By Helen De Cruz
Thank you to Marcus Arvan for raising the question why not more early-career philosophers blog. In fact, across the board most philosophers do not blog, and I'm not sure whether early-career philosophers are underrepresented. Still, the question remains why so few philosophers are bloggers. As some of the readers might know, I like to blog, and I think it can be part of an effective way to engage with philosophers outside of the normal routes.
One of my motivations is engagement with others in the profession. I find journal articles an ineffective way to engage in dialogue. The majority of papers, as we know, are never cited, and even the majority of papers in top journals are cited just a handful of times, as Kieran Healy recently detailed. Most of those citations are not substantial engagements. And even if someone responds to your paper, this happens so long after writing the paper that one has since moved on and has very little motivation to write a response to the response. For instance, just recently, a paper was published to a paper I co-wrote in 2010 (published in 2011), and in the meantime I'm thinking of completely different things so there is not much animo or even expert command of the recent literature to write a sensible reply. There are conferences, which are a great way to get feedback, but given limits in budget and care duties there are only so many conferences I can attend in a given period.
That leaves less formal forms of philosophical engagement such as blogging and Facebook. I do like Facebook philosophy, with its ephemeral qualities. Just yesterday, I had a fun discussion about quixotic topics in philosophical theology, such as whether humans were able to fart musically before the Fall (Augustine), or whether the Eucharistic wafer was digested in its entirety, or there was some waste. One problem is that taking part in those discussions depends very much on whether you are in the networks where they take place. So blogging is a more democratic way to engage in online philosophy. It is also a bit less ephemeral, as it's easy to find back a blogpost and comment thread for reference later on, which is not the case for FaceBook.
A second reason for blogging is that I want help other philosophers in the same way as mentors have helped me, for instance, in advice in publishing the book, where to publish articles, what to do in a difficult situation. There is no way I can repay my many mentors, but I can transmit what I learned from them to others. One reason I asked Marcus to join here is that the Cocoon is such a wonderful, positive forum for early-career researchers. Most bloggers here at the Cocoon do not have the benefit of long experience, but I think I can speak for many of us in saying we are eager to share what we know to people who have little or no other opportunities mentorship.
A third reason for blogging is that I aim (and this may be a very ambitious aim) to make the profession a better place. Given the state of the market, it is easy to think of our profession as consisting of a bunch of zero-sum games, after all, only one person will get the job, there is only so much space in a journal, etc. One way to push back against this is to question the norms and biases of the profession.
My interviews with non-academic philosophers who have found success elsewhere is, in my view, work that has succeeded to some small extent in this third aim. I have had dozens of e-mails and even physical cards and letters from philosophers who thanked me for the series, which enabled them to take the step outside academia. I recently got a message from a Chinese graduate student who will be translating the interview series for The Paper, a kind of Huffington Post news blog that is widely read in China. He believes this will help Chinese philosophers find a way to employment outside of the traditional university context.
That being said, blogposts (and substantial comments to blogposts) take a long time to write and do not count towards tenure or promotion. I hope that if enough philosophers use the blogosphere for aims 1-3, this might change and blogging and other forms of philosophical engagement might be taken as some form of publishing (as Eric Schwitzgebel recently suggested), which has merits in its own right.