Streamlining Life, Thinking, and Writing

If you're a long-term reader of this blog -- or of my other main philosophy blog, Virtue Ethics Digest -- you may have noticed a relative paucity of posts over the last year or so, a lower degree of productivity (or at least prolixity) than previously.  If you're a new reader to this blog, of course, you need only look to the sidebar post archive list, where you can see the numbers.  In either case, you might wonder why that has been the case, and whether or not this is the "new normal," as they say.

You might also have noticed a rather startling change to the look and even feel and function of the blog.  It started out as something like a playground or preserve for philosophical musings and rants, and for about two years I've done more or less what I liked with aesthetics, content,  even eventually scheduling.  Really a decision -- or at least a dissatisfaction -- coming down the pike for a long time, matters finally came to a head this Thanksgiving break, as I reflected on what else I've wanted to do with Orexis Dianoētikē, what I wanted to make of it.  I wanted something considerably more disciplined, focused, well-integrated with my other projects and purposes . . .  streamlined, you might say.  That's reflective of a broader resolve, one extending to (and through) numerous aspects of my own life, incorporating Orexis Dianoētikē within that larger reorientation.

Happy Birthday, Albert Camus

Very early on in my philosophical formation -- long before I had any idea that I might study, let alone go on to become a professor in that field -- I first encountered the work of Albert Camus, in the form of a paperback, The Myth of Sisyphus: And Other Essays.  I had just started high school, and we were on one of our many visits from Wisconsin, where my mother and father had settled in the family's exodus out of Chicago, gone down I-65 into rural Indiana, where my grandparents and great-aunts and -uncles had built the complex of little pre-fab Wausau  houses, facing each other on a common driveway, two of them connected in their basements by a cinderblock garage -- a time and place of sand and sun, snow and wood-burning stoves, oaks and sandburrs, trails, freedom, work, card games and quiet affection that to me, in my childhood was perhaps an image of what paradise could be.  My uncle Aime lived there, in a room partitioned off from the rest of his parents' basement, and I would visit with him in that room where he slept, listened to and reflected on radio programs, and read the books stacked in neat piles, but at casual angles and locations. 

Camus' volume held the top place that day on one of the stacks.  I recognized the name Sisyphus from my readings in Greek mythology, so I picked it up to page through it.  Seeing my interest in it, Aime told me it was worth reading, and asked me if I wanted to take it, so I did, and tried to puzzle my way through the not-entirely-for-beginners prose in the main essay.  Trying to remember back to that time, I can't be sure I really understood much of what now, nearly thirty years later, seems clear enough that I've recently shot several video lectures (one, two, and three) discussing the work.  What I recall is being struck by the boldness of Camus' formulations, an enjoyment arising from turning over the paradoxical phrases, and the feeling that if I just dug at it tenaciously enough, I'd come away from reading equipped with something novel, exciting, something I could integrate within my own life and developing thought.  For me, its fitting that, in celebration of his birthday, I focus mainly on that early work in which I first encountered his intransigent thought, his resolve to live "without appeal."