Whither blogging?

Nigel Warburton’s comment on an article about philosophical blogging that I wrote for the current TPM is amusing, at least to me.

In a recent article in The Philosophers’ Magazine (1st quarter 2007, no.37, p.12-14) Ophelia Benson (recently interviewed for Virtual Philosopher), opens up with the question of whether weblogs are somehow incompatible with ‘the rigour, discipline, and seriousness of real, grown-up philosophy?’ To me this is a bit like asking whether ink on paper is compatible with philosophy – apart from Socrates, most philosophers have agreed that it is.

I know. It was meant to be. In fact I think that’s almost obvious, especially given the ‘real, grown-up philosophy’ – that’s not a perfectly straightforward bit of reportorial phrasing. I was doing a combination of teasing Julian and acknowledging his view of the matter in the opening of the article, which seemed to make sense since he would be the first person to read it, it was his suggestion that I should write it, and he would either approve it or not. I suppose part of what I was doing in the article was giving my view (mostly via the view of the four blogging philosophers I interviewed) of why Julian’s view of blogs was not quite right. He gave his view via a parody blog on his site, but I can’t link to it as he seems to have taken it down. Well actually he didn’t give his view of blogs in general, he gave his view of what his blog would be like if he did one, he explained to me; I misread it as his view of blogs in general. But I’m not the only one who read it that way, and I think the reading was the most obvious one. A great fan of his read it the same way:

Julian Baggini has got to be one of my favorite living philosophers; he’s a least on a top twenty list of some kind…I recently visited his website, looked through some of his materials and came across a link his blog. The strange thing was that Dr. Baggini’s blog contained only one entry explaining why he thought blogging was a waste of time…His first claim was that it was unhealthy for someone to spend too much time reading the ‘ramblings’ of any one person. His second claim was that he thought it was a waste of his and the reader’s time.

See? That’s what it sounded like to two people, anyway.

Nigel makes many of the same points I would make (some of which I did make in the article).

I suspect Ophelia’s opening angle was a reaction to her editor’s parody blog that she mentions where he remarks ‘Blogging would waste my time and yours. Go read something I or someone else has put some prolonged thought into.’ Apart from the informal fallacy of assuming that more prolonged thought = better results (the Protestant Work Ethic Fallacy?), this seems confused. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, one of the best ways of conceptualising blogs is as published commonplace books. Once you see them that way, anything goes – including philosophy of any kind. For an example of a philosopher doing philosophy on a blog, see Stephen Law’s new blog with his ongoing discussions about relativism: the medium allows musings, links to articles, comments, responses to comments, and revisions…philosophy in action.

I know one person who really hates blogs; I probably also had him in mind when writing the article. I must say I find that a very odd view, because as a medium they seem to me to be full of potential. Of course, like so many things, they’re only as good as they are; bad ones are bad; but good ones enable people to do things they can’t do in other media.

To be continued, perhaps.

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