Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Time and Space (Scheming)

"Time is that which keeps everything from happening all at once," said Henri Bergson. Space, we might say, keeps everything from piling up in the same place. Without time or space there would be no experience to speak of.

Kant called time and space "principles of a priori cognition" and he installed the "schematism" between the pure forms of experience and their real-world objects. In order to give my ideas about planning an air of philosophical depth, I want to suggest here that the practical corollaries of the schematism are the outline, which organizes your paper in space, and the schedule, which organizes your paper in time.

Reading and writing are experiences precisely because academic papers occupy space and take time. These days, they fill up space on various more or less infinite storage devices, but there was a time when redrafting a paper had real material costs (paper), as did the decision to publish it (printing it, putting it on the shelf). A paper still fills some twenty pages in the issue of a journal.

Planning is the key to a good paper because it engages with "the pure forms of sensible intuition". Your schedule and your outline get you from a priori principles of experience to the actual writing. Planning is the first step to realizing your ideas. Unfortunately, there is a tendency among academic writers (a truly "romantic" one) to see planning as the cynical antithesis of "creativity". It is dismissed as so much "scheming". "Let Kant take his regular walks and keep his notes in order!" they say. "I will do my own thing."

Just don't say you haven't been warned.

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