George Orwell claims in Why I Write, that all writers are motivated by a combination of egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, and political purpose. I've always assumed - rightly or wrongly - that egoism plays a large role in the minds of people who feel compelled to publish their lives and thoughts online, whether that be though a social media or a personal blog. While political or philosophical blogs appear more straightforwardly motivated by the pursuit of political change or of the truth, I nonetheless remain unable to shake the feeling that some level of narcissism colors the choice to publish online rather than just share thoughts in seminars, conferences, and in academic papers. In light of this, let me make (regurgitate?) the case for another reason to write and publish for others, which I hope does something to demonstrate that Unphotogenic Philosophy is (at least a little bit) more than a mere exercise in self-indulgence.
In the Preface to Anarchy, State, and Utopia Robert Nozick says:
One form of philosophical activity feels like pushing and shoving things to fit into some fixed perimeter of specified shape... You push and shove the material into the rigid area getting it into the boundary on one side, and it bulges out on another... So you push and shove and clip off corners from the things so they'll fit and you press in until finally almost everything sits unstably more or less there; what doesn't gets heaved far away so that it won't be noticed... Quickly, you find an angle from which it looks like an exact fit and take a snapshot; at a fast shutter speed before something else bulges out too noticeably... All that remains is to publish the photograph as a representation of exactly how things are, and to note how nothing fits properly into any other shape.
This quotation stuck with me since I read it as an undergraduate, as it reveals the complicated, messy, awkward and sometimes regrettably ad hoc nature of thinking and argument that is at odds with the bold claims and apparent certainty of most academic publications. Although no philosopher says, "There's where I started, here's where I ended up," (outside of the seminar room, at least), we all start somewhere in our thinking, amend our positions, think of counter-arguments, and we often then put aside our initial beliefs and arguments in light of the force of more robust ones.
Unphotogenic Philosophy is dedicated to casting a light on exactly these earlier, messier stages of thinking, rather than the polished final product. The posts and updates on the main page are comprised of potentially disparate thoughts, usually prompted by my current reading, and do not constitute a final or fully formed position (although some things are more thought through than others). In light of this, I hope that Unphotogenic Philosophy is read as it was intended: a sincere attempt to grapple with ideas and arguments, rather than push an agenda or indulge any nascent egoism. Unfortunately, even with all the ugly thinking in the world, I can't promise that I'll produce any work of Nozick's caliber, that being said, I hope that the website prompts others to think about some of these issues, and I invite other people to comment on posts in the same spirit of inquiry that they're published with.
As this site is written by a grad student in political theory, the topics under scrutiny are largely oriented around politics, political history, political theory, and moral philosophy. Hopefully, the name of this site should now make more sense to readers, even though 'unphotogenic' isn't a real word. My apologies to those who were hoping for more photographs and images rather than half-baked ruminations on political and philosophical matters. Similarly, if you came to this website due to a typo, and were instead looking for 'unphotogenic philosoph[ers],' maybe this is what you were hoping for.