I was reading Descartes' Rules for the direction of mind and noticed how clear are his ideas. I would love to speak in that way, where every sentence is a necessary step to climb up the final idea.

Of course, this magic is obtained by practice and reading, but I would like to know if are there some strategies to come up with. From my readings I notice analogies, metaphors, syllogisms. I suppose it is related to dialectic and rethoric (correct me if I'm wrong please) so I posted the problem on this site.


So, are there strategies to express clearly an idea or set of ideas? As the question might be too broad, essay or video recommendations about the issue are welcomed.

  • 1
    This is topical now in the U.S. for various reasons. It may be safe to start in 2002 with the publication of this book, "The Trivium" by Sister Miriam Joseph, Paul Dry Books. This was a publication of her earlier notes. We can basically say this is grounded in Aristotle, but that is a simplification. Anyway, now it is a little industry in the U.S. In the so-called classical high school education.
    – Gordon
    Jun 24, 2018 at 7:00
  • I got interested in this general topic from Prof. P.V. Spade's notes on Sartre's "Being and Nothingness" where he mentioned that "Existentialism is a Humanism" was written in a (Scholastic) quaestio form. What the heck is this? So I began to look into it, and I am not an expert. This is really a interdisciplinary subject it seems to me, and philosophy should play a part in it since issues such as logic and ontology are woven into it.
    – Gordon
    Jun 24, 2018 at 7:39
  • This book and page mentions some important names "A History of Renaissance Rhetoric 1380-1620" by Peter Mack, p. 157. books.google.com/… Even today Salamanca may be a good place to study such things, I'm not sure.
    – Gordon
    Jun 24, 2018 at 7:45
  • 1
    Read "The Elements of Style" by William Strunk. Jun 24, 2018 at 8:19
  • Study mathematics and deductive logic: each step must literally follow the previous and the steps eventually reach a conclusion.
    – user935
    Jun 25, 2018 at 3:55

2 Answers 2


I don't think there's a technique you can apply or a practically useful set of rules. The best way to learn the clear, concise and accurate expression of ideas in philosophy is to read, and assimilate from, philosophers who have these virtues of expression. Descartes has it in Meditation I; the later Meditations do not possess the same clarity.

Later models from whom you can learn are Bertrand Russell, A.J. Ayer and Gilbert Ryle. (This is not to express agreement with their ideas and arguments, only to praise their clarity of presentation.) C.E.M. Joad, a philosopher now largely forgotten, also had a gift of lucid expression : Guide to Philosophy (1946), Philosophy (EUP teach yourself books) (1945), and Guide to the Philosophy of Morals and Politics (1938) are good starters.


Clear Ideas

I liked the idea a sculptor had, they did not make a sculpture but uncovered it. A clear idea is something that is seen or found, that is significant and a point that is foundational to other ideas upon which they are built.

The sad truth is a clear idea for one person can be confusion for another. So one may discover clear ideas only exist within frames of reference. For instance evolutionary thought assumes survival is the driving force of successful outcomes, or competitive advantage, except everything is constrained within an environment which can cause success to become failure. Or believing in truth can destroy relationships, where support for the group can ignore "truth" over maintenance of a heirarchy above restructuring it.

Many revolutionaries have created worse social outcomes than the unjust situations that started the revolutions themselves.

So I would question whether clear ideas actually exist at all, maybe they are just the mirage of a biased outlook. I am not devaluing summaries, or focused issues, just the desire to believe there is "an answer".

You must log in to answer this question.