The difference between philosophy and talk about philosophy

A distinction I find rather tenuous, invoked by Ray Brassier in his attack on the self-importance of the speculative realist blogging community:

What is peculiar to them is the claim that this is the first philosophy movement to have been generated and facilitated by the internet: a presumption rooted in the inability to distinguish philosophy from talk about philosophy. The vices so characteristic of their discourse can be traced back directly to the debilities of the medium. Blogging is essentially a journalistic medium, but philosophy is not journalism. Exchanging opinions about philosophy, or even exchanging philosophical opinions, ought not to be equated with philosophical debate. This is not to say that one cannot produce and disseminate valuable philosophical research online. But the most pernicious aspect of this SR/OOO syndrome is its attempt to pass off opining as argument and to substitute self-aggrandizement for actual philosophical achievement.

Given he accepts one can “produce and disseminate valuable philosophical research online”, it’s hard not to wonder about the criteria for distinguishing between philosophy and talk about philosophy. This seemingly narrow debate is one we can expect to see much more of, in other disciplines and in relation to other topics, as social media becomes increasingly mainstream within academic life.

Categories: Social Media for Academics

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  1. You’re right about this. In fact, Brassier seems to have a rather inflated conception of philosophical argumentation — and how and where it occurs. The book which first got Ernest Gellner public notoriety — Words and Things — was an expose on how much of analytic philosophy was simply trumped up transcripts of Oxbridge common room chatter. Yet often this ‘chatter’ is taken to be the gold standard of philosophical argument. To be sure, there is interesting work to be done looking at the media environment in which philosophical arguments are made and developed. And here one would include not only the internet and the common room, but also the pub, the coffeehouse, the bistro, etc.

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