Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Great Books or Great Blogging?

The Friar, who blogs at Reason and Revelation, wonders whether we should serve the cause of freedom and deciphering truth by spending our time blogging or whether we should spend our time cultilvating our souls by reading Aristotle’s NICOMACHEAN ETHICS. Following the letter of Aristotle, he concludes that we should pursue the mean between those two extremes by both reading and blogging moderately. Aristotle adds, of course, that the moral virtue is the mean relative to the nature of a particular human being, to be achieved by reasonably and habitually countering that person’s characteristic excesses. The Friar admits that blogging seems both more addictive and more distracting than reading Aristotle. His analysis may strengthen the case for the technology policy of Wyoming Catholic College discussed below, at least for the education of some. Surely we should all resolve to blog more about Aristotle, who was pretty good at defending human liberty and deciphering truth.

Discussions - 6 Comments

The Aristotelian case for the blogosphere is roughly the same as the Aristotelian case for democracy (see Politics Book III, chs. 11ff, if memory serves). I won’t tell you what to think about those passages, but I will raise a question about how one goes about "collecting" judgments.

And, as anyone who has attended his or her share of covered dish suppers (or pot luck dinners, depending upon your region) knows, they’re rarely (or should I just go ahead and say never?) the equivalent of a gourmet meal cooked by a cordon bleu chef. Or for that matter, it’s virtually impossible that they’d exceed dinner at Hayward’s.

Blogs and church suppers are many-headed monsters. Sure. But the way to deal with all buffets is to stuff yourself on the one good dish. The argument for learning from blogs has more to do with the links than the posts--as a very time-saving shortcut to articles etc. from all over that share your prejudices--often in a very smart and informed way--or at which you will be fairly predictably outraged. I imagine lots of people scan the blogs who don’t have the time or intensity to check out all the magazines etc. of opinion. It may be that the typical blog reader is very moderate and selective in his pursuit of knowledge about current events compared with, say, Dan Mahoney, who actually reads all that stuff in hard copy. That covers the consumers of blogs. What about the producers?

I find that apart from the distraction that blogging can be to my more pedestrian (though necessary) work (e.g., laundry), it disciplines my mind to think through things I might not otherwise have had the inclination or the time to consider in any meaningful way. So in that sense, it is a good distraction. Occasionally, blogging has distracted me from better things--such as projects that demand an even more concentrated attention (right, John Moser?). But, if it weren’t blogging that I allowed to distract me, it probably would have been something even less worthy (like, say, T.V.). When one is of a mind to be distracted or even just amused, I think blogging is no worse than a detective novel or a magazine. It is not Aristotle--but then neither is Dorothy Sayers or even The Claremont Review of Books. But I would not give up either even if I had the mind for doing Aristotle all the time. I don’t think it would be Aristotelian to do that.

Would the kalos kagathos blog? I say yes, for reasons Julie adumbrated.

Of course, the most exemplary blogging kaloi kagathoi are the milbloggers.

The debate over blogs reminds me of Descartes’ peculiar justification for a synopsis to precede the Discourses--they are too long to be read at one sitting. On the face of it that’s preposterous--the work is maybe 50 pages long--but it does presage an impatience that results from the victory of scientific method: we can radically shorten the learning curve if method can distill the lessons of long experience and hard thinking. I really enjoy reading blogs for all the reasons Mrs. Ponzi cites and probably more so than I’d be quick to comfortably admit. Still, blogs are great examples of how a modern restiveness has permeated even the best conversations regarding the most important subjects.

Oh, yes, I am with Julie this one. Also, for someone whose ordinary workday includes lots of laundry-type jobs, to be able to think about something else while doing that job is very good. Although, I confess, I always thought about those thing without needing to write about them before. Reading as an adjunct to housework - National Review propped behind the sink’s faucets, or a book open on the counter while chopping vegetables (yes, I have cut myself doing that LOTS of times) - any chance for reading made staying home with the kids much easier.

The links are good, but I used to roam all over the web anyway, hunting for information to help me think about this or that. The blog does help, yes, Peter, a short-cut, but your little blog entry might launch me into a lengthy search to prove or disprove something, either in comment or just to myself. In other words, it can be a short-cut to longer or deeper thought or even to something I would not have thought to think about, otherwise. This is learning and I love it. I am grateful for the ease in the search that the web provides, even when it is not profitable in other ways. Of course, I have also been introduced to books I might not have read, but for their mention here.

But don’t we discuss ethics on here all the time? We come with our standards, and debate them, worrying at what is good and true. Of course, it is topical, but how to apply our ethical values to current cases sometimes takes not just thought, but discussion, too.

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