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Enlightenment Bytes
Rise of the Philosopher-Blogger

Where's my keyboard?

Ophelia Benson in TPM Online: “Is not “philosophy blog” a near-oxymoron, like “economics pop song” or “neuroscience tabloid”? Aren’t weblogs the acme of self-published self-indulgence, of interest to no one but their perpetrators and fundamentally incompatible with the rigour, discipline, and seriousness of real, grown-up philosophy? Well, it depends, on the blog and on the philosophy. Some blogs are gossipy and chatty, some are trivial, many (not surprisingly, since there are millions) are badly written, but some are none of those things. And from the philosophy angle, it’s not impossible to imagine Epictetus, Seneca or Montaigne, for instance, messing around with a blog. Blogs are, of course, undeniably a form of self-publishing, so they are not subject to the quality-control systems of peer review or editorial judgment. On the other hand they can have a certain amount of market review, in the form of larger or smaller audiences, more or fewer links from other sites, along with various “best blog” contests and other opinion polls. But the discipline is (for good or ill) very mild: an unread blog is not driven from the garden; bloggers are at liberty to carry on blogging whether anyone reads them or not. For some observers this one fact may render the entire genre inherently nugatory. The editor of this magazine is not a fan of the genre. He went so far as to post a parody blog on his own website which said, “Given that the world probably does not even need most of my more carefully worked out musings, it certainly doesn’t need my off-the-cuff ramblings. So, no, sorry. Blogging would waste my time and yours. Go read something I or someone else has put some prolonged thought into.” (After reading this though, he recanted!) But although a blog can consist purely of off-the-cuff ramblings, it doesn’t have to. Blogs, being law-free, are well suited to ramblings and ponderings, and in practice they often are informal, quick, and conversational rather than rigorous or analytic, but in fact there are no actual rules, and they are free to be as formal as the blogger chooses. This of course is part of the point and much of the appeal, for readers and practitioners alike: a blog can be anything one chooses to make it; thus there is no reason one cannot write the driest of technical papers on a blog. It’s also true that many professional writers and journalists re-post their published articles on their blogs, and that this can be an improvement on professional journalism rather than a falling-off: Ben Goldacre publishes in their entirety informative, research-driven articles that the Guardian has sometimes cut solely for reasons of space.” See the full essay at TPM...

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