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Remain anonymous

I think none of my papers is (primarily) about disagreeing with people. All of them are about offering new solutions to some perceived problem in the literature. (I did voice some dissatisfaction of existent solutions on the side, but never emphasized it much, since I value multiple solutions rather than pinning down one correct one.) I am not sure if this is `building off on others more' though.

Ten-Herng Lai

Here's my own example

in "Political vandalism as counter-speech" I tried to build upon the work of people who argue that the removal of commemorations of bad people is a worthy goal, to my own conclusion that vandalism as a means of protest is sometimes permissible and may even be obligatory.


Jacob J Andrews

Look at history of philosophy for some great examples of this :) In a recent paper of mine, although I took a few potshots in the footnotes, my main contributions were to:

1. Give the first significant treatment, other than the critical edition, of a major untranslated medieval text,

2. Show that the view of a certain issue implicit in that text is very close to the view of a well known classical Chinese text on the same issue,

3. Identify exactly where they diverge and why,

4. Suggest how the position that jointly emerges could be a viable contender in discussions over the issue today.

All of this engage with the literature, but none of them involve direct argumentation. 4 gets close but there's a big difference between "I'm right, you're wrong" and "I'm not obviously wrong."

Daniel Weltman

Maybe I'm missing the point of the question or there's some deeper sort of question that is being asked than what it seems to me to be, but I think this question has a pretty easy answer. To build on other people without needing to be on the offence, simply cite those other people, explain their idea to the degree necessary in the context you are writing, and then explain your expansion of their idea. Philosophers do this all the time - maybe not quite as much as they disagree, but still quite a bit.

For example, Gil Hersch and I just published this paper: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/phpr.12900 (open access, which is why I use it as an example). A lot of that paper consists of arguments against people, but lots of it also consists of building on people. See e.g. pages 2-4, where we cite Raibley and build on his idea of atomism (although I suppose technically Raibley is not an atomist, so maybe that counts as an attack); pages 6-7 and 9-10, where we build on Rosati's idea that relationalism and atomism can be compatible; page 9, where we build on Kraut's idea of judging momentary well-being; page 18, where we build on Brown's objection to Dorsey; and page 20, where we suggest Kraut and Feldman as potential ways to fill out the view we present.

This is an example from my latest available paper but I do stuff like this in basically every article I write and I think most philosophers do too. It's very rare to write something purely negative unless it's a particularly focused comment/discussion note.

Louis deRosset

Like some other commenters, I worry that the reader is misconceiving their task. The principal task is to situate the paper in the issues. Now, a competent author will be able to map the space of issues onto the literature. But often there are (unjustifiably) neglected positions, but, typically, there are people offering discussion pertinent to the various positions one sets out. A good paper involves, in part, a map of the issue space, and also citations to the occupiers of the various regions. If there are positions in the literature that don't occupy regions of the author's map, that's a (defeasible!) symptom that the map is incomplete.

As soon as you think of your task in the way, the problem -- that people tend to focus on criticism -- disappears. You criticize those views which need criticism, as so those whom you have cited as holding those views. But you build on those whose views are promising but need development, and so those whom you have cited as holding those views.

You asked for specific examples. In my own areas, think Ricki Bliss's `Viciousness and the Structure of Reality' (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11098-012-0043-0#Fn2) provides a nice model.

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