Thursday, January 02, 2014

Back from Sabbatical

I took a break from blogging because I needed rediscover my foundations. For some time, I had been reacting too superficially to whatever was being discussed online, and I found myself reading simply to be stimulated into responding. I had to let it be okay for a while that "someone is wrong on the internet".

So I've been lurking on various blogs these last five months, and only occasionally commenting (which was really a kind of breaking of the rules of my sabbatical). I've also been following current events, especially in regards to university research and higher education. But I've tried not to form opinions. This was one of the burdens I wanted to put down for a while: to have a quick and ready public opinion. The other was to be generally upbeat and confident about research practices, academic writing in particular. As my last few posts before the break were beginning to suggest, the truth is that I was close to despair about the state of the academy.

If I start again now it's not because I have arrived at some profound insight. Nor that I have resolved my doubts about university life. I said I would start again in the new year, and that's what I will do. Let's see what I accomplished in my time away from blogging.

I'll start writing regularly again on February 3, at 7:00 AM Copenhagen time, posting on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. Until then, I'll be posting more impulsively, working through some of the ideas I've been letting bounce around in my head these past few months.

Here's one that almost deserves to be called an epiphany: academic writing is, or ought to be, predicated on the idea that if something is known it can be communicated clearly and easily to someone else who has been trained to know such things. I think we've almost forgotten this. Too many people write as though their readers will, and should, only understand them with great difficulty. The corollary is that they themselves, the authors, should barely understand what they are saying. My approach to academic writing begins with the realization that this can't be right. This year, then, let's resolve to write more often, perhaps as often as every day, about things we understand well, and to do so for a readership that is disposed to understanding us. Let's see what sorts of things we would say in this mood. Let's see how we would say it.


j. said...

a welcome return!

Presskorn said...

A possible slogan for RSL:

"We can only understand and communicate to others what we ourselves can produce."

- I. Kant [1794, emphasis orignal, Correspondance, p. 482 quoted from Michel Foucault, Introduction to Kant's Anthropology, p. 34]

Thomas said...

Than for this. The letter is available (in part) here. Which also says:

"The composition itself is not given; on the contrary, we produce it ourselves: we must compose if we are to represent anything as composed (even space and time). We are able to communicate with one another because of this composition."

I'll work on this towards a post tomorrow. (It also gets me thinking about that other failing literary project of mine, Composure. But that's for the other blog.)

Presskorn said...

In the correspondance with Beck, Kant also seems to discuss matters reminscent of another source of Kantian inspiration for the Composure book, namely the problematic of Schematism from the first Critique (

That, I guess, is no coincidence...