Short philosophical writings vs. long philosophical writings


Perhaps it’s secondary to the content, the length and the style in philosophical writings is still a dilemma. What are the reasons behind this issue and is there a mold to respect?

Nietzsche wrote in aphorisms and it didn’t make him less of a philosopher. On the contrary, Hegel wrote long essays and it didn’t make him less of a philosopher either.

I enjoy both and I am able to do both but I am more inclined to short concise writings. I guess it has to do with one’s character and personality. As long as it handles a good content, any length is fine to me. It all depends on an analytical approach vs. a synthetical one.

More crucially is to know as a philosopher who is your reader. If the reader is a “professional” philosopher, then long and difficult writing is fine. If the reader is a non-philosopher, then definitely, shorter and simpler writing is required.  Added to this, and it goes for any writer, the aim must be clear. Therefore as a philosopher I ask myself: do I want philosophy to be an elite’s occupation or do I want it to be read by the whole world?

When the answer and the objective are clear, the writing’s form, length and style will follow.

5 thoughts on “Short philosophical writings vs. long philosophical writings”

  1. Good question. From Alain’s extremely short and concise “Propos” to Kant’s ponderous yet not verbose in the least bit “Critique of Pure Reason,” all formats may indeed do in philosophy. Yet there’s a domain where long-windedness seems to be the rule, and a detrimental (but inevitable?) one:

    “Dijksterhuis and van Knippenberg (2000) demonstrated behavioral effects of activation of the stereotype of politicians. In pilot testing, they had established that politicians are associated with longwindedness. People generally think that politicians talk a lot without saying much. In an experiment, Dijksterhuis and van Knippenberg activated the stereotype of politicians with the use of a scrambled sentence procedure for half of their participants. Subsequently, participants were asked to write an essay in which they argued against the French nuclear testing program in the Pacific (this experiment was carried out in 1996). As expected, participants primed with politician-related stimuli wrote essays that were considerably longer than did control participants.” (Dijksterhuis, Chartrand & Aarts, in Social Psychology and the Unconscious, 2007, John A. Bargh ed.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Je ne condamne pas les longues dissertations ou essais philosophiques. Mais je pense qu’ils ne sont pas la règle pour écrire ou parler surtout en philosophie.
      En politique, les règles sont différentes avec toute la rhétorique et l’art du discours. Churchill n’avait pas de très longs discours et ses propos étaient plutôt concis pour un politicien mais bien ciblés. Ceci ne l’a pas empêché d’être un des plus grands politiciens du siècle dernier.
      J’opte pour la liberté de la structure. Parfois j’ai l’impression qu’on est toujours dans un structuralisme.


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