All of my philosophical conversations are held over Skype, and my philosophical friends (formerly called conversation partners) and I are the better for it. The claim that ‘we are the better for it’ is counterintuitive, yet it turns out to be true. The object of these posts will be to establish both why this is the case and how it is that Skype can serve as a platform that makes possible philosophy as living discourse.
I begin with two elementary observations and one counterintuitive conclusion.
- By the end of 2012 when Aleksandra and I left New York City for rural Appalachia (we have since moved to Southern California), I noticed that all of my philosophical friends and patrons were living either on the West Coat or in Western Europe. By the end of 2013, I observe that all are living in Europe, Canada, and South Africa.
- Despite not being based in a large city, I have found that my philosophy practice has grown dramatically since December 2012.
- I can conclude, rather counterintuitively, that my current philosophical friends have made more progress in their self-understanding when philosophical conversations have been held over Skype than former philosophical friends had made when conversations used to take place in person and used to last much longer (3 hours, 6 hours, a half-day, and so on).
Quite often, we read that technology is alienating, not life-enhancing; that screens are distracting, not one-pointed; that personal connections, not impersonal exchanges are what matter; and, as a species, that we are getting worse at taking face-to-face time with each other. How, then, can it be, as I wish to argue, that the cultivation of the ear without the eye is a much better way of reaching philosophical self-understanding than the use of the ear together with the eye (and hand)? How can it be that the voice-to-voice flowing in eternal time is superior to the face-to-face? How can we be present when we are decidedly absent?
The assumptions we commonly make about self-knowledge and mutual understanding run very deep. I explore these assumptions and the above questions on the following days.