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Best openings of essays/academic works

Best opening (or closing) paragraphs of academic works, a discussion at Crooked Timber. (This is of course different from first lines of novels, as discussed here, there, and elsewhere.
posted by LobsterMitten on Feb 23, 2007 - 39 comments

Philosophy as practiced in most English-speaking philosophy departments today.

Long .pdf paper on the state of mainstream "analytic" philosophy. In a recent thread, we discussed the current state of philosophy departments in English-speaking countries. Philosophers are often asked why we don't take Ayn Rand seriously as a philosopher, or why we aren't up on literary Theory or deconstruction, etc. The short answer is that most academic philosophers in universities in the English-speaking world are engaged in a broad consensus (about how to do philosophy, what counts as a good question, etc) that's called "analytic philosophy" for short. Here is a long, informative encyclopedia entry by Scott Soames describing the history and current state of play in analytic philosophy. If you want to understand the background of the currently dominant school of philosophy in the US, UK, Canada and Australia, this will explain it. Link goes directly to a 44-page .pdf file.

Here are a few bonus bits: Jerry Fodor on Why no one reads analytic philosophy. One of the Philosophy talk podcasts from the Stanford philosophy department, on The Future of Philosophy. Some answers at askphilosophers.org -- a site where you can ask questions directly of professional philosophers -- that say the distinction between analytic and continental philosophy should be retired. (In a way, I agree, but the terms are used so widely that it's useful to get a sense of what they're meant to describe.) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on what different philosophers have meant by "analysis".
posted by LobsterMitten on Aug 24, 2006 - 56 comments

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