'Filter words' is a disingenuous phrase
Yes, it is, but I can see how it was coined. The effect of filter words is to distance readers from the action verb in the sentence; the process producing that effect is the action verb is being "filtered" by the perceptions of some character. For example, 'I thought he was angry' instead of 'He was angry'.
I think 'distancing' will be a better test to use when revising writing. Still, I'll feel obliged to use that terminology when discussing them with others to avoid talking at cross-purposes.
However, unlike filler words, it's rarely a matter of simply removing 'unnecessary words' ... it's a more pain-staking process
Yes. That is a point that needs to be made.
Unnecessary filler words can usually just be deleted.
You will need to rewrite the entire sentence when you detect an unnecessary filter word, and you should probably start with the question, what should I have chosen as the subject of this sentence?
I've seen, time and again, new authors trying to establish doubt or uncertainty by using these terms, only to produce weak or uninspiring prose, making it seem as if the author himself is unconvinced by what's happening
That's a different issue, but YES! Time and time and time again ... and not just new authors either!
When should authors seek doubt in their stories? ... VERY MUCH LESS than they tend to in everyday conversation.
I noticed myself using a lot of filter words in my last post. The subject was new to me and I wanted to avoid sounding like I was pontificating to others about what they should do. I wanted to doubt and the result was I used a lot of filter words.
I tend to be cautious in everyday discussions to convey an element of doubt when I'm not certain what I'm saying is accurate: I don't want my words coming back and biting me on the bum if latest information reveals I made a mistake. It's a very hard trait to overcome when writing fiction - but it's necessary - to avoid, as you suggest, sounding like I'm not even convincing myself.
BUT, fiction is different to real life. (Doh! That's making me sound like a real "genius" :-) You can write with certainty without any risk of being contradicted by latest discoveries.
I think writing can sometimes, not always, be made stronger by pushing dialogue to a point that becomes a bit unreal, with characters stating things with certainty when most people would hedge them a bit to stay on the safe side.
That's my main objection to them. It isn't that they're unnecessary, but that they're counter productive, hurting rather than helping the story, taking the reader out of the action rather than pulling them in, and making the story less involving rather than more.
Wow! That's a much better explanation than what I just wrote. :-)
For those of us here that think reducing word counts is important, reducing excessive words would a collateral benefit, but our focus should be on eliminating this involuntary verbal vomit that's diminishing our story and characters.