Donald Baxter's recent reply (, in which he writes "Then these attempts must be put to the test by trying to convince others, and then taking into account their incomprehensions and objections" suggests that Philosophy is about convincing people and alleviating their confusion. If that is the case, it seems Philosophy is more about rhetoric and psychology than truth or big issues. Do Philosophers believe, then, that they have succeeded if 1) people understand their positions perfectly and 2) people agree with it? This doesn't seem to me like the best standard for deciding what is true, and I thought philosophy was love of truth, not love of persuading people of clearly articulated positions.

Trying to convince people (and oneself) and alleviate their confusion (and one's own) and learning from the responses is our best way to approach the truth about matters for which observation and calculation are little help in resolving controversies. It is an imperfect way to the goal of truth, granted. It is hard to see why intersubjective agreement should even be connected to truth, granted. But this approach at least helps weed out inconsistency, irrelevance, prejudice, and partisanship, when it works. It helps direct people towards open-mindedness rather than arrogance, persuasion rather than violence. And it helps temper our tendencies toward willfulness and illusion.

Is it more important to spend one's time developing the skill of articulating one's positions precisely, or is it more important to spend one's time thinking about the content of important questions? Is it more important to spend time revising one's philosophy paper repeatedly so that one ensures that every choice of word is as perfect as possible so as to avoid any confusion or ambiguity, or is it more valuable to spend one's time thinking about questions? Obviously both are important, but which one is more so? And when the panelist responds, could s/he please indicate if this is a personal opinion of his/hers, or whether his/her response speaks for all philosophers (or most). Or, perhaps there is an agreed upon argument to establish which is more important? It seems to me that this latter possibility would be the most philosophically rigorous. Surely as philosophers and professors of philosophy many of the panelists have an opinion about this; I would greatly appreciate if the philosopher who...

My opinion is personal, but based on experience with trying to argue and publish arguments, with trying to teach students to argue and to write out arguments, and with conferring with other philosophers. Thinking and articulating go hand in hand. One must think very hard about philosophical questions. However, one does not understand what one cannot articulate. Initially, thinking will consist of wonder, inspiration, and brain-storming. But to arrive at a result of any value, the thinking must transition into attempts to articulate one's thinking to others. Then these attempts must be put to the test by trying to convince others, and then taking into account their incomprehensions and objections. That requires more thinking. This process of trying our thoughts out on others and learning from their responses is our only way to avoid philosophical insanity and illusion. Philosophical thinking is a corporate enterprise, not individual, and articulation is what binds it together.