Tearing Down and Building Up

A professor in one of my classes told us that a philosophy paper gets lots of other people citing it when it is an easy target. Papers get cited not because they are good and authoritative, but because they are flawed, and then they get torn apart.

I have experienced this often in school: We read a paper. Not many people had nice things to say about the paper: It was quite faulty and not written perfectly. There are problems with the argument and examples and structure. The author cites too much or not enough.

In philosophy, unlike Theodore Roosevelt’s quote, maybe it is the critic who counts. I really like criticizing things sometimes. It feels powerful and fun. Like I’m better than someone else.

Sometimes I look on Reddit and comments on news articles and I am amazed at the loudness of all the critics who simply think that they are right and other people are wrong, so that entitles them to be mean and say whatever they want.

But I don’t like always tearing things down. I want to stop tearing things down. Start building something up instead.

Remember “constructive criticism”? When we criticize, we shouldn’t be doing it with the sole agenda of destruction. We should be building something up–making something better, working on improvement, or coming up with an alternative.

And if you want to destroy without building something up afterwards, then maybe it’s not worth it to tear that thing down. Maybe it’s best just to move on. So if it’s a really bad article, don’t read it or discuss it. If someone does something you don’t agree with, don’t pass judgment and complain about it with someone else.

Try to find good. Try to construct truth. Try to connect.