One of the most feared ones by junior scholars is the following “but is this philosophical work?”. Often used to exclude and to gate-keep newbies, the question touches a painful point. How do we actually know that what we are doing is philosophy and not, say, a mix of literature commentary, with some cultural critique sprinkled with some psychoanalysis and theology? Given the many styles of philosophy, the many approaches, there is not one recognisable way to do philosophy. Often, we do not know if we are doing it or, perhaps, we have entered into a neighbouring field unknowingly. I find the question “Is this (genuine) philosophy?” unanswerable by default.
But I found a more fruitful question to ask. Is this piece of text/ idea worth sharing with others? Or: what makes philosophy shareable? At first sight, the answer may be obvious: novelty and relevance. Great, but relevance is tricky in philosophy. If you care about an obscure topic, others will care about it anyway. The philosophy of penguin extinction. The aesthetics of door handles. Indexicals in indirect testimony. Whatever you care about, someone out there may find it relevant. If this is the case, we should publish everything that we care about. Or not?
Here is a modest proposal. What makes philosophy worth sharing is its reproducibility. Not like in empirical sciences, with lab experiments and measurements, but a kind of conceptual reproducibility. Example: You use a framework made up of concepts and theories to analyse a work or to solve a problem. Would anyone using the same method come to similar conclusions? Would they go about in the same direction, more or less? Philosophers should not reach the same conclusions using the same method, but their usage of the method needs to make sense to those who know the method and to be like: yeah, the steps are right, this sounds about right. We may disagree on outcomes because the methods and concepts in philosophy are not uniquely interpretable, but it has to make sense. People can be able to follow your steps mentally in using this conceptual tool and be able to correct you or point out points you missed.
When I find a text that shows insights and intuitions of the author, linking things, circling ideas with words, all done in very philosophical language, i am left puzzled. Is this philosophy? Maybe. Should it be published? If it claims to be a text generated by revelation – i.e. this idea came to the author in a vision – this is also OK. We publish poetry and holy texts, so why not philosophical visions? But if it wants to stand as a philosophical texts, it needs to be challengeable and improvable. Hence it needs to have some kind of method, a way of going about concepts and theories and problems, that can be a) understood by others; b) corrected and improved; c) repeated up to a point. Without these, it seems to be a text that only serves its author.