Can the internet favour acts of enunciation, and thus of individuation, of a new and more democratic nature? Adam Robbert at KNOWLEDGE ECOLOGY has published a very interesting post on blogging as a mode of philosophical expression. His answer, while favorable to the practice of philosophical blogging, seems to me both too conservative and too dualist. Robbert admits the possibility of a « carnival of ideas » allowing us to renew our feeling of « intellectual excitement » that presided over oour initial enthusiasm for philosophy. But he seems to relegate this to a purely psychological dimension of passionate exchange between peers. His critique of the pretentions of blogging is « ecological » in the sense of his media ecology, arguing that twitter and comment threads on blogs are not « good ecologies for discussion ». This is mostly true, and it shows that Robbert is concerned about an important aspect of philosophy, namely its dialogical dimension. But surely twitter feeds and comment threads do not exhaust the possibilities of philosophical dialogue on the internet, nor are they condemned by their very essence to be arbitrary, wrong-headed, and narcissistic. An interesting phenomenon is the dialogue between blogs, which permits the authors to take their time in building up arguments and mobilising concepts. Robbert affirms that « the ecology of the blogging medium doesn’t permit the kind of long-chain, rigorous explication of ideas that philosophy and academic inquiry require ». I think he is right in emphasising the importance of long circuits and rigorous explication, but I regret this conclusion in favour of the academic style as the only rigorous one. The carnival of ideas , he seems to say, can get us motivated again, but the real work is in the academy and expressed in the academic style.
I beg to differ from this dualistic and unduly pessimistic analysis of the uses and misuses of philosophical blogging for life (to coin a Nietschean phrase). I share Robbert’s concern for arguments, but I think that often an academic article often puts up a sham appearance of argument, but contains empty erudition and illiterate caricatures of explication and argument. Further, argument is not everything in philosophy. Mood, affect, conceptual experimentation, dialogue with seemingly incommensurable alternative views also have their place.
I think philosophical blogging can let you highlight what Deleuze and Guattari called the “non-philosophical” comprehension in terms of percepts and affects that provokes, accompanies, and extends philophical comprehension. The danger is to confuse this with your own empirical non-conceptualised feelings and experiences. A blog is also adapted to conceptual experimentation (the “carnival of ideas”), allowing your thought to be a little more open, more fluid, more transversal. It can favour encounters with other thinkers. In my case these encounters have been few and far between, but very enriching when they occur, enough to encourage me to keep on blogging despite meeting often with indifference or hostility. The other aspect that I find important is the exploring of philosophy as a “mode of subjectivation” (Deleuze) or a “spiritual exercise” (Hadot, Foucault, Onfray), or as I now prefer to call it a process of individuation (Jung, Simondon, Deleuze, and Bernard Stiegler).
NB: If you read French I have done a series of posts on blogging and individuation beginning here: https://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/blogger-et-sindividuer-le-yoga-du-blog/
I agree with the advantages of a non-hierarchical distribution system, but the whole Bourdieuian sociology of Homo Academicus reconstitutes itself, even here, with its clans and feuds and its power-relations, its joiners and excluders. We need more blogs, including by those who Mikhail Emelianov calls the « post-academics », those who have dropped out of the academic Game of Thrones, even if they maintain some form of presence in Academia. His own blog PERVERSE EGALITARIANISM is a good example of a blog that combines expression and dialogue on an intellectually demanding level.
Blogs are definitely a part of what Bernard Stiegler calls digital tertiary retentions. He maintains that it is essential to philosophise on and also by means of these tertiary retentions. They may be an event, in an empirical sense, in only a minority for the moment. But in terms of their present and future restructuration of the field of human life, and of the functioning of the brain itself, they constitute an Event of the same importance and scope as the event of the Death of God. Further, they contain the same ambiguous toxicity: that of being able to function as a medicine for the cure of our souls and of our brains, or as a poison (producing an orgy of trashing and trolls and ego-trips and bogus concepts).