Philosophical Dialogue

1999-08-04

The notion came to me today of writing my dissertation (that's my mythical dissertation, mind you, since I'll never go back to graduate school) as a dialogue. Since I never plan to pursue an academic career anyway, what the hell? My mythical dissertation consists of an exploration of the ideas of Kurt Gödel and Hao Wang. Gödel and Wang make a fascinating counterpoint, and most of Wang's reflections on Gödel derive from conversations he had with Gödel over the course of many years. So I feel it would be appropriate to explore their ideas, and my own, through a dialogue among three interlocutors -- basically Gödel, Wang, and me but in the form of three other characters (essentially a platonist, a 'pragmatic' with constructivist leanings, and an aristotelian/objectivist). I think I probably have enough literary talent to pull it off, and I think it'd be fun.

I suppose this indicates that I find the traditional forms of philosophy inadequate. Mostly what I write are essays (in the original sense of "trying out" ideas) as well as some philosophical poetry. So I would like to try writing dialogues, also. These non-traditional forms are, I feel, closer to the ways in which we learn through thinking about things both individually and with others. When one writes in this way one comes closer to the (open?) source of ideas. There is a connection here to the introduction to Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia. In that introduction he describes traditional (closed-source) forms of philosophy in rather hilarious terms, and says that he wants to write in a way that opens up the lines of thinking behind his positions. I don't particularly agree with his lines of thinking, but I like the idea of opening up one's intellectual explorations and not just presenting one's conclusions as a fait accompli. Dialogue is a way of doing this, so it's definitely a genre I'd like to try my hand at sometime.


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