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Writing for the Reader: A Defense of Philosophy and Popular Culture Books

31 January 2014


There are some risks in producing public philosophy. We don’t want to misrepresent the work of philosophy or mislead readers into thinking they have learned all they need to know from a single, short book or article. The potential benefits, though, outweigh the risks. Public philosophy can disseminate important ideas and enhance appreciation for the difficult and complex work of philosophers. Popular writing is often less precise, lacking in fine detail and elaboration, but it can still be accurate (in the sense of being “on target”). People often need a simplified account to get an initial understanding. Whatever one thinks of the role of jargon in scholarly writing, its place should be minimal in popular writing. If physicists can write books of popular science with virtually no equations, philosophers can write books for a general audience with limited jargon.


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