As much as I love philosophy, I’ve never been an entirely comfortable fit with academic philosophy or religion departments. But until recently they were more or less the only game in town, the only way to get philosophical ideas heard by the world – unless one tried to be a freelance philosophy writer like Ken Wilber, an even more excruciating path to follow. Randall Collins in The Sociology of Philosophies argued that the great periods of philosophical creativity in the past have come with particular institutional settings – the monastery, the Greek agora – and that in the recent past it has come above all with the research university and the popular-press book, two institutions with whom philosophy’s future may now be in is in some doubt.
Blogs, however, excite me as a new way to do philosophy, one not available to previous generations. What might it mean to do philosophy primarily in this new format? It’s probably too early to tell. But there’s one towering figure in the history of philosophy who gives us a clue as to what it might look like, and his name is Baruch (or Benedictus de) Spinoza.
Spinoza should be an inspiration for philosophy bloggers in two different respects. First of all, he didn’t make money off his philosophy; he stands out (like Leibniz and John Stuart Mill) as a modern philosopher who did philosophy in his “spare” time. Continue reading