Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Drive-by Commenting

A great thing about blogging is that you can get instant feedback on your ideas, and engage in interesting conversations and arguments with your readers. Unfortunately, some people seem to interpret comment forms on blogs as a general invitation to spout off their pre-existing opinions on any related topic. (Random Googlers are especially likely to vent once and disappear, hence my reference to 'drive-by commenting'. But there can be repeat offenders too, which are even more annoying -- I had to delete a half dozen irrelevant comments by one guy today.) So let me explicitly reiterate that my policy is to delete comments that don't engage with the specific topic at hand.

If my posting on some issue prompts you to have thoughts of your own, that's great. Go post them to your own blog, citing my post as your proximate inspiration, and I'll be thrilled. But please don't hijack my comment threads to use as your own private soapbox. Get your own -- there are plenty to go around. We're trying to have a conversation here, and while newcomers are always welcome to join in, it's insufferably rude for a stranger to change the topic or otherwise try to take over. The comments here are for responding to the specific issues raised in the post; if you can't pin down a particular quote or section of my post that you're responding to, this may be a sign that your comment doesn't actually engage with what I've written.

[I should note that this warning is just for newcomers. Friends and trusted (regular) commenters are of course welcome to suggest fruitful tangents for further discussion (perhaps in a new post) -- I don't mean to deter that. You guys rock.]

As a general rule, I abide by the principle that dialectical progress is only possible in small steps. So my posts (and subsequent discussion threads) tend to be quite focused, ideally addressing one particular question or argument each. Such focus may be unfamiliar to non-philosophers (cf. problem #2), but if you would like to make some broader, more sweeping criticism of my posts, please do so in my open thread on fundamental disagreements instead. Thanks.


  1. Everyone is a philosopher in their own small way, everyone thinks, everyone loves some bit of wisdom (else they would not function).

    Next is assuming all you readers just want to engage your post, many come to read your posts but also comments themselves. Almost every news site has added comments because people love and want to express themselves and engage in dicussion with others as well as read posts.

    Personally I think you're a bit pretentious and high headed, you need more humility and to be a bit more laid back. Take it easy, no offense intended.

    When you don't understand a criticism because it's from someone more intelligent then you, you delete it so others can't read it. That's someone who isn't a real philosopher would do

    Determining who is rational and who is not universal ability of mankind, and especially academics, who have a pretty poor track record in that regard. Countless great men were criticized and outright ignored and their ideas turned out correctly. Boole of boolean algebra/logic, his ideas were picked up by shannon and developed the information revolution and lead to information theory, yet boole was criticized and ignored by his peers while most of the time he was alive.

    What you may regard as "nonsense", might be one of your readers "aha" and genius moments... personally I'd rather you leave some of them. Many philosophers and so called philosophers in themselves is filled with a lot of flim flam because they don't follow advancements in computation and computational logic, and most philosophers are not physicists or have no solid background in it, so that's a strike against them right there.

    As plato said:
    And those whose hearts are fixed on Reality itself deserve the title of Philosophers.

    When the mind's eye rests on objects illuminated by truth and reality, it understands and comprehends them, and functions intelligently; but when it turns to the twilight world of change and decay, it can only form opinions, its vision is confused and its beliefs shifting, and it seems to lack intelligence.

    What is at issue is the conversion of the mind from the twilight of error to the truth, that climb up into the real world which we shall call true philosophy.

  2. It is the duty of philosophy to destroy the illusions which had their origin in misconceptions, whatever darling hopes and valued expectations may be ruined by its explanations. My chief aim in this work has been completeness; and I make bold to say, that there is not a single metaphysical problem that does not find its solution, or at least the key to its solution, here. Pure reason is a perfect unity. (Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 1781)

  3. Did you previously comment under the name 'AncientTruth', by any chance?

    "When you don't understand a criticism because it's from someone more intelligent then you, you delete it so others can't read it."

    When? If I don't understand a criticism, I generally ask the commenter to clarify. Sometimes they turn out to be confused, other times they had a good point which just wasn't expressed clearly at first; either way, it's good to find out. I only delete comments that (as I said) don't actually engage with the specific issue at hand (or otherwise fail to contribute to the discussion).

    "Next is assuming all you readers just want to engage your post..."

    Well, firstly, I'm well aware that some people would rather use my blog as their own personal soapbox for "self expression". My point is that I don't want that, and it's my blog. (You seem to be assuming that this is a public forum, to which everyone has equal claim. It is not. It is my online lounge, where I invite people to have a certain kind of philosophical conversation. Tastes differ, so some people will not like the kinds of conversation I prefer to host; they might, for example, prefer to hear "deep"-sounding pseudo-philosophy. If so, there are any number of other websites out there to cater to their tastes.

    "...many come to read your posts but also comments themselves

    Yes, of course, as I said at the start I think the great comments are one of the best things about this blog. I want to keep it that way, which is why I delete off-topic comments which detract from the discussion. Again, I'm just clarifying my ground rules here. Other people may prefer different rules for their own blogs. Let a thousand flowers bloom, I say (and note that some flowers can only grow if others - 'weeds' - are kept out of that particular space).

  4. Hear, Hear (Richard)

    It would be incredibly rude to walk into an APA presentation of a philosophy paper arguing for the thesis that moral realism is true and start spouting off about one's own work on something completely irrelevant - say whether the early Socratic at dialogues really reflect the opinions of Socrates or not.

  5. A true philosopher doesn't censor others.

  6. PK - Rational discussion is only possible if we first block out the cacophony of those who would disrupt the conversation. (N.B. Free speech means that you may create your own blog and post to it whatever you like. It doesn't mean I'm obliged to host your drivel.)

    Consider yourself banned.

  7. Maybe a registration system is appropriate.

  8. Blogger doesn't offer that option, but hopefully it's enough to simply be clear about my comments policy.


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