4

For ease of use lets use Ayn Rand for example.

The way Ayn Rand went about gaining acceptance showed a perceived intentional disrespect of the Academic community. In this way her ideology was not adopted more because of reaction to the method in which it was introduced, I believe.

Assuming that logic above to be correct; in other-words, don't argue about the contents of Rand's work for this exercise.

For the practical application here I believe I may have done this. But my lack of knowledge on the base may be lacking. If I have a way that re-scoped Objectivism in a way that did show promise, how can i best approach those people to gain acceptance in the community?

The people who work in the world of philosophy and have the knowledge to expand upon my ideas are unlikely to notice my tool. I want them to take my tool and build a spaceship(or other metaphorically complex engine of transition). If I am right, I want educated and learned professionals to want to read and talk about my ideas because it changed their world. I think I have the tool to do that, and I want to find a road map of how I can get my idea there the most efficient way possible.

So what is the most efficient path that a brilliant, but undereducated and incredibly modest thinker could take to get their ideas accepted.

Caveat: For this question please assume my idea is everything I am saying, even though I am probably wrong. How can we get our ideas recognized and into mainstream, even if it means I lose any credit.

To restate differently (feel free to edit to make this question more concise)

How can I break it at a ground floor level and carry my idea to the levels that matter?

  • Who, exactly, is your intended audience? Professional philosophers? Philosophically-minded laypersons? Having a sense of who you want to communicate to will help to answer this question. – possibleWorld May 3 '18 at 22:37
  • @possibleWorld - Updated the question to answer that. and give the context I think you are looking for. – Chad May 3 '18 at 23:30
  • Arguments speak for themselves. The only thing you need to do — if you are eager to maintain credit for the idea — is to draft it and then use a time-stamping service on the draft so you can claim that you were first. – MichaelK May 8 '18 at 5:45
  • Rand had average people as intended audience. And I think she was quite successful in that. Maybe not many people agree with her, but she is kinda famous. If her intended audience was academy, she would write some papers on that, I think. I think that if you want an idea become used on practice, you need both acceptance from average people and professionals. – rus9384 May 8 '18 at 6:26
  • Did you "re-scope Objectivism"? And is this a "tool"? I'm confused about what sort of thing you actually have achieved. Being a little more explicit about it might help people guide your next steps. In any case, I'm curious. – Chelonian May 8 '18 at 11:54
6

I like parts of Cort Ammon's answer, but I want to give a slightly different perspective. I want to answer as if what the OP really wants is a roadmap of things to do to get his or her idea to be taken up by the academic community, that is, have the idea discussed, argued about, taught in university courses and seminars, and have other people to write and think about. I'll preface my advice by saying that I have a PhD in philosophy, several publications in good journals, and worked for several years as a philosophy professor (first as a graduate student, then as a postdoc) before leaving academia. In other words, I'm exactly the kind of audience someone with a great new idea should be trying to persuade. I'll illustrate with two cases. First, the case of a genuine amateur who made important contributions to Astronomy, H. W. M. Olbers, of Olbers' Paradox. On the other hand, I'll also explain why Ayn Rand isn't a brilliant thinker unjustly overlooked by uncomprehending ivory tower intellectuals, but rather just a regular, run-of-the-mill crank, just like the quacks who invent "perpetual motion machines", cranks who "disprove" Godel's incompleteness theorems, trisect the angle, and so on.

Ok, so let's say you've had a brilliant, earth-shattering discovery, that upends huge parts of our standing theories and everyday commonsense about the world. Let's call you idea p. Let's reverse engineer what it would take to get somebody like me to accept p as at least a serious theory, deserving study.

  1. The first, and most important, thing to get people to take p seriously is credibility. The more people have already signed off on an idea, and the more creditable those people themselves are, the more likely others are to take that idea seriously. That means publishing in a top academic journal, since the top journals are run by very prestigious editors, have well-established reputations for quality and for publishing "important" papers. There are only a few journals like that publishing philosophy in English, namely The Philosophical Review, Noûs, The Journal of Philosophy, Mind, Ethics, and Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. If you can publish p in the Philosophical Review, your paper will get read and discussed.

Olbers did publish his discoveries: including finding several comets and then the paradox. Ayn Rand, on the other hand, published her most "important" philosophical contributions in her Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology in her own journal. In other words, she didn't gain any creditability by having her ideas critically examined and vetted by others; so of course nobody in the academic community took her seriously. Self-publication is self-defeat, because the point of publishing is to gain external validation from others.

So what does it take to get a paper published in those top journals?

  1. To publish p in the Philosophical Review, you're going to have to do a couple of things, at a minimum: (i) explain exactly what p means in a perfectly clear, unambiguous way, (ii) show that p is actually original, (iii) provide a really, really compelling argument that p is true, (iv) show what implications the truth of p would have for a variety of other issues professional philosophers--and perhaps the general public--care about, (v) explicitly consider and convincingly response to the three or four most important criticisms professional philosophers are going to think of when they read the paper, (vi) write precisely and clearly, introducing all technical terms, making critical distinctions, giving analogies and examples as appropriate, structuring the paper in a coherent way, and (vii) write all up in about 8000 words.

Often, when cranks do submit their work to top journals, they are surprised to get swift rejection notes from the editor. Usually this is because they have simply not done one or more of the seven things listed above. Everything by Ayn Rand I've read fails this test on at least (ii), (iii), (v). Rand's epistemology is just a crude kind of verificationism---better versions of which had already appeared in print, defended by figures like Rudolf Carnap, Moritz Schlick, and others, and subject to important objections from Hempel and others. Rand never responds to objections--so it's no surprise that her work wouldn't pass scrutiny at a reputable journal. Olbers, on the other hand, published in the leading venues in his time--which was somewhat before the modern journal system was fully developed, but it still had the same salubrious effect on his academic reputation and won his discoveries important academic audiences.

"But doing all that looks like a ton of work! It would take me a lifetime to prove my idea is true, original, defend it, anticipate the most important criticisms and write it all up in a concise but not dumbed-down way!" Yep. And that's why the top journals have the incredible reputations they do--precisely because they are incredibly demanding and it takes a huge amount of skill, persistence, and hard-acquired knowledge to publish a paper in one of them. This is the point where most of the cranks will throw up their hands and engage the little pity party about how the bad old academics just can't recognize their brilliance/are afraid of the competition/etc. Nope, it's just plain old hard work and lots of time.

So how do you get the knowledge, skills, and abilities to publish like that?

  1. Take classes, read papers, perhaps a formal degree. Scientific work is a communal activity. If you want to get better at writing, you need to write a lot, and have people who are better writers than you critique your writing and help you improve. If you want to know more about the field, and the place of your ideas in it, then you need to read a lot of work already done on the subject--a graduate course on recent work on the topic would help get the lay of the land on the current debate on related topics. If you want to figure out what people are going to think about your ideas and what objections they're probably going to come up with, then you need to be talking to them, presenting talks at conferences, and so on to start figuring out the shape of the discipline at present.

In Olbers' case, he actually did those things. He did amateur astronomy at nights after his medical practice. He corresponded with other astronomers. He had taken university courses in mathematics and astronomy. Rand didn't, and that's why she's a crank. Since she didn't engage the existing literature, she wasn't aware of how sophomoric and shoddy her own work actually was. If she had actually gone through the difficult process of learning the discipline, she might have made important contributions, but she did not.

  • 1
    Lots to agree with here, and lots of generous advice. I think your characterization of there being only a handful of anglophone journals with reputations for publishing papers with reputations as “important” is distortedly ungenerous. Look at citation rates and quality for lots of papers in Erkenntnis, Phil of Sci, Synthese, etc. – ChristopherE May 4 '18 at 1:37
  • @ChristopherE I love those journals too! (Indeed, I especially love synthesis since they actually published one of my papers. You could have added phil studies, the Australasian journal of philosophy, and phil quarterly too. But, still, I think the kind of credibility you get at phil review is much, much greater than at erkenntnis. Just my $0.02 though! – shane May 4 '18 at 1:42
  • *Synthese — autocorrect got me. – shane May 4 '18 at 11:55
5

Following Ayn Rand's model by gaining influence outside of academia isn't an insult to professional philosophers unless you make it out to be that way.

To get the attention of academics, maybe you should simply start speaking up. "Look at this, Dr. ___! Wouldn't it just make more sense if ___?" If you approach them quietly, they may not give you credit, but they will give you friendship. If you are actually right and you make them look dumb, then you will get credit but not friends. It's up to you!

If indeed what you propose is really good, maybe the best thing is to go for it: use it to write about stuff or to give speeches, build things, sell things, start clubs or associations or schools, form political parties, create exchange-traded funds, run for office, or do whatever else you think would be a great application for your new kind of thinking.

Writing academic papers is hard, and is a specialized task that takes a lot of training to accomplish. If you don't have what it takes to do this with lots of references and no mistakes, just skip it... write stuff that comes easier: op-eds, short stories, songs, or films.

Also, many academic papers look like papers but are really a shadow of something that happened already in a conference. You need an invitation to get heard in this context. No matter how you do it, it's going to take a lot of time and you will need friends and boosters, money, willingness to travel and willingness to work.

In my opinion, a philosophy is little more than a person. If that person writes much, their ideas can be bound and published as "you-ism". If not, then maybe you will be remembered for a good example, paradox, analogy, etc... but it won't put you on the shelf next to Plato.

Good luck!

  • "...but it won't put you on the shelf next to Plato", yes, those philosophers are notable by discovering something completely new, not just a single paradox, example, etc., but the whole school of thought. – rus9384 May 7 '18 at 22:21
2

While Rand's philosophy is certainly still a small minority position in academia, it is gradually gaining some traction. This is evidenced by:

  1. The establishment of an academic journal dealing with her philosophy (e.g. Journal of Ayn Rand Studies published by Penn State);

  2. Scholarly books extending her philosophy; and

  3. A gradual increase in academic citation of her work.

I think in her case, it is fair to say that her views are gradually gaining some academic traction as a result of people who read her work when they were either young, or at least relatively junior in philosophical work. From this, some of her enthusiasts got interested in philosophy and some have pursued careers in academia (and have maintained that her views are correct).

Rand's influence in academia should not be exaggerated, since this is still a very small group relative to the overall size of philosophy in academia. Nevertheless, there is evidence of some increase in attention. There are now many professional philosophers (some in academia and some in think-tanks) that were weened on Rand, and have written scholarly work extending or evaluating her philosophy, such as:

I think this gives a rough guide as to how an outside philosopher can gain traction in academia, even if they initially receive a frosty reception. This can occur a generation or two later, as a result of people who read her work and then go into academia to explore this work in detail. Rand is not the first to do this, and Nietzsche famously received a similar reception in academia when he was alive. Hicks (2009) notes that "When Nietzsche was a young professor of classical philology at the University of Basel in Switzerland, the university's professors of philosophy told their students not to take Nietzsche's courses, arguing that he was an intellectual lightweight and not really a philosopher." (p. 252)

  • I ask these questions because this largely disagrees with my on-the-ground experience in academia and from the attempts I've seen by Objectivists to defend her views, they strike me as very uninformed philosophically. – virmaior May 8 '18 at 5:19
  • The journal I had in mind is the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, which was established in 1999. Some of the philosophers I had in mind are Prof Stephen Hicks, Prof Tara Smith, Dr Chris Sciabarra, and Prof Stephen Cox. There are others around the place, but not huge numbers, and they are certainly not a big group. – Reinstate Monica May 8 '18 at 5:45
  • Okay, I've tried to improve your answer even though I'm not convinced. – virmaior May 8 '18 at 9:50
  • I have added some further edits to clarify that Rand's influence in academia is still small overall, even though there has been evidence of some gains in influence. I don't wish to exaggerate her influence there, but merely point out the fact that gains from an outsider are possible. – Reinstate Monica May 8 '18 at 10:13
1

You really have two major unknowns: where do you want to go, and how do you want to get there.

Where do you want to go? Is your goal to selflessly advance the human race through philosophy? Or do you want to have personal glory instead. For most people, it's a balance of many things. We have to find our own path based on where we want to end up. People will react differently based on what you are trying to do. They are generally more helpful if you're trying to work with them.

As for the path we take, it depends on what we want to see on the way. Now my personal opinion is that I want to find out that I'm not as innovative as I thought I was. That's just how I am. I spent several years developing my own personal philosophy completely independent from the rest of the culture and its philosophy. I'm pretty proud of it. As I started exploring, however, I found that many of the things which I thought were incredibly novel were actually well trodden paths. I simply hadn't known the right terminology to realize that everyone else had come to the same conclusions.

So my general approach is to start from the perspective of "please help me determine that what I have isn't novel." Reference-requests are great for this sort of thing. You wouldn't believe how common it is to believe something is new when it's 2000 years old!

Now once you've determined what portions are novel and what are common, you can consider marketing that which is novel. The obvious approach is to market it among academia. However, as you've noticed, that's hard to do without an academic background. This is by design, really. The academics have to have a way to ensure the arguments being forth are "reasonable" by their standards. The academic language is adapted to suit that need. You may have to take some philosophy courses in order to learn the right ways to phrase things.

The second approach which is very common is to live one's life according to these philosophies. In this approach, it is not one's academic credentials which validate the work, but the life one lives. The results can be slower, but anyone can do it, and the results will be judged for what they are.

0

There isn't an example of this in the history of logic.

The nearest example I can think of is George Boole who lacked the usual formal apprenticeship that one might expect for a man of his talent. Still, he was enrolled in the Mechanics Institute and then later, after making contact with sympathetic academics he began to publish research papers and was eventually appointed the first professor of mathematics at Queens College, Cork.

There are three other famous examples I can think of; but unfortunately they are in physics (a reflection of my training!), but they may be helpful.

George Green of Greens function fame (used in QM) lived in Nottingham circa the early 1800s; he was almost entirely self-taught and it isn't understood how - there being only one other mathematician in the whole city; however at the age of 40, through the good offices of an acquaintance of his and on the strength of his then published work, he attended Cambridge University

Hermann Grassman of Grassman variables (again used in QM) actually did attend university at the usual age but studied theology; later he developed an interest in mathematics but was unable to gain a university position.

Einstein of course needs no introduction. He too attended university to study physics but was working as a patent clerk when he discovered his revolutionary ideas and was eventually made a professor of physics.

The above should give some indication just how difficult it is to come up with good work without some kind of academic background - in fact impossible - you need some kind of background found from somewhere; and then having established a reputation how the natural place to continue that work is in an academic community where research is encouraged, and communication facilitated.

  • There isn't an example of this in the history of logic. I do not believe this. I believe you can not come up with a corollary to to what I have said. But someone was the first person to thing hey, logic its a thing we should document. So at the very least there is that. I suspect there are others. Ayn Rand is the perfect example. But she failed. I want to know how i COULD succeed – Chad May 3 '18 at 23:34
  • @Chad: you're welcome to find a counter-example; you've got the tools right in front of you, I mean a search engine. Show me that I'm wrong. – Mozibur Ullah May 4 '18 at 1:24

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