This Is Not Advice

Advice columns are a fascinating medium.

They shed light on how people live and what they care about. And, they help encode cultural dos and don’ts through the advice given. I love reading advice columns.

But, I don’t believe in advice.

Philosopher Agnes Callard sums it up in her essay “Against Advice.” She differentiates between advice, coaching, and instruction.

Instruction is an impersonal transmission of objective information (e.g., how to fix a leaky faucet). Coaching is personal and subjective, and it aims to provide transformative guidance on a topic of “intrinsic value.” Advice tries to combine an impersonal and universal approach for the purpose of creating transformation.

That’s why advice is always less than satisfying. Even good advice just can’t live up to its promise.

Hence the advice-giver is reduced to repeating reasonable-sounding
things she has heard others say—thoughts that are watered down so far
that there’s really no thought left, just water.
— Agnes Callard, “Against Advice”

And that’s why I wanted to write an advice column that doesn’t offer advice.

I want to explore real-life questions, challenges, and opportunities from various angles. Instead of offering more shoulds and supposed-tos, I want to offer perspective—and multiple perspectives at that.

That’s what This Is Not Advice is all about.

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