Blog 1

I’m beginning this blog with a big chunk of metaphysics, written in the high Wittgensteinian style-a series of linked aphorisms. The ideas came to me in that way and it felt forced to try to present them in the usual discursive form. I usually don’t write in this style, and vaguely disapprove of it. Partly because of the unorthodox format, finding an orthodox way to publish Principia Metaphysica proved something of a problem; so I publish it now, on the Web, so that it might see the light of day.

I intend to write a good deal about philosophy on this blog, generally as and when topics arise in my academic life. This semester I’m teaching a graduate seminar on ontology, which will have a lot of physics in it-as well as consciousness and meaning. No doubt I’ll submit reports of how this is going. In the first class, next Tuesday, I’m going to present a paper in which I argue that traditional ontology isn’t possible. It has long been assumed that there are three great categories of being-the physical, the mental, and the abstract-and that metaphysics is concerned to decide whether entities from each category exist, and whether one category can be reduced to the others. Thus we have materialism, idealism and Platonism-as well as dualism and nominalism. My contention is that the three categories are actually not well-defined, so that traditional ontology is asking improperly formed questions-which means that the standard doctrines of metaphysics are also not well-defined.

In addition to these philosophical disquisitions, I’ll occasionally discuss other things that interest me-particularly sport. Since I just started stand-up paddle-boarding, they’ll be a certain amount on that-how it compares to kayaking and surfing, say. This is a new sport that is currently sweeping the planet and I predict a strong future for it. The board is usually about twelve feet long and thirty inches wide; you stand on it and propel yourself forward with a canoe-style paddle (the kind with a blade at one end and T-grip at the other). It’s easy enough in flat water, but the difficulty increases exponentially in rough water, which makes stand-up paddle surfing pretty challenging-there’s a lot of falling off the board. As it happens, I just finished writing a book about sport, its mechanics, aesthetics, ethics and psychology; so this subject is very much on my mind.

I also intend to weigh in on various questions of ethics and politics, and cultural matters generally-especially if they have any philosophical ramifications. I might even tell you what I’m finding funny these days, on TV and elsewhere. So it won’t all be dry serious stuff. Last night, say, I found 30 Rock and The Office especially amusing: but I won’t try to repeat the jokes here. In fact, I might even play the role of TV critic once in a while. I’ll be ranging from the intellectual to the athletic to the facetious.

My plan now is to write this blog in a diary-like form, with regular postings of weightier pieces-like the PM I’m kicking off with. And, of course, I welcome feedback and comments.

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