Wednesday, July 27, 2005

500 visitors

Phronesisaical has today hit the 500-visitor mark over its brief lifespan. Thanks to all of you who have spent time here and especially those of you who return. That's a very small number in the blogwagon world, but it's growing.

In the near future we'll have more comments and more discussion. What I will do here is maintain a blog that presents real news and dynamic ideas (and also moribund ideas, for kicks) and, of course, more pictures of tropical fruit. Yet, rather than simply reporting or rounding up news that can be gotten elsewhere, and rather than being yet another leftwing or rightwing political conduit, Phronesisaical looks to discuss what's right and good, what's problematic in theoretical and practical terms and where the two conflict and/or transform each other, what ought to be done, what are serious matters and what are not, why and how we do what we do politically at a domestic and international level, and hopefully separate some of the wheat from the chaff in terms of political rhetorical strategies, political-moral issues, real debate versus demagoguery, and normative claims. But rather than get preachy or simply pissy or overly bleeding-heart, which many blogs do, I think this can all be done with a sense of our own fallibility, a healthy dose of humor and absurdism, and at least an acknowledgement of our tendencies towards cynicism. Helmut is a pragmatist of the philosophical variety.

As for the fruit,... well, they're pretty and delicious, and hopefully provide a cool and calm stopping point on the internet.

About the unwieldy name "Phronesisaical" there's nothing terribly intelligent to be said. The philosopher Charles S. Peirce wrote about his invention of a philosophical term ("pragmaticism") that it was ugly enough to protect it from kidnappers. I'm not trying to defend a particular philosophical conception, however. The blog name is just plain ugly.

Phronesis, which is itself a lovely word, is a Greek term. The ancient Greeks, Plato and especially Aristotle (in the Nicomachean Ethics), used it to refer to "practical wisdom." This was the kind of wisdom not centered purely in technical knowledge or theory, nor wholly in the contingencies of practice and experience. Rather, phronesis reflects the integration of both theoretical knowledge and practical experience (as embodied, perhaps, in the "philosopher-king" who looks to both theoretical knowledge and earthly experience in order to rule). It is a deliberative understanding of concrete action not based purely in the rules and principles of theory, but neither in ungeneralized experience.

I chose this part of the name of the blog late one tired night by looking to the left at my bookshelves and my eyes falling on The Complete Works of Aristotle. Entirely random. But "phronesis" as a name for a blog is utterly pretentious, and I wouldn't want a philosopher-king as much as I don't want a boy-idiot-king. So, in a 3am fit of stupidity, I tacked on the misspelled suffix for "maniacal." Thus the ugly birth of "Phronesisaical." Not only is it safe from kidnappers, it's also safe from Google, or even pronunciation. But most ideas begin with a whimper rather than a bang, and there is an idea here that directs the nature of the blog. It's mostly left to be discovered.

As for "Helmut"... I'm blogging quasi-anonymously for now. I'm a professor of philosophy, public policy, and international affairs. The blog provides an opportunity for me and others of you to let off some steam while participating in a more public dialogue than we're used to in academia. All are welcome. But I also do not wish for this to be an academic blog or one that doesn't try to speak a common language. On one hand, I have no problem with being labelled academic "elite" by the right. It's good to be smart and to try to become smarter, and it's good to share real ideas and experiences and try to make them more intelligent. On the other hand, I can think of nothing less interesting than rehashing academic debates on the internet. So, a somewhat maniacal attempt at phronesis.

Call me "Timmeh!" if you like, but there you have it. Thanks again to all 500 of you.

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