A rule for commenting on philosophy blog posts

A rule for commenting on philosophy blog posts

Before posting your comment, read each and every previous comment. Only comment if the point you wish to make has not been previously stated by someone else in some form.

The justification of the rule

A post, along with its comments, is the unified work of a collective body. While it typically has one principal architect (i.e. the author of the post), a number of individuals will make contributions to the final form of the work – primarily through its comments section.

As a work, the post, along with its comments, is precisely not a documentary of a moment in time, but rather, has something artificial to it. In live talk, a latecomer to a conversation might need to be updated on the previous topics of conversation, leading to considerable repetition; whereas in the literary form of a philosophical dialogue, such a newcomer may come across as having no such need, as though he had been listening in on the conversation all along. In the latter case, the shift from the spoken to the written word brings with it a corresponding shift in the character of the text, from the transience of the utterance to the stability of the written mark. The spoken word moves from absence to presence and back again; the written manifests itself simultaneously as a synoptic whole. As text, the work is a concrete unit of simultaneous presencing, bringing with it the impression that all of its participants share a panoptic view of it.[1]

Because of this, the post-with-comments is governed by the ideals of good philosophical writing in general: specifically, by the idea that powerful speech is parsimonious speech; and in particular, by the idea that redundancy is to be avoided. Repetition crowds out: it disrupts the integration of the various parts of the conversation, and therefore serves to obfuscate the whole rather than foster its clarification as a whole. Verbal economy, by contrast, promotes the essential integrity of the totality.

[1] This remains the case even when the standpoint of some of the participants is what we would call ‘incomplete.’ The standpoint of a Glaucon is incomplete not because it fails to grasp all of the parts of the conversation, but because it fails to grasp the whole in its fullness: the failure is a one of depth rather than breadth.

This is also a key difference between philosophical fiction and tragedy: in the latter, but not the former, one often encounters precisely this other sort of partiality, where the hiddenness of some piece of information sets the series of events on a certain course.

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