[FOM] FOM Potential

Torkel Franzen torkel at sm.luth.se
Sat May 24 03:45:19 EDT 2003

Harvey Friedman says:

  >Imagine if there were a moderated FOM email list devoted to serious 
  >discussion of fundamental issues in f.o.m. and related topics such as 
  >ph.o.m. from the time of LW's major contributions through the present 
  >and future?

  >The FOM list would be inviting LW to participate. Informal reviews of 
  >LW's work would appear. LW would see all of this in his email, or 
  >look into the FOM Archives, or his associates and colleagues would do 
  >so on his behalf and for their own benefit, etc.

  >There is no doubt that this would have led to an interactive 
  >clarification of LW's positions, and there would be a written record 
  >reflecting the developments. FOM would be a major source for 
  >historians. LW scholarship would be profoundly affected.

  The idea of Wittgenstein partaking in the interactive clarification
of his ideas on a mailing list is a bit comical, but of course your
vision as such makes perfectly good sense. However, it doesn't take
into account what seems to be a stable feature of the dynamics of
lists such as this. Few professionals seem inclined to engage in any
extended interactive clarification of their ideas on the list. This is
not because they prefer to agonize over philosophical or foundational
questions together with a small group of awe-struck students - they
publish books and papers, they attend conferences, they teach classes
in regular academic style. But it seems that they do not, with few
exceptions, regard it as worthwhile to present careful arguments on
mailing lists. This is of course understandable - for one thing,
mailing list contributions hardly further your academic career like
articles in Mind or JSL. Also, the free-and-easy style of argument and
tolerance of eccentricity or brashness even on a moderated list is not
to everybody's taste (but is strictly necessary if the list is not to
be moderated to death).

  As a consequence, most mailing lists devoted to professional-level
discussion, unless moribund, tend to be dominated (as far as the
number of contributions is concerned) by a bunch of naturally
argumentative people of no particular distinction. (I hasten to add
that among recent contributors to FOM I would only claim membership in
this category for myself.) At any rate, only a small number of
subscribers seem inclined to contribute actively to the list. To make
your vision a reality, we need to consider the reasons for this, and
how it might be changed.

Torkel Franzen

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