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Books, Journals, New Media
January 12, 2000

Philosophy: Confessions of a Medicine Man: An Essay in Popular Philosophy

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorJonathan D.EldredgeMLS, PhD, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


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JAMA. 2000;283(2):259-260. doi:10.1001/jama.283.2.259

Pick up a contemporary philosophy journal and you will see a uniform type of philosophical writing. As a rule, English-speaking philosophers write essays. Such an essay is as recognizable to philosophers as a scientific article is to doctors.

Even so, the notion that philosophy should ideally be written in the form of the scholarly essay is a little odd, given the history of philosophy. Plato wrote dialogues. Butler wrote sermons. Sartre wrote novels and plays. Wittgenstein wrote aphorisms. Yet the prospect of an American philosopher earning tenure today by virtue of aphorisms or plays is about as likely as earning tenure for haikus or dessert recipes. Yet, why would philosophical ideas be best expressed in the form of the essay, much less the detached, humorless, argumentative essay that most philosophy journals publish?