Composition is an invitation

Published on 2024-02-14

Yesterday I wrote an article about composing articles:

Partially-applied self

This morning I realized that I kind of contradicted what I was saying way back here:

Why I don't write arguments

In the earlier article, I explained that a lot of my writing isn't meant to be persuasive, but rather to just expose certain ideas and to give them names. In the later article, I mentioned that I don't do so many back-references to older articles because it's a good way to explain complicated ideas, but rather because it's a good way to tell stories.

I think both of these things may be separately true, but I don't want these ideas to be separate. I think they're deeply intertwined.

I think there's reason to believe composition makes for incomplete arguments. Highly composed articles may accomplish little except bolting old ideas together. They may hide the explanation under the presumption that everyone already knows what I'm talking about. But the problem is, complicated ideas lend themselves well to being broken up into these kinds of hierarchies because they're complicated. If I was making an argument, then this would certainly feel like cheating. You can't expect your "opponent" to do all the work for you. But as I've said before, I never really intend for these to read like arguments.

I think what makes capsules that do a lot of internal linking so fascinating is that they ask something of you. They ask you to keep digging, to get a better understanding of the bigger picture, to identify the story being told. When I link seven different articles together, there's an implicit invitation to dig deeper. That's part of the experience being crafted.

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