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The Confession of John Joseph Miller

I, too, talk about books I haven't read.

I suppose I count as a scholar. At the very least, I’ve most of the outward trappings of one. Large diplomas bestowing increasingly pretentious titles. A doctoral dissertation slowly gathering dust on a shelf somewhere. Several articles in academic journals. Lines on my CV with the words “assistant professor of philosophy” in them.

I’ve never read Plato’s Republic all the way through.

I once owned—though never cracked the cover of—Kant’s Critique of Judgment.

I successfully defended a dissertation on John Stuart Mill without reading all 33 volumes of his Collected Works.

Yet I can—or could once upon a time—explain Plato’s cave to undergraduates, situate Kant’s views on aesthetics within his larger architectonic, and publish peer-reviewed interpretations of Mill.

Scholarship isn’t reading every last scrap of text. Scholarship is drawing new ideas from the texts you have read.

For more context

If people used to be so much smarter, then why'd they spend so much time dying of preventable diseases?

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There's nothing wrong with talking about books you haven't read.

I learned to do research wheeling around in a third-generation office chair.

I kind of just want to go talk about random philosophy stuff now.