So I’ve pledged to begin a new weekend feature on “philosophy, ethics and practical debate” here on Litkicks, a series intending to offer something more substantial, unusual and potentially important every Saturday or Sunday than a weekly bitch session about literary criticism.
As I ponder several possible beginnings for this series, I am overwhelmed by the realization that I have chosen a Sisyphian task, and also a thankless one. My hope is to write lyric essays, polls and questions, book reviews and explorations in various formats that will engage difficult or controversial topics often in the context of various philosophical disciplines — existentialism, epistemology, analytic philosophy, Platonism, etc.
I plan to touch on a wide assortment of topics, but I also hope to present a consistent and rigid methodology between the different pieces for stuctured logical argument. So, in other words, I have a very focused and pointed series of discussions in mind, and I plan to conduct the group exercises with a strong guiding hand. This is something I’ve done before, but I’ve never found (and not for lack of trying) it to be a very popular party game.
Many people hate argument. They just don’t enjoy the process, which is their right. But often these people disdain the form too broadly, and refuse to consider that a structured or philosophical argument between sympathetic friends can be much more rewarding than a typical noisy television talk show or barroom fight.
Other people enjoy argument but consider it useless, pointless. Nobody, they’ll say, really cares about logic or ideals when the rubber hits the road. I believe these people are too pessimistic about human nature, but I’ve talked to enough people to know I’m in the minority here.
Others, I think, simply aren’t interested in this kind of writing, and may wonder why philosophy and politics belong on a literary blog. I understand M. A. Orthofer’s point, in his kind notice of my recent announcement, that “more than enough people already offer pieces on ‘philosophy, ethics and practical debate'”.
Yes, this is true, though I think most of them are doing a pretty lousy job of it. My goal is to adopt a completely different approach here, and the interaction I hope to get with everyone out there is a big part of my success plan for this project. So I do hope you’ll all show up, even if philosophy and politics are not your thing.
I sometimes wonder if we’re actually embarrassed to admit how philosophical we all are. All of us — from the living room armchair drunk to the jaded college professor, everybody in the world. We all cling tightly to our own deepest held beliefs, and these beliefs are the philosophies we live by. Just as we are all poets, we really are all philosophers.
But to admit that we philosophize takes courage, and makes us feel vulnerable. We like instead to put on airs of cynicism about big ideas, to pretend that big questions don’t matter.
Conducting an intelligent collective debate about politics and philosophy on a literary blog is going to be a Sisyphian task, but the reason I believe we can do it is that I believe there are many smart and brave readers out there, and we’re going to do it together.
Anyway, I’d be lying if I told you I knew how I was going to get this puppy started. So, instead of lying, I’m going to give myself another week to come up with a kickass kickoff post. Till then, we’ll return to regular literary programming tomorrow.