Writing is the primary technology for philosophers. It allows us to string together words into whole tapestries of ideas. Because of the interconnectedness of these ideas, and the fact that they are realized, both in writing, and in reading, in a conscious mind, we ought to be very cognizant of the format of our writing. Allow me then, to share four different styles of philosophical writing, to give you a glimpse of the possibilities:
The first form I wish to present is the dialogue form:
1: X: Okay Y, so tell me about the format you have chosen.
Y: This is the dialogue form, which was favored by Plato after the death of Socrates, but, many others since.
X: Such as?
Y: Seneca, Cicero, and I would argue Thomas More in his book "Utopia", and later passages in Douglas Hofstadter's work.
X: You seem to wander into the novel form too.
Y. In a way. Several philosophers have written novels in which there is, of course, dialogue. But there is something unique in the straight dialogue form, like it instills the essence of debate.
X. And this is clearly an interview, so that helps structure the writing.
Y. That's right, and that didactic reason I think is the most important reason for writing dialogues. Many readers have questions they wish to ask the writer during the time of reading. Writing a dialogue helps the author to imagine an inquisitive reader, and maybe preempts some of those questions.
The second form I wish to present is the essay.
The essay form was invented by a philosopher, Michel du Montaigne. In our modern world, it seems to resemble most closely a blog post. It is personal, meandering, and takes it's time. Montaigne was also very thorough in the way he wrote, and, I think, saw himself as a collector and curator of old opinions, but always with himself at the center.
Most important to the essay form is, I think, that the thoughts somehow run together, and that one thought lead you into the next. It should somehow be confessional, honest and have one central theme which the whole text revolves around.
Finally an essay has the opportunity to end in a sort of open position. It is okay to acknowledge that one is part of a conversation stretching back hundreds of years, and that, while one may certainly reach a position, it is definitely not the position.
The third form I wish to present is the technical paper.
A technical paper as a definite aim, a problem, a question, a critique in mind. It sets up its definitions, which are to do work. Particular passages will be dissected, and at the end a clear statement is made about what has been accomplished by the words on the page.
The literary character of the technical paper, is all directed in service of clearness and distinctness. Because of this, one can achieve such levels of accuracy that single concepts within the whole framework can be critiqued, without a general impact on the whole structure; or that, if if it must have consequences, they will be definite.
Because of their clearness, technical papers can often have room for far more complexity than the more internally peripatetic style of the essay. Subclauses can have their own subclauses, hypotheticals can be safely stored away, and in general, advanced logical structures can have their place.
The fourth form I wish to present is that of juxtaposition and aphorism and analogy.
1. The is nothing but the fiber of reality.
2. Time is a line.
3. Each of us must be a weaver of our own experience.
4. Human society is a tapestry.
5. A text as a weft, a warp, a weave of life.