PHILOSOPHICAL BLOGGING: DEMOCRACY, GNOSTICISM, INDIVIDUATION

I find many of the posts on philosophy blogs unreadable, premised as they are on being part of, and very interested in, the institutional inscription of philosophy and various other informal indicators associated with that institutional existence. This is no major concern of mine, as I am not part of the academy, despite having a very strong interest in many contemporary philosophical discussions. Sometimes something more philosophical catches my eye, but that is pretty rare.

I think that philosophical blogs do not “chat” enough, the dialogues and exchanges are too often tied to rank and status and codified interests. Not enough people are expressing themselves on philosophical blogs, and this gives a very misleading impression of the state of philosophical research on various topics, and on the sorts of things that people find interesting or could find interesting. People are too intimidated by academic credentials, or fearful of the often condescending (or worse!) treatment they receive if they dare to make a comment.

Periodically I wanted to stop blogging as I often feel that over the years it has taken up far too much of my time and energy, for so little return in terms of useful feedback, dialogue, inspiration and encouragement. Yet I continue to blog because that is part of who I am, not the blogging itself, as it is just one possible instantiation of something else, but of what? I think it is not so much the need to “express myself” as the need to have a trans-subjective context, however onesided, for inscribing my work with various concepts, arguments, and texts. I am so constituted that I am doing this conceptual work all thetime, and because thinking it in my head or writing it down in an intellectual journal is not enough. Nor is ordinary conversation, at least not in the sort of conversations I have access to, a sufficient “outlet” for such work.

I think we have all seen people who succeeded in academia with not much to contribute, because they were lucky (and I include social luck, and economic luck here) and because they worked on achieving that success as an important task in itself. As non-academic thinkers we are probably forever in the bind of seeking recognition from people whose very status of being able to accord recognition (or not) seems unjust to us.

Intellectual individuation does not stop when you leave the academy nor does it begin there. The thinking individual is not the academic subject, and the democracy of sharing is not the same as the conversations of cronies. I miss the academy for the access it could give me to libraries, people, and ideas, but when I was in the academy I did not find it to be a place of pure intellectual freedom nor of universal open exchange.

There are limits to my time and resources, for pursuing the thought that I like. But I do not stop thinking and saying what I think, nor am I easy to impress. Authorities, lobbies, and cliques leave me cold. There is freedom in the non-academic ordinariness of thinking and expressing myself. And I am not the only one to avail myself of such freedom. There is no room for such ideas as “I will publish my real work in a more serious place” because a blog is a very serious place indeed, and you are judged by very surprising, singular and unformatted, non-professional eyes and minds.

Like François Laruellle, Feyerabend has defended “gnostic” thinking, as long as it is not academic or dogmatic gnosticism. For both, gnosticism is part of the democratic project that they favour for thought. A gnostic acolyte is one thing, just another true believer or joiner of movements, but a gnostic individual is something else, someone who practices that equality that puts many of our intellectuals so ill at ease when it comes from outside the profession.

(Note: I used “democracy” in reference to Feyerabend’s defence of a democratic relativism as basis for free exchange between people of different ideas and modes of life, and also to Laruelle’s idea of a democracy of thought where no discipline is foundational).

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