The Best-Laid Schemes

One of the many things I’ve been thinking I should finish before a small person starts demanding my attention is the political theory area I launched three years ago. At that time I thought it was worth waiting in case I wanted to try and publish some of the later essays in actual journals. Three years on, two of the possible candidates are now seventeen years old instead of fourteen, and I have to admit to myself that it just isn’t going to happen. Not just because I have more important stuff to try and publish right now, but because these, although also important (at least in terms of my own intellectual development), would need serious time and effort to find out what others have said about their subjects in the intervening seventeen years. I don’t have that time; given competing demands, I may never have that time—and what use is waiting until I’m sixty-five before publishing the thoughts of a 22-year-old?

He was a smart 22-year-old, though, apart from not being smart enough to publish these before he got swept off in other directions. The first essay, inspired by John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men, challenged contemporary political philosophy’s fascination (in 1990) with personal autonomy above all else, arguing that close relationships can compel us to override it. I presented the essay at a conference that year, my first. Here I’ve given it a slight edit, but it needed much less than the ones from the year before.

It’s For Your Own Good: The Obligation to Violate Autonomy

The second is even better, and I’ve hardly had to change it at all. It looks at advance directives, those living wills instructing what should be done with our bodies once we’re unable to decide ourselves, and considers once again how close relationships can interfere with carrying them out. Maybe I should still try to do something else with it; if I do, consider this a preprint.

The Force Behind Advance Directives: A Response to Allen Buchanan’s “Advance Directives and the Personal Identity Problem”

Both are dedicated to the late Margery Eagle, Lecturer in Political Thought at the University of Tasmania, whose encouragement and example drew me to the subject in the first place.

On the question of whether to publish or not to publish, I mentioned in 2004 that I was putting the first essays up mainly for the benefit of Googlebot, so that they might find their audience. Three years later, both of them are the top hits for the titles of the articles they critique, and for searches on the authors plus keywords. Hard to see how any journal could have made them more visible than that, at least online.

18 March 2007 · Politics

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