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A Miscellany 130
The Philosophic Method

by Will Petillo

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The Philosophic Method

Though something similar (and more elegant) probably exists, the following suggestions have been written by Will Petillo.

Mission: While the natural sciences gain rapid progress in advancing humanity’s understanding of the world, the discipline of philosophy seems to spend a great deal of time floundering in idle speculation and endless arguments that shed more heat than light, especially in the areas of politics and religion. Through the Philosophic Method, it is my intention to develop a systematic means of answering the higher-level questions about the world with a level of efficiency comparable to that of the natural sciences.

Format: The Philosophic Method should be published in a hypertext format in order to accommodate all of the additions, deletions, and revisions that will be applied to it.

I. New theories can be brought into discussion by simply submitting an idea that has not yet been discussed on this venue. Once a theory is submitted, it remains until its validity, soundness, or coherency is successfully challenged.

II. Alternate theories to existing topics can be submitted in the same manner as above. It is not necessary to challenge an existing theory in order to submit a new one. The existence of opposing theories, however, should be seen as an invitation by others to challenge one of the theories or find a way to reconcile them.

III. If someone wishes to challenge the validity of a theory, it is not enough to simply assert that one disagrees; one must point out the logical fallacy in the challenged theory’s argument. If the contention is successful, then all parts of the theory that follow from the fallacy are sent to the “Philosophic Graveyard”, an archive where all failed theories are kept (along with the arguments that defeated them) in case someone finds a way to salvage them in whole or in part and also to prevent people from making the same mistakes over and over.

IV. If someone wishes to challenge the soundness of a theory, they must devise some form of experiment to test that theory. If the theory is demonstrated to be false, the theory is sent to the “Realm of Hypotheticals” (unless it has also been proved invalid, in which case it will go to the Graveyard), along with the results of the test, in case someone wishes to repeat the experiment. Results of testing will also be attached to a theory when it is not demonstrated to be false.

V. If someone wishes to challenge the coherency of a theory, an alternate presentation must be submitted. Simple grammatical and spelling errors can be fixed in whatever manner is most convenient and efficient. When two theories are reconciled as being different ways of saying the same thing, then the presentation that is more coherent will remain and the other will be deleted from the database (or the two can be combined if each is clearer in different areas). Judging coherency will require the attention of trained professionals. Some criteria might include:

  1. Simplicity of argument (unnecessary material should be minimized)
  2. Clarity in writing style.
  3. Engaging to the reader.
  4. Precision of language.
  5. Concreteness of expression.

VI. “Interesting Explanations” of existing topics—such as metaphors and analogies—can be submitted directly. These will be published alongside the topics they are about for anyone who is interested in reading them. “Interesting Explanations” will not be subject to the same level of logical scrutiny as the theories they are attached to—they cannot be challenged, but readers can rate them (so others can get a sense of whether the “Interesting Explanation” really is interesting enough to be worth reading) as well as discuss them (see IX). If a theory is challenged for coherency and loses because it is not expressed concretely (see V-5), then the losing theory will become an “Interesting Explanation” attached to the winning theory rather than being deleted altogether.

VII.* Each theory shall include a glossary at the end of the article where terms can be defined. Articles that use terms in nonstandard ways and don’t define them will be suspect.

VIII.* Each article will be prefaced by a list of all the premises and assumptions that it is based on. Articles that leave this section blank will be suspect.

IX. Links to discussion boards will be included wherever they are useful, including but not limited to: theories, “Interesting Explanations”, glossaries, and premise lists.

X.* To eliminate arbitrator bias, several venues following these ten guidelines will be maintained so that they can compete with each other. Distributors may restrict permission to submit articles in whatever manner they like, but all information published under the Philosophic Method will instantly be copyrighted into the public domain.


*Added by the suggestion of Nicholas Boydston.