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The Inefficiencies of Traditional Academic Writing

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Most of the words in an average, considered-well-written paper are in some sense superfluous: for the right audience, you can usually boil it down to a few statements. That’s David Bourget, associate professor in philosophy, director of the Centre for Digital Philosophy at Western University, and one of the founders of PhilPapers and its related enterprises. Aiko Tezuka, “Fragile Surface (daydream)” (detail) Professor Bourget was recently interviewed by Eric Piper at Wiley Humanities about his career combining philosophy and computing. In a discussion of the potential of the PhilPapers Philosophical Survey (“PhilSurvey”) and similar projects, he notes philosophers’ ignorance about the prevalence of various philosophical views: [T]he mere publication of the data collected by PhilSurvey (without any fancy analysis) will by itself help move debates forward and improve the quality of communications. Right now philosophers are largely in the dark regarding where others stand on philosophical questions. This is something that Dave [Chalemers] and I showed with a pilot survey and an accompanying “meta-survey”, in which we asked respondents to guess the results of the main survey. We found that on average professional philosophers are off by 15% on philosophical claims. For a view that boils down to an answer to a yes/no question this could mean, for example, that the community on average believes the distribution of views is 50/50 when in fact it’s 35/65.  For many issues the discrepancy between the expected and actual distribution of views is much larger. This is problematic—in order to discuss and debate effectively, the first thing you need to know is where your interlocutors stand. For those who would like to learn more about our survey, see our paper “What do philosophers believe?” published in Philosophical Studies. He then turns to the increase in the amount of published work and how PhilSurvey and other services might alter. . .

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News source: Daily Nous

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