Tuesday, January 10, 2012


I'm in transition these days. I've decided to leave my position as "resident writing consultant" and go into business for myself, working with writing processes and publication strategies at a number of different European universities. My focus remains on the efficiency and integrity of the individual writing process, which is to say on "the work" itself. But I'm increasingly interested in how research institutions can support that work actively. Too much knowledge remains "in the heads" of scholars, or remains there unnecessarily long.

So I'm once again thinking very seriously about my "métier". What is it that I do? What's my trade? My aim is to help scholars get their ideas "out" in the best possible journal in the shortest possible time. "To put forward" is a root meaning of "to edit", and in that sense, I suppose, my trade is that of an editor. But I'm also seriously concerned about the factors that actually hold their ideas back. These factors are sometimes found in the lives of individual scholars, and sometimes in the scholarly environment in which they work. Overcoming them sometimes requires something more akin to a coach, and sometimes a management consultant.

At a more abstract level, I remain an epistemologist. A philosopher. I am interested in what Kant called "the conditions of the possibility of the experience of objects" or, more colloquially, in what makes knowledge of the world possible. Knowledge is an inexorably social affair. Many of the conditions that enable and inhibit knowing are found in the social environment of research. And many of these are "conversational" in the sense that knowing is always the ability to participate in a conversation. My task, as a philosopher, is simply to make scholars more conversant. This is arguably what Socrates was also doing.

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