NEW MEDIA, NEW ACCESSIBILITY
But others, such as The New School’s Simon Critchley, who moderates The New York Times philosophy blog “The Stone,” maintain that this craving for popular philosophy is better satisfied by new media rather than books.
“There’s a hunger for serious intellectual discussion, but done in a non-technical way,” Critchley says. “People aren’t necessarily going to go to a bookstore and buy a book anymore, but they can read a 1,000-word column.”
Of the top 20 most e-mailed New York Times op-ed pieces in the last six months, Critchley said that five or six have come from The Stone. He said that one explanation is the “dialogic” interactive capacity of new media that allows readers to participate in the conversation.
“It means for professional philosophers that there’s a huge interest in what they do, but that there’s also little toleration for the abstruseness of most academic discussions,” he says.
Still, Critchley shares Kelly’s and Dreyfus’ concern with the tendency of new media to promote the idea that modern life is void of meaning.
“The problem that Kelly and Dreyfus have identified is exactly the right one,” he says, “and Homer and Melville are exactly what need to be gone back to.”
For Critchley, new media forms are thus “a double-edged sword” that make it rare for people to read entire novels but that also make public conversations possible. Ultimately, though, he says these innovations are good for philosophy.
Kelly, who plans to begin contributing to “The Stone,” says that, in the age of new media, philosophers must rise to the challenge of communicating in a more accessible way.
“There’s an audience for people who are thinking seriously about philosophical questions related to living a life,” he says.
“That encourages philosophers to write in such a way that’s not laden with technical terms. That’s a totally legitimate challenge for our generation.”
-Staff Writer James K. McAuley can be reached at email@example.com.