Structuring an academic book tends to be a bit over-determined and formulaic, though this is not unwelcome when wanting to crank through a pile of monographs with the greatest efficacy. Teaching to use structure to one's advantage is something we usually teach students very early on, in fact.

I modeled my book Spaces of Law in American Foreign Relations on 2666, thinking as I did it that unfortunately it was not likely anybody would read it that way.  (Don't worry, I had no grandiose visions they were equal works,  I just liked the structure as much as I liked the book itself so I had it in mind while writing.  And, alas, nobody has yet said to me, 'this reminded me of 2666.' )  But, of course, in the spirit of meeting the requirements of academia, I tacked an introduction on the front which 2666 mostly definitely did not have.

But now upon some further thought I am a bit swayed by the structure adopted by Richard Gombrich in his What the Buddha Taught, a really interesting introductory text of use to my students this semester which also happens to offer a fine example of alternative structuring.  Instead of placing his methodological discussion in the front, he sticks it in the middle in a chapter (seven) called "assessing the evidence."  The first section of this chapter, subtitled "A Bogus Subject" discards the word 'methodology' with this: "There is no such subject as methodology. Mediocre academics like using long words, and at some time in the past generation someone decided it would be more impressive to call method 'methodology'".

He then discusses the virtues of conjecture, and the need for scholars to relax into the "asymmetry here.  What people think of as 'facts' or 'data' are themselves theories....Rather than be unwilling to make bold guesses, we should simply understand that in an empirical subject, be it philology, history or physics, there is no final certitude: all knowledge is provisional.  But this is not relativism.  It is evident that knowledge does advance.  So the fact that our theories may always turn our to be wrong should not depress us, but on the contrary make us realize how exciting intellectual work can be."

But maybe the best idea is to have the kind of last chapter he writes, titled "Is This Book to be Believed?"  A lot of books would be improved if they had to answer that.


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