Saturday, June 10, 2017

Stephen E. Toulmin, an Appreciation

I have become a fan Stephen Toulmin (1922–2009), philosopher of science. I learned of Toulmin in January when I watched this 3½ hour YouTube roundtable discussion on metaphysics.

After reading Toulmin's 1953 The Philosophy of Science: An Introduction, I felt sure that book was misnamed. No way is it an introduction. It is the deepest and most difficult book I have read in philosophy of science. Also, since I felt sure that he was saying something and that I might be able to understand some of it, I returned to page one and read the whole again a second time. He teaches me about what I am trying to do in this project of mine to write a book about the Resource-Patterns Model of Life. I would like to correspond with others who know Toulmin's work.

Update on Status of Book-Writing Project

I should post an update. Almost five months have passed since the previous post in this blog.

Work continues on my writing of the book described in the chapter outline and on the statement of purpose page. This remains my top priority. I have completed first drafts of Chapters 1 and 2. These are written longhand, about which I will say more below, so they will not appear here until I type them in. That should happen within a few months. Drafts of Chapters 3–5 have already been posted here in earlier years. At present I am halfway through longhand drafting of Chapter 6.

This work is difficult and slow for me. Questions about order of presentation, voice, and style challenge me. I struggle with knowing how to write this book. Now, to my credit, I have written many shorter publications. In each of three length-categories (300 word letters to the editor, 600–1000 word columns, and 1500–4000 word papers) I struggled on the first few. But after completing those few I had learned how to write a piece of that length; thereafter I fell easily into such a project. This fuels my hope that I can learn how to write a book. But this is still my first.

I have read many books of advice for writers. A few months ago I decided to experiment with a strategy that I picked up from novelist John Irving. Irving tells that he writes his first drafts longhand — not on a computer. A computer makes it too easy, he says, to look back and improve a word or sentence. But at first-draft time careful sentence-level editing wastes time. My experience confirms this. Again and again I have spent hours crafting a paragraph, making it flow just as I want — only to delete that whole paragraph later on when the structure of my entire project finally came into view.

So I am drafting this book longhand now. I am happy with the change. I really need to press on — once through my entire outline — before I will have my arms around the whole of my subject. Then I will be posed, I hope, to make those decisions about: order of presentation, voice, and style.

The chapter outline which I posted almost three years ago was, as I now see it, a list of subjects, one subject per chapter, upon which the Resource-Patterns Model of Life sheds some light. But the subsequent drafting of those chapters has shown me that the amount I have to say under each of those subjects varies considerably. In a few cases I have come to see that what I have to say would be labeled better with a name different from the first name I chose. In some of the subjects I discover, once I start to write, that I have much more to say. But where does this bonus material fit in the outline? Perhaps, after completing drafts of those chapters in the present outline, I will draft another presentation of essentially the same material but following a different path into the subject.