Friday, August 08, 2008

On two virtues developed through blogging...

(Image from Wikipedia)

A cyber-friend of mine, William Vallicella, maintains the blog Maverick Philosopher, which was one of my inspirations for getting started on blogging. This past spring, Vallicella took a month-long break from blogging, so I was somewhat alarmed to see a recent post of his titled "Four and a Half Years Into It: Why Blog? " My fear that he might be stopping for good was ungrounded, however, for he went on to briefly elaborate several good reasons to take up and continue blogging.

Some of what he wrote could be understood as a variation on developing what Thomas Acquinas called the virtue of studiousness:
"Properly speaking, study denotes keen application of the mind to something." (Aquinas, Summa Theologica, "Question 166. Studiousness," Article 1)
Or as Vallicella explains:
We studious types are not about to abandon study. It is is just too richly satisfying. Now if you read, you ought to study what you read, and if you study, you ought to take notes. And if you take notes, you owe it to yourself to assemble them into some sort of coherent commentary. What is the point of studious reading if not to evaluate critically what you read, assimilating the good while rejecting the bad? The forming of the mind is the name of the game.
But nurturing the virtue of studiousness is not the only reason to blog. One can also note progress toward inculcating the old philosophical virtue of ataraxia:
Many are the reasons to blog. To develop a thicker skin is another of them. A thick skin is an attribute conducive to negotiating this world with equanimity. Since I've taken up blogging, I have noticed a definite uptick in the fitness of my psycho-armor. Nasty e-mails and the like roll off me. The scum of humanity offend me less. And one day, to cop a line from Nietzsche, "my only negation shall be to look away."
To assist me in joining Vallicella and Nietzsche at looking away, I've found trash icons very helpful. A mere click trashes the nasty email or the trolling comment far more succinctly than wasted words.

Of course, one need not become a blogger to develop the virtues of studiousness and ataraxia. One can read Maverick Philosopher instead and learn from a man who, despite having a doctorate in philosophy, actually is a philosopher.

Or go directly to his book: A Paradigm Theory of Existence: Onto-Theology Vindicated.

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8 Comments:

At 7:07 AM, Blogger Eshuneutics said...

It is an interesting question: "Why blog?" Is it the same questions as "Why write?" Part of me says "Yes" and part says "No." I think of recent claims by inventors of the www that is has become a failed experiment, a space littered with junk. The same could be said of the blogosphere. So much of it is recycling. It is almost incestuous in certain areas. I think particularly of the picture blogs which have little merit. They merely "sample" in the musical sense, re-arranging another blogger's work, which really isn't his work because he has lifted it from somewhere else. Such blogs are modern version of the Victorian art of scrap-booking. But among the word bloggers there does seem to be a drive to write...even if the audience is small, or non-existent. And it is connected to studiousness and the desire to shape thoughts. I can't say developing armour has been much of a personal incentive. Many bloggers would appear to have opposite motives: to remove the armour and write vulnerably.

 
At 8:25 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yes, there is a lot of junk, but I remain impressed with the quality of many bloggers.

I started blogging to work on my writing and to develop my thoughts, but I discovered -- much as did my friend Bill -- that a thicker skin developed as I learned how to handle trolls and hostile readers.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:41 PM, Blogger Hathor said...

I remember the moment my skin got really thick. Initially I was really angry and could feel my pressure rise, oddly enough is was not from my blog. I thought I was participating in a discussion on another blog, when I got blindsided by all of the others. I found then, that dissidence would not be tolerated, on a blog where their love of liberty was touted for its existence.

I constantly ask myself why I bother, but since I started to blog it gives me an outlet to express myself. It doesn't matter if no one reads it. I don't see either as a virtue.

 
At 1:13 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Self-expression probably isn't a virtue in itself, but it's often therapeutic.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:26 AM, Blogger Roboseyo said...

I don't usually blog for therapy. For me, it's often practice in writing for an audience and organizing my thoughts. More recently, it's become a way of connecting with like-minded bloggers who engage ideas in similar ways to myself. . . but I think it takes a fair bit of work to develop blog communities like that.

 
At 4:53 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Roboseyo, my extended family seems to constitute most of my blog community these days . . . but what with my father's 12 siblings and their offspring plus my own five siblings and their offspring -- not to mention my two maternal aunts and their offspring -- my relatives can be bit hard to escape.

Oh, I've tried to get away. I've even moved to Korea, for gawd's sake, but look how they've followed me here, moved right in, and taken over my blog!

Gypsy Scholar used to be about Beowulf and Blumenberg, Milton and Modernity, Zarathustra and Zwingli . . . but now, it's all about fish stories on Arkansas tick farms and hillbillies looking for mountains in Kansas.

How this blog has declined...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:28 PM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

Conversely, one might develop a thinner skin, over time, as one becomes more empathic and more permeable to the beauties of the universe. Taking more in is not a bad goal.

Developing armor has been absolutely not an incentive, not a motivation, and not even something I've particularly thought about. I can think of far more interesting reasons to blog—even if this as well as they were byproducts.

I'm with Eshu on most points. I don't write to please others, or even to please myself. I just write. There are things I want to talk about, comment on, make note, keep track of. Most of them probably don't matter to anyone but me, much less a mythical audience.

I definitely have consciously chosen to write more vulnerably over time. To reveal more of myself. To "come out" as it were from many different kinds of closets.

I began blogging from a wary, armor-driven viewpoint. I began my main blog mostly as a way of posting and preserving finished essays, poems, and so forth. It's become a lot looser over time, a lot less armored, a LOT more open and expressive and wide-ranging. I don't hide as much of myself as I used to. I began with a policy of never writing about my personal life; now, I write about that a lot more than I did, albeit still not that much compared to most. I write about my personal life to the extent that I need to explain something as background to something else; and also because, it must be said, there have been times in my recent life when I almost died, and I needed to write about it. Almost dying makes you feel pretty vulnerable. Writing about it almost as much.

I don't get that many trolls or hostile readers on my little unknown blog. Nor am I particularly paranoid about it. If you want to experience real hostility, go participate on one of the online poetry critique workshop boards. LOL Far worse than anything I've seen on my blogs.

 
At 1:24 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Mr. Durkee. I can identify with some of what you write, maybe most.

When I started blogging, I was just having fun. After a few trolls, I came to realize that some netizens wanted fun at my expense! I developed ways of dealing with them.

Next came angry individuals, sometimes Muslims angered over my critique of Islamism. I learned not to be bothered by anger. That seemed to help.

I have developed a thicker skin. What I mean is that I have learned not to take things personally. I can then respond more reasonably.

I write mainly to learn. I read something and blog on it so that I can learn it better. But I still forget.

In fact, I'd forgotten this blog entry and was puzzled to see an old blog post get so many hits. I don't know why this one's suddenly so popular.

Thanks for visiting and posting a comment. It was quite interesting.

Jeffery Hodges

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