Wednesday, July 06, 2005

On Writing, or Rather NOT Writing

This summer has been a productive one in many ways. For several weeks, I have been writing about Prozac and feminism. I have been thinking about the future of feminism in the U.S. And, I have been reading gobs of feminist theory.

And yet, all the writing has come to a standstill. This is always a dangerous time for me. I can either give up or push forward. My instinct is to scrap everything that I have written so far. Part of the reason I want to scrap it is because it reads like journalism. Well, it reads like a really long op-ed column. And, philosophers aren't supposed to sound like that. I have tried to be charitable to Kramer and his position on Cosmetic psychopharmacology, and yet, my work reads like a polemic. I talked to Za about this, this morning. He asked what was so wrong with polemic. Why not write what you want to write. Why do you have to write like a philosopher? Not a bad question. But, I want to write like a philosopher, because I respect deeply, the way that good philosophers present arguments.

I was reading the first few chapters of Marilyn Friedman's book Autonomy, Gender, Politics and was so utterly impressed by how she presents her argument for the ideal of autonomy. She is careful to consider the arguments for and against autonomy among feminists. She is careful at teasing out the complicated and tangled interpretations of what autonomy looks like. And, well, I want to write like that. You are reading a first rate philosopher when you read this book.

I think that being subtle, well-organized, and thoughtful are absolutely essential to philsophy, even feminist philosophy. Without this then we are not likely to persuade others that we are right. We need to demonstrate to others that we haven't ignored their counterarguments, their questions, and indeed we take them seriously.

I am going to get back to work today. But, it is mighty difficult to start over. And yet, as Za tried to tell me today: you aren't starting over. Anything that you write is progress. I hope he is right.