Is This Post Substantive Enough?

After Justin Weinberg called my work on the metaphysics of disability “bullshit” in a comment on the Daily Nous blog back in the Spring of 2017, that blog began to rub me the wrong way. Since then, I have commented on it only once or twice. Nevertheless, I often glance at the posts on Daily Nous. Sometimes I scan a comment thread.

For instance, I read last week’s Philosophers on the Philosophy Blogosphere, a symposium of essays on the past, present, and future of philosophy blogging by, among others, philosophers who have participated in the historical production of philosophy blogs. I especially enjoyed Helen De Cruz’s contribution to the symposium (though we disagree about the toxicity of the NewAPPs blog of the past) because, among other things, De Cruz recognizes the continued value of philosophy blogs for underrepresented, underfunded, isolated, and other marginalized philosophers. I also enjoyed Regina Rini’s contribution to the symposium which was characteristically lucid and perspicuous.

But I kid you not, other contributions to the symposium brought to mind verses from “Those Were the Days,” the theme song of Norman Lear’s satirical 1970’s sitcom All in the Family: “And you knew where you were then. Girls were girls and men were men….”. More than one “first-generation” blogger lamented the loss of the philosophy blogs of days gone by: ‘Remember how a blogger would whip in, whip it out, and then a collective sigh of satisfaction would soon follow?’ ‘Remember the rigor of those blogs?’ ‘Remember how substantive they were?’

Now, everything is noise. Now, everything is broken.

I must admit, it was the claims about the distinctively substantive nature of bygone blogs that really got me thinking. These claims were articulated in Tamler Sommers’s contribution to the symposium which outlined four reasons for the apparent decline of blogs. To explain the “meta-fication” of blogging, one of the four ostensible causes for the purported demise of philosophy blogs, Sommers wrote:

For various reasons philosophy blogging became less focused on philosophy, and more focused on the philosophy profession and how to talk about it. In the so-called golden age, there was a decent balance of observation/gossip/bitching/reflection about the profession vs substantive philosophy. Today blogs tilt far more towards the former. That combined with the rise of anonymous comments have made blogging way less fun. Bitterness, vitriol, and snark has always been with us but it’s pervasive now. Philosophy blogs once offered an escape from polarized political antagonisms. Now there is no escape. Except maybe…

(Sommers, “Philosophy Blogs: What Happened?,” Daily Nous, March 7, 2019.)

Notice the distinction that Sommers makes between philosophy proper and talk about how philosophy is done. For Sommers, that is, the latter is not substantive philosophy, not philosophy at all, but rather, mere “observation/gossip/bitching/reflection about the profession.” In other words, the suggestion (and it is indeed a familiar one) seems to be that everything that has turned a critical gaze on mainstream philosophy is not itself philosophy and its encroachment on the (mainstream) philosophy blogosphere has contributed to the latter’s deterioration.

Consider, however, that if we accept this distinction between (real substantive) philosophy and talk about the profession of philosophy, we disqualify a great deal of feminist philosophy, a great deal of philosophy of disability, lots of philosophy of race, lots of trans philosophy, and so on, philosophy that is articulated on blogs, in journals, classrooms, and elsewhere throughout the discipline and profession.

Ah, the golden age of the philosophy blog, before the feminists, philosophers of disability, and other rabble entered the fray.

I have blogged about (feminist) philosophy of disability regularly for several years, first at Discrimination and Disadvantage, now here at BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY. I need only look at the stats for BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY, especially the page views for installments of Dialogues on Disability, the series of (substantive) interviews that I’m conducting with disabled philosophers and post here once a month, to be reminded that we reach underrepresented and underserved constituencies of philosophers. I need only think about the mutually constitutive character of power and authoritative knowledge to be reassured that the philosophy generated on BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY is substantive, worthwhile, thought-provoking, and for some essential and that claims to the contrary should be contested, dismantled, or ignored.

In any case, bigger is not always better. You, dear reader/listener of BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY, matter. We are here for you.

p.s. Given the evident demographic composition of the Daily Nous fanbase, I wasn’t surprised that this gem in a contribution to the symposium went unnoticed or at least unremarked upon: “The cosmopolitan in me rejoices and if mankind can survive the century—not a foregone conclusion—the philosophical future seems bright.”

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