Blogs and argument

I just stumbled over Camille Paglia Magic of Images (via the excellent Arts and Letters Daily), in which she comments that:

The computer, with its multiplying forums for spontaneous free expression from e-mail to listservs and blogs, has increased facility and fluency of language but degraded sensitivity to the individual word and reduced respect for organized argument, the process of deductive reasoning.

There are an ever increasing number of philosophy blogs out there — it would be sad if we were reducing respect for organized argument, given the central role it plays in philosophical methodology (right behind thinking about things).

It strikes me that blogging about philosophy can be a technological variation of some old standbys in philosophy — sitting around the [department/bar/pool hall/colleague’s house] trying out positions and arguments, and getting drunk at conferences and trying to explain your [book/latest paper/PhD thesis] to an equally drunk colleague. That is, its a few steps before circulation of manuscripts and discussion in formal reading groups on the generation process. Of course, philosophy blogs may well be other things as well — social commentary, personal indulgencies (like this one), or a forum for real work more like manuscript circulation.

The point is, its tough for me to see why the media of blogs, listservs, and email make them inherently likely to reduce respect for organized argument — its what you do with them that counts. Its probably unpatriotic of me as a Canadian to say this, but McLuhan was wrong — the medium isn’t the message.

2 thoughts on “Blogs and argument

  1. Meta-Blogging

    As if there’s any other kind. There’s been a ton of blog commentary on this piece by Camille Paglia, which seems somewhat overrated to me, for much the reasons Mark Liberman gives. But, as Nicole Wyatt notes, it raises an…

  2. Excellent post, Scribo. I’m a Canadian who doesn’t like McLuhan, but I think the blogosphere fits the “medium is message” model better than most.

    As a medium, the blogosphere is conducive to loose talk, sound bites, and off the cuff comments. It is like a giant hotel bar or department lounge, or the agora. Happily, the price of admission is very low and the community is large. The blog medium also allows participants to participate anonymously, which may allow people to voice opinions they wouldn’t otherwise advance.

    This kind of environment is conducive to play and creativity–an integral part of a balanced intellectual diet. The blogosphere will never replace journals, colloquia, or face-to-face BS sessions, but it won’t undermine them either.

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