Preface to My Thesis

Below is a first draft of the preface to my thesis. I would appreciate your thoughts and input on it. At this point I feel like it is rather clumsy, and lacks the proper rhetorical flair. Please let me know if anything about it sounds to overbearing, unnecessary, etc.

In the many conversations that I have had concerning this paper I have encountered certain questions and difficulties that this paper presents, and yet are not addressed within the scope of the paper. The questions of which I speak, pertain to the foundations on which this paper, and my own ideas proceed. This foundation can be described (if you will pardon the cliché) as my “world-view,” or as it has elsewhere more aptly been described, my intellectual custom.
By referring to this intellectual custom I do not mean to suggest that I have some wholly unique perspective, nor do I propose to say that different intellectual customs are wholly alienated from one another such that communication is impossible between them (hence I am writing this preface). Rather, I believe that while my perspective, in one sense, is necessarily unique since I am unique. It is likewise necessarily part of a broader community in which I have been formed, raised, and influenced, since it is impossible for us to exist, separated from any outside influence. This broader community is that wherein the intellectual custom I share in exists. (What Aristotle says about arguments)
Judging, therefore, from the sorts of questions I have encountered regarding this paper, I assume that many of those with whom I have conversed come from a somewhat different intellectual custom. Perhaps this means that I am part of some sort of minority, or that I have merely encountered a peculiar sample. Whatever the case may be, I will endeavour to use this preface as an occasion to sketch, as it were, a backdrop for the following paper. This will not be so much argumentative as descriptive, and all this is done with a view to obviating the objections that would not be so much against the thesis as against the approach that is being taken to this thesis.
I want to acknowledge further, that some intellectual custom may be superior to another and that there are somethings that belong to this intellectual custom about which arguments can be made, and about which I can be in error. I wish merely to establish clearly the pertain aspects of the foundation from whence I am proceeding so that questions and objections might be distinguished accordingly.
Chief among my principles is the conviction that Philosophy is about things and attempts to speak of things in so far as they are universal and unchanging. It follows, therefore, that I am more interested in ideas than in those that held the ideas. In this way, the title of this thesis may be somewhat misleading. I am not actually concerned with the thoughts that went through Aristotle or Newton's minds except accidentally. I trust the interpretations of the texts will not be too far from what they think, but nevertheless I must confess that it is possible they would object to the way I portray their thoughts. Nevertheless, this is not a court where persons are being tried, it is a philosophical treatise where ideas are considered, and these ideas are held to be better or worse to the extent they correspond to the way things are. A further consequence that will be noted is how I blithely and liberally use the commentaries of St. Thomas Aquinas to understand Aristotle. I do this because St. Thomas seems to make the best sense of the texts of Aristotle. By makes “the best sense” I mean that he reads them in such a way as they make sense of things and make sense to me. Using the names of Aristotle and Newton, therefore, should be taken as more of a short-hand way of referring to their works.
This chief principle, as I have designated it, presupposes another: that things are intelligible. By many this claim is challenged. If it is not questioned that things can be known at all, there is great debate about to what extent things can be known. As important and interesting as these questions are, they have to be put aside. Unless I am to begin every work with an epistemological treatise, I must take it as given that I am able to know things. (Though how and to what extent merits discussion.)
Another frequent concern that has been brought to my attention is that in comparing Aristotle and Newton I am holding one as better than the other, as if I were pitting them against one another in some intellectual boxing match and that I grant victory to the one I favor. I will here give a glimpse of the following thesis: I will use terms such as “prior” and “more proper.” These are not intended to mean “better,” simply speaking. They will mean better in a certain respect. Prior means that it is better for this one to proceed the other. More proper means that it better suited to this end than the other, and this will be largely due to the other having a different end altogether. In essence, therefore, by saying prior and more proper, I am saying let the first is before that which follows, and that each is better suited to its proper rather than the end of the other.
Having laid down these prefatory remarks, I hope that I have sufficiently established the thought behind my thesis. That philosophy is about things, and that things are intelligible form the cornerstone of my philosophical approach. My clarifications about what it means to be prior and proper are to make clear the rhetorical approach that this thesis intends.


  1. John B. said...
    I think that instead of "world-view" you should put "weltschaung." Otherwise it's just wrong.

    But seriously... You know, FA, that I know the background concerning the various problems you set out to obviate in this draft preface. Hence I think I grasp the necessity that they be addressed. That being said, it seems that to streamline their presentation, these items could be brought up at various parts of the thesis itself (including the more properly philosophical introduction). How I see it:

    1. First point concerns intellectual custom (tradition?)/world-view. Seems like this could be part of a foil in the introduction as to how/why your question is pertinent to "philosophy today."

    2. Second point concerns superiority of certain intellectual customs/traditions. Perhaps this could be incorporated in the section discussing the method of the paper/argument itself.

    3. That philosophy is about things; cor.: for they are intelligible. Again, it seems this could be either in the section on method or the introduction to a first chapter.

    4. Prior/more proper: perhaps bring this up as an objection/clarification at a pertinent juncture.

    In this way, it seems, you can preserve the efficacy of your main arguments against those with more fundamental issues, while avoiding any issues of seeming overbearing.
    ho mathetes said...
    Frater, I have some serious concerns about how this kind of preface (more of a personal apologia)will be received at the DSPT.

    At this stage I agree with John B that integrating the properly philosophical points into the rest of the paper is probably a better route.

    I recommend that you stop by my place in the next couple days to talk about this (and hopefully some of my work too.

    Cheers, HM

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