When you are revising a draft, you should always do so with an eye to the central claim of each of your paragraphs. If you are writing a journal article, there will be about forty such claims, expressed in forty key sentences. Consider the paragraph I drafted on Monday:
There is a tree outside my window. It is swaying gently in the breeze and casting a shadow along the ground. Yesterday, I walked past the tree and saw a squirrel scurrying up its trunk, scaring off a bird that had been sitting in its branches. Today, it seems to be abandoned in the parking lot, growing out of its little island of earth and cobblestones. But there is more: there are buildings all around, a hundred windows that look out on the tree. The tree is outside each of those windows. There is a tree outside each of those windows. The world is everything that is the case.
Most of it is written as though the first sentence states the central claim. It is as though the paragraph is about the tree outside my window. The paragraph supports that claim by providing concrete details; it elaborates on the claim in the first sentence. But things change in the last three sentences, where the fact that is stated in the first is shifted into another logical position—that of an example of a general claim: "The world is everything that is the case." This morning I want to make this shift a little less abrupt.
Let's concentrate those last three sentences. The paragraph has until then been focusing the reader's attention on the tree as an (increasingly) isolated fact. Our task is to connect that fact to the whole world of facts. Notice that it does this by reminding the reader that the central fact is not just that there is a tree out there in the parking lot but that it is outside my window. This suggests the point of view from which it is being observed. It is from out of this multiplicity of perspectives on the tree that we will build its "objectivity".
There is a tree outside my window. It is swaying gently in the breeze and casts a shadow along the ground. Yesterday, I walked past the tree and saw a squirrel scurrying up its trunk, scaring off a bird that had been sitting in its branches. Today, it seems to be abandoned in the parking lot, growing out of its little island of earth and cobblestones. But there is more: there are buildings all around, a hundred windows that look out on the tree. The tree is outside each of those windows; there is a tree outside each of those windows. It is not just the case that there is a tree down there in the parking lot, nor merely that it is swaying gently in the breeze. It is also the case that the tree is outside my window, that I can see it from my bedroom. Nor is my point of view the only available one; the tree exists in a shared world, on which there are many windows. This individual fact, which may at first appear lonely and isolated (because, in his own loneliness and isolation, the writer misplaces his empathy?), is not, on closer examination, alone. It is the case that there is a tree outside my window, but the tree is outside the windows of my neighbors. This, too, is the case and there is, I must now realize (the writer must now realize), a world outside my window. The world is everything that is the case.
I'm starting to like this paragraph, but it is still not finished. I am establishing a rapport between the observer of the tree and the tree itself (a "loneliness that is the truth of things", as Virginia Woolf put it). I am then trying to establish a further relation, more rapport, with a whole neighborhood of observers of the same fact. A community. Moreover, by explicitly identifying the observer and writer, I am further trying to establish a rapport between the writer and the reader. In the end, I want a paragraph that constructs the "objectivity" of the world out of the intersubjectivity of our experience of it. It is the intersubjectivity of facts that ultimately supports our claims about them.
Bear with me. I now see where this going. More next week.