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UK Postdoc

I suppose an approach somewhat between the OP's and Marcus' is to explain which of the arguments in favour of P will appeal to what type of reader.

For example, it might be the case that Argument 1 very strong but only (or particularly) appealing to scientific realists, and holds less appeal for an anti-realist. Argument 2, on the other hand, might be a little weaker, but appeal to realists and anti-realists equally.

Or, for example, you might find a premise in Argument 3 independently plausible but you don't want to defend it in the paper. Then you can note that Argument 3 is appealing to those who, like you, already find that premise compelling, but that other readers might be more convinced by one of the other arguments.


Sometimes it's nice to have independent reasons to adopt a controversial or unintuitive premise. But I would opt for making it explicit that each reason offered is sufficient.


I know this isn't really helpful advice, but I find it amusing: in the little book "The Art of Being Right" (a title that became even more glorious after Trump), Schopenhauer gives 38 tips for winning an argument even if you're in the weaker position. One of those tips is exactly what you are worried about: pick the weakest argument your opponent has given and talk exclusively about that.

More seriously, I agree that a reviewer should point out all weaknesses, even if they are not essential to your main argument. But I think using Marcus's last tip, you can make sure those objections don't lead to a straight rejection. You could say something like: "In this paper, I will be assuming that P. Here are a few quick reasons why you might think that P...." (If those reasons are complicated, it probably makes more sense to write a separate paper arguing for P anyway.)


I mostly agree with the advice already given. I would just add two things. 1. It seems to me that referees typically operate by trying to find something to disagree with. If they find something that's not obviously and easily fixable, they recommend rejection. (This is of course painting with a very broad brush.) So I think just as the OP seems to have gleaned, it is better *for publishing* to eliminate as much as possible, but this is in fact irrational. 2. This practice is bad for philosophy. Even a bad argument shouldn't affect one's belief in the conclusion, if the other arguments are good (all else being equal). Also, it limits us to saying mostly fairly obvious things and making small moves.


Something to consider: do your referees disagree with you about how controversial P is? That is, if P really is a consistent sticking point, the real issue might not be that referees are focusing too much on one of your reasons for accepting P. Instead the real issue might be the question of how much support P should be getting overall.


I think some of the remarks above have a unrealistic view of the power of arguments. They are oblivious to the rhetorical dimension of philosophy and philosophical persuasion. We get this from reading Plato, who degraded rhetoric. Oddly, Plato won our hearts and souls with his rhetoric.


If P is not the main point of the paper but a starting position, you might consider moving all the arguments to a footnote or simply cite other works that make the case for P and move on to your main point.

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