Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Philosophy Writing Event

On the 20th January we welcomed Lisa Clughan, who came to tell us about the joys and perils of academic writing! Lisa very insightfully pointed out that writing is always related to thinking and that very often problems with academic writing stem from deeper problems related to how we think about academic issues. It is good to hear that in current reearch about academic skills, thought has priority over the text!

Lisa pointed out various ways to overcome obstacles that may impede our attempts at writing. She recommended ‘free writing’ - just writing the first thing that you think about - and also ‘snack writing’ - writing in short bursts. This she suggested can liberate the 'desire for writing'. Once we have this desire for writing and are willing to think seriously and clearly about the issue at hand, then we can see that it is possible to produce stylish, accomplished and cognitively sophisticated writing.

Overall, this was a very interesting and useful presentation. The discussion, as always, was lively and well-informed. Thanks to everyone who turned up to this event, and to Lisa as well for ordering the lovely cheesecake!

Neil Turnbull


  1. Yes, a very enjoyable time was had by all! One of the (many) strengths of the event was that it enabled students and staff to meet in a more egalitarian way than is usually possible in order to discuss issues of common interest. Hopefully this increased awareness of some of the challenges facing writers at every life stage, and the difficulties we all face when presented by, for example, complex philosophical ideas written in even more complex language.
    Even more significant for me, however, was the psychological dimension of the discussion, which sometimes strayed into a somewhat confessional tone, something which wouldn't generally speaking occur within a more formal teaching environment.

    The discusion made me reflect upon the potentially constrictive influence of the Academy, the self-imposed need for academics to perhaps restrict creative flow in pursuit of goals like rationality and objectivity (however these might be defined). This was particularly apparent in the reaction some of us had to the somewhat daunting prospect of free writing, when internalised controls are so endemic to the academic writing process from studenthood onwards. Forums (or should that be fora? you see what I mean) such as blogs have the potential to free up the writing process from the straightjacket of academic convention, and while I am certainly not valourising creative over academic writing here, this is an area for reflection nonetheless. It is surely significant that I will now turn to editing my blog entry , ostensibly so that I may communicate reasonably clearly but also suggestive of an inability to let my words (and therefore thoughts?) go free, at least within a public context.
    An occasion of psychological, as well as philosophical import, then...
    Ruth Griffin

  2. And as if to prove the point, I felt compelled to read over my comments even though they have been published and so are effectively out of my hands, and feel compelled to point out two spelling errors: it should be "straitjacket", and "discussion", of course. But do such things really matter within a blog context when one should be allowed to get carried away perhaps? I'm just not sure...