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Monday, September 11, 2017


When I began blogging eight years ago, I was quite unprepared for the Internet’s insatiable craving for content.  I was accustomed to sitting quietly in my study, unhurried and unharried, writing another book.  Only when a book was completed would I venture into the public square to publish what I had written.  Because I had all but died to the world, no longer attending professional meetings or giving invited talks, I felt no pressure to produce.

In 2009, my pen had been silent for almost two decades, save for a short book about my experiences in UMass’s Afro-American Studies Department, the endless new editions of a textbook written in the ‘70s, and the unpublished first volume of my autobiography.  But with the announcement of The Philosopher’s Stone, I launched into a frenzy of writing on all manner of things, posting my words for all to read virtually as they were written.  Over the next two or three years, I wrote about Marx and I wrote about Freud.  I wrote about Kant, and I wrote about Hume.  I wrote about Kierkegaard, about Mannheim, about Durkheim, about Erich Auerbach, about Emily Dickinson.  I wrote on line an entire book about Rational Choice Theory, Game Theory, and Collective Choice Theory.  I even wrote about myself, completing and posting daily the second and third volumes of my autobiography. 

When I looked up from my keypad, I discovered that I had unwittingly become committed to an endless production of daily short essays, asides, and animadversions at the passing scene.  If I failed to post something for two or three days, I would get worried messages from friends and family:  “Are you all right?”

I am reminded of Kierkegaard’s ironic and mocking remark in the Preface to The Philosophical Fragments, a work to which I return repeatedly:  “It is not given to everyone to have his private tasks of meditation and reflection so happily coincident with the public interest that it becomes difficult to judge how far he serves merely himself and how far the public good.”

For most of my life, words have flowed from me almost unbidden.  I leave it to others to judge whether they emanate from a bubbling spring or a suppurating wound.  But lately, the endless horrors of the world threaten to make me run dry.  Oh, I imagine I shall continue to blog.  After all, I seem to have no difficulty finding something to say about the fact that I have nothing to say.  But the joy threatens to leave me.  In my earlier days, it was different.  As Wordsworth said of the French Revolution, “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive/But to be young was very heaven.”

Perhaps I should say something about jigsaw puzzles.


LFC said...

Blogging can become a chore if one feels an obligation to produce something every day or even every week.

One way to deal w this is to announce that you will be posting less frequently from now on, and then give an interval (roughly once every 3 weeks, or whatever -- once every 6 weeks, whatever you settle on). Then people will only become concerned about your well-being if you fail to post at the previously announced interval.

This may result in some slight reduction in page views or casual readers, but the regular readers of the blog will not go away. Bloggers deal w this whole issue in various ways: some encourage readers to use RSS feeds (I've never used them), others allow readers sign up for an email alert whenever the blog has new content, etc.

When I was blogging (which I no longer do), I occasionally used my blog as a sort of commonplace bk, posting quotes from whatever bk or piece I happened to be reading. That's not really 'saying' much of anything beyond "this passage caught my eye," but it is one way of using a blog.

But there is little point in posting just for the sake of it. Post when you have something to say; most of the readers will not have left, I think. That's my two cents; others' views may differ.

p.s. This summer I read a classic (i.e., 'canonical') novel that I'd never read before. Despite the fact that there is so much secondary lit. on its author that one cd prob. never go through it all (unless that were one's full-time job), if I were still blogging I'm sure I cd get a post or two out of having read the bk, if only to mention a striking passage or two.

s. wallerstein said...

How about a weekly column? Readers will then click on your website, say, every Wednesday. You'll have a week to think of a topic, write a first draft, polish it, etc.

trane said...

Professor Wolff,

I think your blog is just wonderful. THANK YOU!

Jerry Brown said...

Your other readers are much less demanding than I am. They are probably much smarter and nicer also. I fully expect to be educated, enlightened, and entertained by your writings- for free- at least two or three times a week. Anything less than that is simply unacceptable.

I haven't quite figured out what 'unacceptable' means in this context other than I just don't like it, so don't consider that any kind of threat or anything. I have a lawyer friend who used the term fairly often, and it actually usually sounded reasonable when he said it. He was stumped the time I replied "so what?" though. Just as long as you don't think of something like that then the statement possibly has some meaning...

Maybe I will be better off just seconding Trane- "I think your blog is just wonderful. THANK YOU!" That works for me too- Thanks for writing it!

chrismealy said...

I found your blog because I was curious about Newt Gingrich's dissertation! I think that was five years ago. I hope you keep it up. If you run out of ideas, you could always take requests.

TheDudeDiogenes said...

Well-said, bravo!

s. wallerstein said...

Nietzsche: Schopenhauer as Educator

Question: can a philosopher really undertake with a good conscience to have something to teach everyday?....And speaking generally: is he not robbing himself of his freedom to follow his genius whenever and wherever it calls him--through being obliged to think in public about predetermined subjects at predetermined hours?....Supposing one day he said to himself: I can't think of anything today, at least not of anything worthwhile--he would still have to present himself and pretend to think!"

Anonymous said...

What passes for left-wing intelligentsia nowadays is dominated by people who either cannot write English or by the Clintonista wing of the Democrats, often people pushing anti-popular agendas.

They would be an endless source of inspiration for a controversialist.

You are an educated man who likes to write and are able to do it well, with humour and in English. Yet, I have never seen you engaging in any controversy with those sacred cows.