Philosophy that’s a Pleasure to Read

“People have been asking me: what will you acquire? In most cases I gave the obvious response about seeking new directions in these fields and at the same time furthering established dialogues scholars are already engaged in. And that answer is true, but it’s not the full story. What I’m actually looking for is clear, vivid thought.” That’s Jenny Gavacs, the new sociology and Asian studies editor at Stanford University Press, in a recent blog post entitled, “So You’re Writing a Monograph.” She adds, “when a scholar’s writing has been refined to transparency her idea shows through in all its glory.” She has a bit to say about word choice, too; I disagree that “a priori” is “just bluster” but perhaps I am part of the problem.

Meanwhile, Oxford University Press philosophy editor Peter Momtchiloff, in his interview at Aesthetics for Birds (previously), says, “Of course a lot of philosophy is hard work to read. But one thing which I tell my colleagues about philosophers is that they generally have reasons for saying what they say the way they say it rather than some other way. Philosophers’ writing tends to be considered, which is better than unconsidered.” Yes, better than unconsidered, but that on its own is kind of a low bar for readability (and yes, I know that words like “readability” only get in owing to low bars, but this is just a blog post, mkay?).

I think a lot of philosophers take readability as something they have to make a concession to in their writing. That is somewhat understandable, as comprehensiveness and fine distinctions and other aims may take us away from readability. But it is also kind of weird, since the main point of writing, one would think, is to be read. Perhaps it would be good if we had some exemplars of excellent philosophical writing to inspire us, or to emulate. Help us out. What are your examples of philosophy that’s a pleasure to read?

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