fundamental to all learning and improving, so we need to learn to like it.

By the way, criticism doesn't have to feel bad. Being bothered by criticism isn't the natural human condition that we're stuck with forever. It is itself a mistake which can be fixed. More on how to do that later.