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Sunday, December 2, 2018


Here’s a how-de-do.  Things have gotten out of hand in this little-noted corner of the blogosphere, and it is time for me to take steps, as they say. 

Some history is called for.  I launched The Philosopher’s Stone in April, 2007 when I was still an active member of the UMass faculty, but it was not until June 1, 2009, after I had retired and moved to North Carolina, that I began posting regularly.  Nine and a half years later, this blog has acquired a small but seemingly loyal readership.  Google records between 1000 and 1500 views a day, and although some people apparently check in many times a day, a larger number visit only sporadically.  When Brian Leiter links to the blog, viewership spikes to three or four thousand for a day or two and then settles down.

At first, words poured out of me like anti-freeze from a leaky radiator.  I had only published two books in the preceding twenty years, and it seemed I had a great deal left to say.  I took to posting lengthy segments almost daily, and in the next several years, I wrote and put on line a 260,000 word autobiography, a book-length tutorial on The Use and Abuse of Formal Methods in Political Theory, and several hefty volumes of twenty or thirty thousand word Tutorials, shorter Mini-Tutorials, and even shorter Appreciations.  Eventually I ran dry and began the more common practice of posting daily comments on the passing scene.

Things puttered along in satisfactory fashion for many years, but a while back [six months ago? longer?] the comments section of the blog, which had been a rather friendly and lightly used part of the blog structure, altered almost unrecognizably.  A small circle of readers, no more than half a dozen, began posting longer and longer comments, many only tangentially related to my posts at best.  Let me emphasize that these long comments were almost all of them intelligent, thoughtful, and knowledgeable.  But they seemed to have nothing much to do with The Philosopher’s Stone.

I was dismayed by this, I confess.  As I observed, it felt as though my blog had been hi-jacked.  I remained silent for a while, then tried gently on-line and in emails to suggest that this was not entirely appropriate.  But to no avail.

I will be honest.  As I approach my eighty-fifth birthday, now only three and a half weeks away, this blog has ceased being fun.  Now, eighty-five is pretty old, but I am not ready to hang it up and decline into senescence.  So I am going to take steps.  I propose that the small circle of readers whose comments now make up ninety percent or more of the total wordage of the comments section set up their own blog and continue their debates and discussions there, not here.  It is quite easy, and completely free.  Google provides the structure and helpful hints, and I assure you all, if I could do it, anyone can.

If they do not, I am going to selectively delete their lengthy discourses.  They are of course welcome to continue joining in the discussion here if they can keep what they say relevant and relatively brief.  But I am going to insist that everyone reading the blog be given a chance to participate without having to navigate a blizzard of words.

I am saddened to take this step, but it is, after all, my blog, my web log, and I would like the next ten years to be as much fun for me as the last ten have been.


Brianism said...

I am not all that hopeful this'll stop it. The previous requests were hardly unclear. Odd behaviour. The perils of the internet! Keep it going, Prof., please, from the rest of us!!

Jerry Brown said...

Guessing this isn't meant to be one of the ironic posts... Or is it? :)

Sorry for the bad joke but couldn't resist. I'll make sure to stay on topic in the future. I love your blog and I like the comments also. Most of the time. I just skip over some of them when not interested. But like you say- it is your blog and that should be respected.

Anonymous said...

Good - god forbid we should allow topics to stray too far from the subject of the great Prof Wolff!!!

DDA said...

I think I can claim that of all the regulars here who post at all my posts average the shortest.

Anonymous said...

Good riddance! I began to worry, that it would never happen. Insufferable contrarians come with the territory but the conduct of MS has been really beyond the pale. Wallerstein just doesn't get it. All the rest, please keep up the good work. It's a pleasure to be a reader of this blog. Thanks Professor Wolff for running it. Your efforts are really appreciated.

Ed Barreras said...

I haven’t commented much lately but I’m still a regular and grateful reader. In the past, all of my lengthy comments have been either hair-on-fire outbursts ( that, even so, were still on topic) or labyrinthine speculations about the precise ins-and-outs of the Russia scandal. The former have eased up since the horrible reality of the administration has begun to settle in, and the latter have now been all but proven as entirely factual.

Apropos the previous dustup about irony and the releasing of T***p’s transcripts, I would just ask: Have we forgotten the lesson of the Antigone? It’s possible to hold a commitment to the rule of law and to competing goods simultaneously. The current occupant of the White House demanded that Obama ‘show his papers’ and so it’s only fair he be treated in kind. Plus, he’s an egregiously awful and destructive human being who richly deserves any embarassment that can be heaped on him.

Does this mean that the hypothetical lonely functionary who releases the transcripts shouldn’t suffer professional and even legal sanction? No, it doesn’t. But luckily we now live in a Patreon world where do-gooders who sacrifice themselves for the greater good can be buried in piles of donated money.

The way I understand it, irony isn’t just joking. It’s an ability to reflectively live with a certain tension, such that, for example, you’re able to acknowledge that you both do and don’t desire to see your petty revenge fantasies actualized.

Anonymous said...

Your little cadre of old guys has stopped obeying. They're chattering among themselves! You've lost control of the echo chamber. It's time to pull anchor, Bob.

F Lengyel said...
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F Lengyel said...
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Anonymous said...

Good move.