And that title is not a riff on Magritte, where I claim of a thing that it is not the thing it obviously is. This is, in a direct and literal sense, not a philosophy blog. I feel the need to make this clear every now and then because, from the fact that I am a philosopher, and from the fact that I have a blog, many have incorrectly inferred that I have a philosophy blog. (I do have a blog that is focused on my work as a philosopher, namely, jehsmith.com/philosophy, but it is to jehsmith.com, without the extension, that people are generally referring when they mention my 'philosophy blog'.)
A philosophy blog is a very particular thing, and indeed something very, very different from a blog maintained by a person who is also a philosopher. Philosophy blogs tend to involve a great deal of vocational humour (in essence not so different from the Far Side cartoons you might once have found on a paleontologist's office door), and a lot of concerned discussion of state-of-the-discipline issues: what sort of lighting should be used during APA interviews, which journals should be boycotted for their slow response time, etc. Occasionally, interspersed between these items, you will find some discussion of the actual content of the discipline, though the truth is these days it's getting harder to say where the line lies between, on the one hand, the actual, contentful, inspiring questions that motivated us to get into it in the first place and, on the other hand, the business of it, the running of the discipline. One fears that in the near future there will be ever more self-referential, discipline-focused events passing themselves off as philosophy: 'APA Special Session on Seating Arrangements at Philosophy Conferences: Should We Rearrange the Chairs?'
Now I'm not saying people shouldn't be thinking about stuff like this (especially when it comes to the crucial matter of eliminating cognitive bias). I'm saying I'm not the one who's doing it, not here. There is no state-of-the-discipline chatter here, nor, I hasten to add, any vocational humour. Nor, for that matter, is there much discussion even of the content of the discipline (the content in the old sense of ideas and arguments and stuff). Philosophy comes up fairly regularly, but it has no special pride of place, and is probably less central to my concerns here, year in and year out, than poetry, folklore, literature, music, autobiography, product packaging, and any number of other things I care deeply about. It is not that all these things are of equal or greater importance to philosophy in my life, but rather that this blog serves for me principally as a place to address all those things I care about that cannot find their way into my professional teaching and research profile.
On occasion, I myself have contributed to the confusion by giving in to temptation and ejaculating some opinion or other about the culture of academic philosophy, as when I complained recently of what I see as a strain of conservative pronatalism among North American philosophers of my generation. One of my resolutions for 2013 is to refrain from doing this; if I don't like something about the culture I'm a part of, I am of course free to simply think about other things, as I should have done in this case: like poetry, for example, and all the other beautiful things for which this blog really exists.
One thing I've been thinking about recently --and here I might be lapsing once again into state-of-the-discipline chatter, but hell, it's not 2013 yet-- is how much clearer, and how much more legitimate, the distinction would be between 'my blog' and 'my philosophy blog' if I were principally interested in blogging about sports, or whiskies, or kayaking, or the furniture I'm building, or the children I'm raising. Now I have nothing against these endeavors, but as it happens my interests lie elsewhere; I have nothing to say about Messi or Laphroaig or whatever, and plenty to say about, e.g., Kafka. And this means that my elsewhere is not neutral territory, but is sufficiently philosophoid to be seen as the sort of stuff a philosopher cannot be interested in without being interested in it qua philosopher.
And this is where the old, facile distinction between the continentals and the analytics, as between those whose philosophy emerges from literary preoccupations and those who come to philosophy via a broad concern for scientific explanation, intrudes uninvited upon my blogging idyll, and gives the casual visitor the impression that because I am concerned with literature here, I must belong to the first of these two camps.
So let me make something very clear: not only is this not a philosophy blog, a fortiori it is definitely not a soft philosophy blog. And let me be perfectly honest: I don't have the slightest clue what Derrida or Husserl is on about, and what little fragments I've managed to understand have failed to capture my imagination in any way. When I am writing as a philosopher, Aristotle, Henry More, Spinoza, and Leibniz are my guiding lights. I believe, moreover, that what we call 'science' must be the ultimate arbiter of questions about the nature of reality, and I believe that at least in principle definitive factual answers, i.e., the truth, can be arrived at for such questions.
But anyhow my point is that the vast majority of the time, the interest I take in things here is an interest I take quite apart from the line of work I'm in, and quite apart from my my orientation in that work, even if, admittedly, this interest often lies somewhat closer to philosophy --and even to that philosophy I've confessed to knowing nothing about-- than do, say, the NBA playoffs.
So, to sum up: this is not a philosophy blog. I don't like philosophy blogs. This is a non-philosophy blog about all those things that matter to me that cannot be easily incorporated into my professional profile. And there is no reason why I, a philosopher, should not be free to maintain this sort of non-philosophy blog, any less than my peers should be free to maintain their Monty Python blogs or their blogs about The Wire or their favorite coffee shops in the Tri-State Area or their favorite vacation spots in Tuscany.
There is another discussion to be had about how the project of philosophy came to be so defined that the full range of interests I've mentioned could not be incorporated into it. Leibniz, for example, would have drawn the boundaries of the discipline very differently, and his blog --and Leibniz definitely would have had a blog-- would have been a philosophy blog with notes on the diversity of plant species in Siberia, on how to build a reckoning machine, with poems about cider, and proofs for the existence of God (for me --as for Leibniz, I think-- the crucial distinction is not whether you see philosophy as deriving from science or from sentiment, from truth-seeking or from self-expression, but rather whether or not you see philosophy as appropriately concerned with the great abundance of particular things in the world, with all the res singulares). For now I will simply say that I am well aware of where the bounds of the discipline lie at present, that I am able to respect them in my professional activity, and that they are of absolutely no interest to me here.