Those who follow the blog, podcast and my amateur career as a mostly amateur theologian / philosopher might find this interesting. I want to share with you a possibility that I am thinking about. I do things in a pretty transparent way, including what I am planning.
I am seriously considering a Kickstarter project to get a book written. At this stage, however, I simply don’t know if that’s a reasonable or realistic hope – partly because I am neither fully comfortable nor skilled in asking people to materially give to support my endeavours. I really have no idea how things like this are done. It would effectively be a Kickstarter funded research fellowship (sort of) for the purposes of full-time research and writing, culminating in a book for publication. I am not yet certain of the specific requirements the project would need to meet, but my initial investigations confirm that this is a project that can definitely be made to fit.
The book would be a scholarly (but hopefully accessible!) work on the history and my analysis of the moral argument for theism in its various forms, along with my own articulation and defence of a moral argument for theism. The audience would be wide: the undergraduate student in theology or philosophy, those with an interest in apologetics, or anyone who finds the subject interesting. In other words, you won’t need a PhD to read it. I am picking away at a table of contents, which is of course subject to change but at this stage looks like this:
The Moral Argument
Versions of the Moral Argument:
Classical Metaphysics and the Moral argument: from Plato to Aquinas
The Divine Lawgiver: Locke, Kant and a few other enlightenment thinkers
Some modern representatives: Adams, Hare and Rist (etc)
A Defence of the Moral Argument
Modern Metaethics: Are there any moral facts to explain?
The positivist challenge
The nihilist challenge
Hostile Witnesses to the Moral Argument
The fall and rise of the moral argument: The revival of moral realism
Attempts to ground morality scientifically [E.g. Sam Harris]
Attempts to ground morality non-naturally (and impersonally) [E.g. Erik Wielenberg]
What if God was really bad? [E.g. Stephen Law and the Evil God Challenge]
A divine command theory of morality
The prima facie plausibility of a divine command theory
Can God Do Anything? Limits on Divine Commands
The Non-moral goodness of God (advice to both defenders and critics on the role of divine goodness in a divine command theory)
Responding to the echo: Perennial objections to divine command ethics
Although I would expect the table of contents to change, this will give a clear idea of the type of subject matter that I intend to cover, some of which has been covered in a little less depth here at the blog.
The amount that some Kickstarter book writing projects are seeking is pretty small in the big scheme of things – like $1,000. I would assume that people trying to raise an amount like that are not treating it as a full-time project – or else they’re going to write it in a couple of weeks. More likely they are just looking at meeting some of the costs of self-publishing. But I am not interested in self-publishing. I would seek to have the work published by a (relatively) reputable publisher in theology and philosophy of religion. Some projects however seem to be asking a heck of a lot. One was trying to raise $100K, which boggles my mind somewhat. The nature of their subject might have required a bit of travel and maybe it will take a couple of years – but still, that is way more than I would ever think about. You can see some of the academic publishing projects for which people are are trying to raise Kickstarter funds here (there is limited search functionality at that website, so you cannot search based on the amount being raised).
I would be looking at a 6-7 month project and, on the basis of this being a full-time endeavour, that would cost about $20-$25K. Do the maths and you will see I’m not at all contemplating a lavish holiday. And it would be a full-time endeavour. The size of the finished product would be at least that of a PhD dissertation, which is usually produced after three years. However, I would not take that long because i) I would be extremely conscious that this was funded by others and I am pretty conscientious about that, and ii) I already have a significant background in the subject matter. I would not be starting from scratch. A decent amount of the research has been done, but of course by no means all of it.
I am putting all of this out here only to describe the decision that I’m thinking about. If I were to go ahead with it, this is what it would look like. Your feedback on these thoughts (sent privately) are welcomed. Use the Contact Us button over on the right if you have thoughts to share with me about this.
UPDATE 5th of August
I have sent this out to those who contacted me about this:
Thanks so much for your message (yes, this is a pre-written reply that I’m sending to a large number of people).
After announcing on Facebook and at the blog that I’m considering the book writing project and telling people my thoughts about funding the work, I have been inundated – in a good way – with emails and private messages. Without exception the messages have been supportive and encouraging. Some of you have indicated that you’d be willing to support the project and you have my sincerest thanks.
Although I am not writing a personalised response to you, I have definitely read your message. I’m carefully considering all the feedback that people have been sending me and it is proving to be very helpful and insightful. There are still a couple of issues to work through, the main ones being:
This one is pretty important(!). To an extent this is a bit of a catch-22 situation. When making a proposal to a publisher they want to know a timeframe for the writing of the work. My ability to confidently provide a timeframe depends heavily on my confidence that the project can be funded. But my ability to justify to myself asking people to invest in what I’m doing, in turn, depends on my confidence that a publisher is interested in the project. This is something I will discuss with the publisher that I approach (I am writing a proposal presently and I do have a publisher in mind), but your thoughts are welcome. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22)
A funding model
I announced that I’m considering using Kickstarter, and that is still the case. As I understand it, it’s a relatively easy system to use, hence its appeal. A drawback with using it, however, is that it is an all-or-nothing lump sum system. The full amount needs to be raised by the time specified, or else the Kickstarter fund fails and nothing is paid.
Given that what I am considering is the funding of a project over a fair bit of time, this is not perfect. Generating a lump sum amount that will cover that whole period (possibly $25K for a 7 month period) but will need to be raised before that time commences is probably more difficult than would be securing support in small amounts spread over time, but the benefit with a Kickstarter fund is that funding is secured before the project begins so there’s no doubt about whether or not I’ll be able to go the distance with the project. It’s important to me that if any money changes hands and if I start this project, I will be able to complete it as planned. Accountability is crucial. Perhaps a mixed model approach will be the way to go. I’m still pondering this and some of you have offered helpful advice (but more is certainly welcome).
As I continue to work through these two important issues and as I prepare material to approach a publisher, your prayers are appreciated.
- What am I working on?
- Writing directions
- He's making a list, he's checking it twice…
- Charting a course for 2015
- The book itch….
- Calling published scholars