In blog-post reflection on blogging Elliot Milco considers blogging mostly insofar as it is communication with others:
The purposes of communication are: to convey the truth, to express one’s will, and to delight. These are respectively the virtuous, useful, and pleasant goods of speaking.
But when I think about why I began this blog it seems to me that my main purpose was not so much to teach, sway, or delight my readers, but rather to clarify my own thoughts. In a recent post on Jacob Klein and Charles De Koninck I discussed the idea of philosophy, and therefore of philosophical writing, as a clarification of what is contained in a confused way in the first movements of the mind. Peter Kalkavage, an SJC tutor very much in the tradition of Klein, has a wonderful little essay “Writing to Learn,” in which he writes:
writing — the sort of writing that pertains to us as human beings rather than as professionals — is primarily for oneself and only secondarily, if importantly, for others. Why write? Not primarily to communicate but rather to inquire, that is, to grasp a thought with greater clarity and depth. The true beginning of such writing is the desire to know…
That is the kind of writing for which I started this blog. Of course, a blog is not a private notebook; people sometimes actually read what I write here, and this affects my writing in all sorts of ways. James Chastek, whose blog is my beau ideal of this sort of blogging, writes something about his readers that I would like to apply to my own:
I’m very thankful for those who read the things I write here. I would have abandoned a mere private diary or a blog with no readers after two entries, and so each of you had an essential role to play in the project.
And then of course once there are readers some posts are written for the sake of persuading or delighting them. But I think that this leads to a different kind of writing, with its own ends—namely those that Milco enumerated: teaching, or moving to action, or delighting.
Milco writes, “One should not desire an audience for its own sake,” and “the audience is the incidental recipient.” But I think that this is more true of the kind of writing that one does for one’s own learning. In the kind of writing that is ordered to communication the readers are often not incidental. If, for example, I am writing about the immorality of marijuana smoking in order to clarify my own thoughts about the matter, then the readers are incidental, if however I am writing because I want to persuade my countrymen that they should not legalize marijuana then I ought to find a medium which will be read by many influential people of the sort likely to be persuadable by my sort of argument.
Milco’s post was occasioned by the first post of modestinus’s new blog. Modestinus writes that he had been considering abandoning blogging for the sake of writing in web-magazines such as Ethika Politika or print media such the The Remnant. If Modestinus is primarily interested in didactic, rhetorical, or poetic writing—that is, writing that is primarily for its readers—then he probably should have done so, but if he is interested in “writing to learn,” a personal blog is an excellent medium for that purpose.