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:
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).

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  1. dmf dit :

    this is part of why the attempts to write/represent a mode of thinking that is « past » subjectivity/anthropocentrism, rather than working through it, is so worrying, people by and large are blind to how their psyches are shaping/using the arguments rather than the other way around, too much of a cognitive-behavioral model and not enough of a psyche-logos…
    in other news:


    • terenceblake dit :

      Deleuze and Guattari remark that what is just noise or chaos in the cognitive-behavioral or communicational models is the mark of desire, their name for the psyche. Academic writing is regimented by the rationalist ideal, purifying out or at least camouflaging the psychological, or existential, dimension. Feyerabend advocates the introduction of unformatted elements into all sorts of networks, targetting the academic networks as less effective than a more naive open network, as the academic model is based on « ideal » circumstances such as complete transparency of communication. My disappointment with blog and interblog philosophical discussion is that it tends to align itself on the academic status and the power relations between participants. So yes the democracy of publication is hindered by the same blindness and hypocrisy and cynical manoeuvring that makes academic publishing not live up to its full potential.


  2. Adam Robbert dit :

    Hi Terrence,

    Thanks for continuing the conversation. I really think it’s worthwhile to put a magnifying glass on some of these issues and dialogue about them; whatever the relationship between academia, blogging, and philosophy is it will be determined be how those of us participating in the discourse choose to shape it (and allow ourselves to be shaped by it).

    Some quick thoughts:

    I didn’t mean to come off as pessimistic about the role of blogging in philosophy–I’m an ardent supporter. I would like to see the platform itself undergo its own kind of individuation process, though. For me, writing on a blog is an addition to traditional forms of academic expression (articles, books etc.) and cannot be a replacement of any of those forms. Having said that, I’m not necessarily in for or against the traditional model of academic work either (I myself am more of a para-academic, working as a researcher and editor, but I am not affiliated with any institution directly)

    I’m also in full agreement with your statement « Mood, affect, conceptual experimentation, dialogue with seemingly incommensurable alternative views also have their place. » I think this is an essential part of intellectual/artistic/creative life in general. More to come soon.


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