A Persian Cafe, Edward Lord Weeks

Sunday, 25 December 2016

A brief update

I haven't been blogging much in recent months. I thought this was a November-onwards thing, but it turns out that July was the last month in which I wrote more than three blogposts. In any case, I'll attempt to explain what I thought was the cause of my lack of blogging, and why I hope to get back to blogging more.

My writing depends upon coming up with ideas. Through October and early November, I was having ideas but they were focused on an essay which has now turned into the first half of my dissertation. (Note to self: write a post here summarising that; basically, it's a response to David Benatar's antinatalism). Then in November I stopped having ideas, at least in anything like the same quantities - partly being a bit burned out, partly by getting distracted by what turned out to be a false hope in my personal life.

This is true, but given that the lack of posts runs longer than that it's almost certainly not the true explanation. In any case, hopefully I will be blogging rather more in the future. (Of course I've said this before now, and usually it's lasted anywhere between two weeks and six months before dying off. But hope springs eternal!)

The immediate cause of this is reading Anonymous Mugwump's Weltanschauung post. Like many such posts, it fills me with feelings of inadequacy about how few books I've read. Therefore, for the first time in living memory I am making a serious and sincere New Years' Resolution, which is to read and write reviews of important non-fiction books on a regular basis. "Regular basis" is vague, but it means at least once a month and ideally closer to once a fortnight.

The first book in this will be Derek Parfit's On What Matters, largely because I promised a classmate I'd read it and we could discuss it. After that I'm open to suggestions, although my intention is to focus on ethical theory (and in particular utilitarianism: Peter Singer's Practical Ethics will make an appearance, and I have a sort-of-whim to read some Harsanyi) and the history of state-building (Seeing Like A State and The Art of Not Being Governed, rereading sections of Rationalism, Pluralism, and Freedom, and whatever else I find. Better Angels of our Nature I also put in this category, for reasons that should be clear from the other set of words I intend to vomit out tonight).

Generally, reading people (or at least, interesting people. Papers for class rarely have this effect) tends to provoke ideas. So if I'm lucky, this extra reading will also indirectly lead me to write more.

(Incidentally, I discussed this reading plan with José Ricon last Monday when we met up to chat and eat. One of the many opinions that he advocates and I have strong sympathies towards is that books are overrated, and most of the material in a book can be gleaned from reviews. This may be so, my intention is to test it with the first few books by reading reviews beforehand and noting what I learn from reading the book that I didn't learn from reviews. If this opinion is indeed correct, then I will attempt to focus my book-reading-and-reviews around things that other people I know have not read and would be interested in reading reviews of.)

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