A Community of Thought by Jeremy Trombley

“At the beginning of my previous post, I wrote a short disclaimer saying that I feel out of practice, like it’s harder for me to string thoughts together lately. It was a performative act. If I hadn’t written it, I wouldn’t have been able to spew out the post – I would have started and stopped only to give up. I know because it’s happened hundreds of times in the last few months, and it’s why I post only sporadically lately. Yes, I’ve been busy, and preoccupied with doing dissertation research and writing. But that’s not enough of an excuse, because the amount of other work I have has never been a determining factor in the frequency or quality of my blog posts. Or, at least, it’s been a minimal determining factor. The fact is, I don’t write because I have nothing to write about. I feel disconnected.

I think the reason – part of the reason – might be that I am less connected – materially, psychologically, with other thinkers. With the exception of Arran – who, despite our disagreements and his frequent demurring is still one of the best philosophers I’ve had the good fortune to interact with… if you’re not reading what he’s writing over at Synthetic Zero, I suggest you do now – most of my community of thought has been relatively silent lately. I’m not blaming them or complaining really – things come up and there is always other work that needs to be done. And if we’re talking about a community, then I’m just as responsible as anyone else. It’s more just a recognition of what’s missing and what I require to be engaged and productive.

As philosophers and intellectuals, we need such communities of thought – I know I do. We need to be able to communicate and share ideas, to engage in debate and discussion, to feel the conceptual friction that generates new ideas. I was talking recently with Trish – because Graham Harman is giving a talk here in Binghamton in a few days – about what I could call “the good old days” of philosophy blogging. I could, but I won’t because I’m not interested in sentimental revisionism. But it’s true that there was a time starting about five years ago when there was an almost constant movement in the blogging world, and it seems in retrospect that this was an extremely beneficial time for me. In talking with Trish, I realized that the great thing about it was that people like Levi Bryant, Adrian Ivakhiv, Michael Pyska – and even Tim Morton and Graham Harman on occasion – were not only aware of my existence, but showed a genuine interest and willingness to engage in discussion. I owe a lot to those discussions, and I hope I made some little difference to them as well. Others might have ignored me (some did) and still others would have simply chastised me for even presuming that I had something worthwhile to say (some did). This willingness to engage with others of all varieties made for a much more lively and interesting philosophical community than the dry thought produced within academic journals.

In addition to my blogger friends, I was lucky in Maryland to have several close friends with whom I could have intense philosophical discussions. We’re still friends and still have engaging conversations, but none of us are in the same place anymore – we’ve all spread out, and that makes it difficult to have intense conversations. Of course, I always have Trish – she’s wonderful to talk to, and I’ve gotten a lot out of recent discussions that we’ve been having around her dissertation readings, and we are beginning to form good intellectual friendships here in Binghamton as well. But I think the fragmentation of all of these communities of thought have made it harder for me to think clearly and write cohesively lately. I’m sure this will turn around – hopefully over the next year as I write my dissertation – but sometimes it takes pushing through these dry spells to figure out what’s really important to our sense of value and worth.

All of which is just to say – thank you all (including the many others I haven’t mentioned explicitly) for working with me over the years, and let’s find a way to start thinking together again (whether or not we agree).”

read more from @jmtrombley : http://www.struggleforever.com

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