I've wondered about something for a while that I think might be worth discussing. Philosophers often purport to seek the truth, or at the very least, good arguments. But now consider the following scenario. Person A publishes a paper/book on some issue that really has a knock-down argument. Person B publishes an "interesting" paper/book on the same issue, but with a bad argument. How are things likely to go in the short- and long-run?
Here's a thought: Person A is more likely to be more influential in the short-run. Their paper/book may receive some objections, then defense, etc. -- but then, since the argument is really air-tight, conversation about it will die out (people just won't have too much to say about it anymore). Person B's project, on the other hand -- given that the argument is "interesting" but has holes all over the place -- seems likely to generate really long-term interest and dicussion. Why? Simply because there's lots to say about it. People can publish all kinds of objections, defenses, attempts to interpret/patch up the bad argument, etc. In other words, over the long-run, there's just far more to do -- and careers to make -- by focusing on bad but "interesting" arguments.
Is this how philosophy tends to work? I can't help but be reminded of the following passage from Simon Blackburn's review of Davidson's Truth and Predication:
Philosophers think of themselves as the guardians of reason, intent beyond other men upon care and accuracy, on following the argument wherever it leads, spotting flaws, rejecting fallacies, insisting on standards. This is how we justify ourselves as educators, and as respectable voices within the academy, or even in public life. But there is a yawning chasm between self-image and practice, and in fact it is a great mistake to think that philosophers ever gain their followings by means of compelling arguments. The truth is the reverse, that when the historical moment is right people fall in love with the conclusions, and any blemish in the argument is quickly forgiven: the most outright fallacy becomes beatified as a bold and imaginative train of thought, obscurity actually befits a deep original exploration of dim and unfamiliar interconnexions, arguments that nobody can follow at all become a brilliant roller-coaster ride towards a shift in the vocabulary, a reformulation of the problem space. Follow the star, and the raw edges will easily be tidied up later.