Friday, May 20, 2016

The End

Martinus Rørbye, Scene Near Sorrento Overlooking the Sea, 1835.
(Source: Nivaagaard Collection)

This is my last post at RSL. For more than ten years, the blog has served as a semi-public place in which to develop my ideas about the art of academic writing, which is not, I stress, merely the business of "writing for publication". My aim here has been to help people develop their ability to write down what they know for the purpose of discussing it with other knowledgeable people. Unfortunately, this art does not stand in a simple relation to the purpose of advancing their careers as scholars.

In 1837, Bernard Bolzano conceived of his Wissenschaftslehre as the principles of composition of a book containing the totality of human knowledge. Not long after, Søren Kierkegaard described his age as "confused by too much knowledge". A hundred years later, Heidegger announced that, with the rise of modern research, the scholar would disappear. In 1972, about a year after my own birth, Deleuze and Foucault decried "the indignity of speaking for others", marking (in my mind at least) the high point of "the crisis of representation".

Twenty years ago, I read Steve Fuller's Philosophy, Rhetoric, and the End of Knowledge, interpreting its title somewhat cynically, at times nihilistically. With time, I came to see the double meaning of the word "end"—its teleological, not just (if you will) escatological, sense. Our discourse is never finished, never perfect. But it does have an end, a purpose. Perhaps it will always be unclear to us, will come to us in flashes of insight always slightly beyond the reach of reason. Here in the blogosphere, Jonathan Mayhew has helped me to see that everything depends on how we appropriate this sense of purpose, how we make it, irreducibly, our own.

And to that "end", then, I leave these social media behind and retreat to a calmer, more autonomous place. There are no cookies there and you cannot leave a comment. But you are welcome to have a look around.

1 comment:

Presskorn said...

For me - as a commenter at RSL of 6-7 years - this is a day of sorrow. But nevertheless: Cheers. It's been a great pleasure and help (!) to have RSL around. On the bright side, I guess this means we'll have see to each other more in 3-D.