Sunday, August 20, 2006

My Voice

Listen to Me!

At the beginning of Arthur Danto's paper, "In Their Own Voice", Danto comments that most contemporary star-philosophers have fairly distinct writing styles, "possibly in consequence of the fact that so much of what they have written has been composed to be read before audiences, and hence is filled with devices of a kind calculated to hold an audience...." When I first read that, it resonated with a long held image I've had of myself. When I was young, an English teacher told me that I wrote how I talked--and that this was bad. Being a defiant, antiauthoritarian as I was, I latched onto it rather than rebuffed it. I write how I talk, that's how I write. Get used to it. From the age of 12 to 19 I was impossible to teach (writing that is, though I suspect that wasn't the only thing).

When I was 21, I did end up having to take another writing class, but by that time I wasn't all that bad. Because let's face it--I was insolent in the face of subpar writing. I always managed to get through, though, because I wasn't that bad. What saved me during my youthful bouts of arrogance was the fact that, by and large, most people can't write their way out of a paper bag. (The reason I took a writing class when I was 21 was because I had transfered to UW-Madison, which several years earlier had installed a new set of requirements: Comm A and B, and Quant A and B. They created them because apparently businesses were complaining that UW graduates couldn't write or count.) So my writing has always existed on the bottom edge of above average--a fair number of people wrote better, but I could be ignored because the vast majority wrote like Dr. Seuss (which probably would've been a step up for them).

But even at 21, my writing wasn't all that great. Like almost everything else in my life it would seem, what changed everything was reading Richard Rorty. I began to unconsciously emulate his writing style. I think that happened because I already had a similar style to his, which is probably why I got into Rorty so much in the first place. I found him so easy, fun, and entertaining to read because my favorite writer is me. I could sit and read me all day. Of course, my writing has taken gigantic leaps forward in the last five years. Now, I think, I actually am a decent writer, whereas before I was just a defiant writer.

Danto's comment really hit home with me because it connected up the fact that I've always imagined myself as writing like I talk with the fact that Rorty, being one of Danto's instances of a star-philosopher, writes like he talks to a certain extent, at least insofar as many of his writings since Consequences of Pragmatism have been lectures.

That gave me an idea. A common pratice of mine is to read my blog posts, or MD posts, or essays, outloud. I do that because so much of my style (the pacing, rhythm, etc.) is bound up with my delivery. At least, I think so. As James Conant said, hearing Rorty for the first time changed the way he thought about his philosophy. I had the same experience with hearing Rorty online. (Well, maybe it didn't change anything, but it deepened something.) My idea was to offer my posts in audio form in addition to text. I got an iRiver for Christmas from my mother and one of the perks is that it has a voice recorder. So I thought, hey, why don't I let people hear me?

Of course, it has occured to me that it is a little egocentric for me to do so. I mean, who's gonna' listen to them? The text is right there, why would you spend more time listening to it? But, I figure, I got nothing better to do, so why not? I know most of the people who spend any time on my blog, and maybe it'll let those tiny few (you know who you are) get to know me a little better, considering none of us have actually met, and some of them I'd like to refer to as friends.

At the very least, I can listen to them. Hey, I can even put them on my iRiver and listen to them. Maybe then I'll hear something interesting during class.


  1. After reading this piece, I think a better subtitle for your blog might be:

    "Space where I can read about what I wrote"

    But it's true. Your writing is getting better.

  2. Just " what I wrote".

    I just got a letter the other day from somebody praising "Absurdity and the Meaning of Life" and I was just like, "No, no, it's bad, just get on with asking what you want me to do for you." Even my last long essay, "Philosophologology", is starting to harden and crack under my unapproving stare. But I guess that's the way it's supposed to be

  3. Dude????
    you got picked on alot when you were a kid didn't you?

    I mean I wouldn't go so far as to call you a prick, but you certainly have some issues.

  4. Hey Stevo,
    Yeah, Matt has issues. Now go put your keyboard over a bunsen burner. You really only need a mouse to surf the web.

  5. Hi Matt,

    It's all gone quiet ? I see you been commenting on Paul's blog.

    One observation ... you have a "vanity" quote alongside your hit counter. I have a hit counter too, and I find it the most productive source of links. By knowing who visits (and which pages / posts they visit) I follow reverse links to much interesting material even if people don't leave comments and links behind.

  6. Ian, can't I ever just have a little joke?

    Yeah, its been quiet through a combination of lack of motivation to get the audio off the ground, lack of motivation to get any new writings off the ground, and lack of time due to vain attempts to graduate. Its all work, French, and Afro-American Lit. Well, and drinking. I have to leave room for movies and drinking.

    I have, however, started a new book, Stout's Democracy and Tradition. I finally found it used and the beginning is very good. And its nice because it talks about how stupid the reason/tradition distinction is, which was the last thing I was going on and on about. It provides a nice, new context to fit Pirsig into.

  7. Didn't mean to be a killjoy, I could see your note was a bit of fun ...

    But I've seen others do it too. I was just kinda hoping it wasn't a joke to cover up any unfounded "embarassment".

  8. Yup,
    even funnier...

    "Space where I can read about what I wrote"

    Nice, real nice.

    The humor of this will sustain me for the rest of the night and perhaps into tomorrow morning.


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