- 1. Consider the history of an idea. When one does not consider its historical context, one runs the risk to misunderstand the real meaning of a point. A controversial (yet interesting) example: Jesus' rejection of divorce is to be found only as opposed to Moses' acceptance of repudial. So, can't it be the case that Jesus' concern was the fate of repudiated women, rather the social persistence of marriages?
- 2. Ask meaningful questions. Questions are not in themselves a value, they might also be just needless provocations (I include here questions irrespective of the context). In order to engage in a dialogue with a philosophical text, one has to ask it meaningful (i.e., philosophical) questions.
- 3. Be aware of how much of yourself you are projecting in your research. Unless you include your own presuppositions in your research, you will be unconsciously conditioned by them.
- 4. Spell out the broader meaning. Why should I be interested in Syrian cereals in the Vth millennium? Perhaps because this tells me how significant a sacrifice of barley was, for a Syrian community? If there is no broader meaning (is it at all possible?), give up the research.
- 5. Read more. Read more sources. Read more secondary literature. Everything we say has surely been said or hinted at already. We should avoid writing unnecessary books or articles just because we did not care to check older ones.
- 6. Principle of charity. Interpret the text in a way the author does not seem to be upholding a non-sense even from his point of view (of course, she might uphold a view that is non-sensical to us, such as that the earth is flat, if the historical context upheld it, too).
"Read more" is my favourite one. I have discussed it here.
What would readers suggest instead or in addition to the above points?