The Inaugural Post

The use of the term “inaugural” makes me think I should have a bottle of champagne to break on my laptop. But I suppose that would not be the best idea I ever had, so I’ll skip that. Just drinking the champagne seems a far better notion.

If you take a look at the “about” section, you will see that I wrote that this is a blog by a philosopher, but not for philosophers. Really all that means is that I am not using this space to write philosophical papers. There are plenty of places to do that in the world of professional philosophy. No, this space is just for me to write whatever it is I feel like writing about on a given day. As someone who has been trained in philosophy, I tend to approach the world, whether I am immediately cognizant of it or not, from the perspective of philosophy. Now, this does not mean that I approach every subject I encounter trying to fit it in to this or that structure of thinking. What I mean is much more fundamental.

As every philosophy professor everywhere on the planet does in an introduction to philosophy class, we pose the question “what is philosophy”? Then we offer an etymology of the word. Philosophy simply means the “love of wisdom.” The French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard wrote that if philosophy is the love of wisdom, we must remember that to love and to be in love is to desire (see his book Why Philosophize?). What is it to desire? Desire refers to something that is before us, something that we do not, in any complete or absolute way, possess. It does not matter how much you learn, how much you understand, the philosophical habit of mind is the awareness that there is far much more that you do not know or understand. The philosopher is never sated. The philosopher is not one who boasts about what is known (or thinks is known) but one who cannot stop exploring. Imagine an explorer of the world covering a lot of ground and being in awe of what she or he has found and then simply ceasing to explore. Quite the contrary, every discovery puts you more in wonder than you were before you started. The explorer is only an explorer when exploring. The traveler is only a traveler when traveling. The “love of wisdom” is only philosophy when the philosopher continues to desire. After all, is love something you do and once you have done it, it is done? As the rock band REO Speedwagon wrote: “That Ain’t Love.”

So whatever I write about, this desire for wisdom and understanding is always going to be there. It doesn’t matter whether I write about serious matters concerning contemporary issues or if I write about an attempt at a tomato plant and just how damn good that fresh tomato was. As both Plato and Aristotle taught us, philosophy begins in wonder. So this blog is where I am going to wonder about stuff and be in wonder about stuff.

The title of this website sounds a bit heady and pretentious: Discursive Dialectics. For a fellow who says he is writing for everyone and a general audience rather than for fellow philosophers, this title seems a poor choice. Here I recall the words of my mother when, as a child, I would ask her what a word meant. She would reply, “Look it up in the dictionary.” In other words, “learn a new word” and expand my vocabulary was the message implied. I chose the name “Discursive Dialectics” because it reflects the spirit and attitude of this blog. Here let me insert that media historian, associate professor at Lesley University, and discoverer of the band Rush, Donna Halper, already had the title “Discourse and Dialogue” for her blog. I thought this was a perfect name but, alas, it was already taken. But not getting the title I considered a perfect one forced me to think a bit more about what I want to do here.

As I thought of the term “discursive,” I reflected on how it can refer to the practice of discourse or can simply refer to a series of unrelated digressions. As I wanted a blog that had some sort of identifiable meaning, yet I did not want to make it so narrow as to have little appeal, it occurred to me that “discursive” fit. Sure, I want to write about what I want to write about when I want to write about it. But what will always be an underlying theme, direct or indirect, is that pursuit of the love of wisdom and the relevance that the love of wisdom has no matter what one is discussing. So despite what will surely be my widely diverse digressions, I want to make you think. I want to make me think—and to do it better.

Dialectics, as it is used on this website, simply refers to a process of dialogue from which arises a deeper understanding of life. I can think. You can think. But when we think together something rather terrific often happens. We come up with something together that we might not have otherwise come up with on our own. Now, you might say I am a little disingenuous referring to a process of dialogue when it turns out I rarely have comments activated on my posts. If I am so interested in dialogue in the pursuit of truth then why will I not allow comments? The straightforward answer is that my observation of comment threads on social media leads me to the most certain conviction that the quality of sincere dialogue that helps us flourish as human beings rarely to nearly never happens on comment threads. I find it to usually be rather soul draining, a place where thoughtful and intelligent dialogue is substituted with boisterous ignorance that is mistaken for knowledge due to the arrogant confidence with which it is delivered from keyboards and smartphones across the world. I simply don’t want to fill my time with that nonsense.

So I guess, for now, I want this blog to reflect the spirit of dialogue I prefer and perhaps it will foster that in my readers. So thanks for looking in. If one post does not interest you, visit again. Maybe you will find something for you that helps you live what Socrates called the examined life.  Cheers.

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