Brian Weatherson has started a discussion about rules as to what it is ok to write about in philosophy blogs. This was taken up by Lindsay Beyerstein and Gustavo Llarull. In the comments at TAR, I suggested that it’s doubtful that new rules are needed. Blogging is a relatively new phenomenon, but academic discussion (in print, at conferences and seminars, and also on the internet) is not. Jeremy Aarons replied that I may have underestimated the fact that blogging is a form of publishing. But so is posting to Usenet, publishing a paper, giving a talk or filing a dissertation.
Is there anything that makes blogging different from other occasions where you might be faced with a judgment call as to whether it would be acceptable to use someone else’s ideas, and in what form? Permanence only distinguishes it from oral communication; the actual audience for any particular blog is probably not greater than the audience for any particular newsgroup; the potential audience for anything published in written form is more or less the same; and the original authors of the ideas have an opportunity to respond on blogs just as they do in other media (publicly or privately).
Is there anything that makes academic blogging about philosophy different from academic exchange in other media? Again, I don’t think so, but I’d be interested to hear what others think.
That is not to say that bloggers shouldn’t be reminded of the issues that Brian raised. In particular, they should be reminded of the dangers of doing anything right after leaving the bar. It is generally a bad idea to blog about a drunken discussion about philosophy where you write about someone else’s views. Not only might it be rude, if not unethical, to publicize what someone else said while drunk, the chances that what you yourself say about it will be wrong increase significantly as well.