Since starting this site, the blog portion of the website has been based on a very specific concept of what a philosophy blog can do better than other forms of philosophy literature: provide high-quality self-contained, short-form work on a topic that is disentangled from the academic literature and jargon associated with it, especially on ‘big-picture’ questions in metaphysics. For some of the better examples of this, I refer you to the highlighted posts page, especially the pieces listed under section 2.1, ‘What is philosophy?’.
Few philosophy blogs I am aware of actually attempt to do this. Among the better ones, one mostly finds tentative, informal approaches to topics the author hashes out better elsewhere, commentary on current events in politics and in the philosophy profession, and drafts of work that will ultimately find their way into academic publications.
Given the incentives associated with both philosophy writing and blogging generally, this is understandable. On the philosophy side, current incentives encourage writers to publish research that engages with the work of their peers, who in turn judge that work’s merits. An unfortunate side-effect of this is that professional philosophy writing tends toward insularity, and much philosophy blog writing merely becomes pre-professional writing. Philosophy work explicitly intended for a popular audience, e.g. many good pieces written in Aeon, tends to either distill academic work for a popular audience or focus heavily on trendy topics and current events. On the blogging side, algorithms that determine which pieces are recommended to others in aggregate blog sites like WordPress or Medium.com are biased towards a high quantitative output – even when, as is the case with the latter, there is an explicit attempt to do otherwise.
Nothing is wrong with this per se. But there is room for another, different sort of philosophy work than that dominant at present (either on this blog or elsewhere), and the need to strategically address the challenges post by search engine and blogging platform algorithms can’t be ignored. While I’m happy with most of the work I’ve published here to present, it hasn’t reached the limits of the first, and hasn’t even attempted to address the second problem.
That being said, there are several changes I’m making to the site:
The first set of changes affects the kind of content to be found here. I’ll begin posting on a wider variety of topics, including ethics, politics, religion, philosophy of technology, and economics. To now, I’ve avoided discussions of many of these issues on two assumptions: first, that most disagreements in these areas are consequent upon deeper metaphysical disagreements – ethical tips of metaphysical icebergs, so to speak. Second, that many topics in these areas are controversial, and my arguments on any of them would likely alienate some readers. Thought I still think these things are true, it now seems to me that the costs of engagement may not be as steep as I originally envisioned, (and that in the interests of truth I can only care so much if they are), and that there are likely benefits I had hitherto ignored to be had in engaging such topics – both in engaging other potential readers and in giving examples of greater disciplinary integration to a world where the sciences remain badly fractured. The one caveat is that I will continue to avoid writing material connected to news cycles, which inevitably comes to look badly dated after a short time. Even when engaging in topics of increased public interest, the directive of philosophy remains what it has been since Plato: to find what what is stable and lasting behind the changing and ephemeral.
Next come qualitative changes, of which there are three:
First, I’ll begin posting shorter blog posts close to daily. Since it would be foolish to pretend that the depth of analysis will remain the same after this change as when posts appeared less periodically, this leads to the next two changes.
The second change is the inclusion of best-of posts on weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual bases, which will gather a subset of the best posts at the end of each of the aforementioned periods.
The third change is the launch of my medium.com author page (where all my posts can be found), and a medium.com publication, Philosophy Outside the Text, devoted to precisely the sort of work this blog was originally intended for: expositions that cut out obligatory academic references and jargon with no corresponding sacrifice of philosophical depth. The site will incorporate both new material and some of the better legacy posts from this site. It will also include posts behind medium’s premium paywall structure. If you have a medium.com account, you can ‘clap’ for these posts, which medium calls ‘stories’ – Medium’s clap is similar to Facebook’s like button, but allows the user to clap multiple times, which is intended as a way for readers to rate pieces according to quality. If you appreciate my writing, clap for me. At the end of each month, I’ll receive a payment based on the number of claps my stories receive. Lastly, I am considering adding other authors to Philosophy Outside the Text in the medium- to long-term. So if you or someone you know is interested and capable of doing the kind of work for which the site is intended, send me an email with a sample post at [myFirstNameMyLastName][theAtSign]gmail.com.