I’ve been looking back over some old posts that I’ve written and one thing struck me. I have written very few explicitly philosophical posts. That surprised me. When I first started blogging, I figured most of my posts would be philosophy posts. Philosophical thinking is my default. Even before I knew what philosophy was, people told me I should major in philosophy. And I did major in philosophy. It’s not something I do professionally, but I still read as much philosophy as I can get my hands on. So it’s curious that it doesn’t seem to come out in my writing.
Naturally, the most classic of philosophical questions sprang to mind, why? A few answers came to mind immediately. First is the fact that I’m not sure anyone but me really wants to read philosophy. I can only think of two philosophy books that have become best sellers. It’s just not a wildly popular subject. Plenty has been written about why that is, and I won’t get into it here.
The second reason I thought of is the fact that I usually assume that any idea that I have has already been discussed. Realistically, what are the odds of coming up with an original idea? They can’t be very good. There are plenty of brilliant people in the field, they must have thought of everything I can come up with.
The third reason is related. It’s surprisingly hard for a lay person to keep up with the literature. There are some blogs and some resources like the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, but not many. And if I try to look at any of the sources referenced in those, I can’t because of paywalls. It makes me hesitant to try my hand at it.
The last reason that I thought of is that I’ve never been able to pick a philosophical label for myself. I don’t think of myself as a rationalist or a materialist. I can’t pick between utilitarianism, deontology or virtue ethics. Sometimes I’m a relativist and sometimes I’m not. I think of myself as a universalist. With the exception of whatever Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote, I can find something of value in all of the different philosophical traditions. That opens me up to inconsistencies which makes me self-conscious.
The thing that all of these reasons have in common is that I just might not have the ego to write philosophy. I sometimes wonder if I have the ego to be any kind of writer. It takes a bit of arrogance to think that anyone would be interested in reading about whatever I’m thinking about. But I do write, even though I don’t really believe that anyone wants to read it. I write because I enjoy writing. And I share it because, well, why not?
Maybe I should take the same approach with philosophy. I should write it because I like it and not worry about any of the other things. It’s not like I’d be hurting anyone. And so what if what I say isn’t completely original? Most things aren’t that original. Some repetition can’t hurt. Inconsistencies? Schminconsistencies. I think I’ll give it a shot. What’s the worst that can happen?