Sunday, October 14, 2007

Intellectual blogging

I've been tagged by Paul at Cafe Philos as one of his five recipients (here, here, here, and here are the others) of the Intellectual Blogger Award

This award is intended for those bloggers who demonstrate an inclination to think on their own. This is what I think is needed in today’s blogosphere. The term ‘Intellectual’ has often been derided in recent times, and this is one way to resurrect the true meaning: “An intellectual is one who tries to use his or her intellect to work, study, reflect, speculate on, or ask and answer questions with regard to a variety of different ideas.”
Paul has flattered me with words that I feel are far too kind, but I will use them as a reminder of the type of blogging that I would like to strive for. It is a tone and style that I feel has been absent from my posts - a casualty of my frustration and anger at what is happening to our country perhaps. When I started blogging my intent was to write about things that I found interesting in a tone that would encourage readers to engage their intellectual curiosity and to write in a way that was not insular in the sense that it did not preach to the choir, yet I have found myself growing increasingly shrill and my topic focus increasingly narrow since that time. Paul's words will inspire me to attempt to get back to my original goal, or at the very least to keep sight of it.

Enough about me. I enjoy the opportunity being tagged awards me to spotlight some of the blogs that I consider live up to the ideal of intellectual blogging. These are in no particular award:

  • Atheist Ethicist - Alonzo Fyfe perfectly fits the quoted definition of an intellectual blogger. He writes about various topics framed around the thought-work (another of my attempts at Colberting a word) he has done in developing his system of desire utilitarianism. In addition, Alonzo offers brief additional comments on current events at Atheist Ethicist Journal. One need only read a single post from Mr. Fyfe to see the amount of thought and consideration that has gone into what he has written. It is impossible to visit his blog without putting your thinking cap on.
  • The Vanity Press - Chett Scoville is a medievalist who teaches at the University of Toronto. He often is able to relate his expertise in literature and the Middle Ages to current issues in an interesting manner, and writes thoughtfully about politics, culture, and religion. Mr. Scoville (or is it Professor?) seems to read a vast amount of blogs and frequently spotlights essential reading. In addition, his weekly art selections are always exquisite.
  • Rationally Speaking - I've already written that Massimo Pigliucci (a professor of biology and philosophy) was one of the inspirations for this blog (although you'll notice that in a twist of fate I beat him to choosing this background lay-out). I will quote the blog's own description

    The central idea of this blog is that a public intellectual, in the words of Enlightenment philosopher Marquis de Condorcet, should devote him or herself to “the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them.”
  • The Loom - This is a blog that, unlike the others I've chosen, restricts itself to a single subject: science. Carl Zimmer is one of the best science journalists around and consistently writes about fascinating discoveries and work in the field of science, in addition to authoring books on the subject (I have long had his Soul Made Flesh on my "To Be Read" list.) I find it difficult to conceive that someone could read The Loom on a regular basis and not come away with a greater appreciation for science.
  • James Fallows - I chose this blog for a couple of reasons. First, I'm not sure that many people are aware of it (as I don't notice other bloggers linking all that often, but I could be wrong.) But more importantly, I picked it because it is an example of what high quality political journalism blogging looks like (compare/contrast Fallows with, say, Michelle Malkin.) This is what intelligent commentary is supposed to look like. It is refreshing to read Fallows and remember what sane discourse is.

Mahendra's rules for this award say to choose five blogs, but I am going to cheat and still mention a 6th - Glenn Greenwald's Unclaimed Territory - for challenging on a consistent basis the conventional beltway wisdom in defense and memory of our Constitutional liberties and tradition. I am still honored to have been given an opportunity to blog there (in its previous incarnation) last summer and found attempting to live up to the blog's high standard challenged me to elevate my own writing (never as successfully as I would have hoped, I must confess.)


Paul Sunstone said...

I'm excited by your selection of blogs, HG. Especially since four of them are entirely new to me. Thank you so much for this gift!

Anonymous said...

I have been following Paul's blog for a while now, and I know that he means what he says. So when I read his description of your blog, my jaw dropped to the floor.

The 'intellectual honesty beyond reproach' that he mentions is obvious in this post of yours itself. It is refreshing.

I am looking forward to reading your blog, and am very thankful for taking it forward to these new exciting blogs. Your selections seem to be exemplary candidates of what this award was meant for. Once again, thank you.

Sheldon said...

By Golly HG, you didn't even mention Ornicus which I am very indebted to you for introducing to me!

Alan said...

Congrats on being selected. I knew there was a reason I read this blog.

Let me also suggest two other great Intellectual Blogs/Bloggers:

Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings (


Jason Kuznicki and Jonathan Rowe of Positive Liberty (

Also, I think your blog is far more consistently "Intellectual" with regards to the properties described by Cafe Philos than Massimo over at Rationally Speaking. Massimo can be brilliant and nuanced when he sticks to science and philosophy topics, but often loses the plot on political topics making sweeping generalized statements rife with emotion and not supported by carefully documented statements or quotations.


Hume's Ghost said...

Orcinus is a team blog so it didn't fit the rules. Vanity Press is one too, but the second blogger barely ever posts.

I don't know ... I can be emotional too. Someone at Digby's blog said something yesterday about the "Marxists teachings of atheism" and I flipped out which was wrong since the commenter had been polite and civil. I think having spent the previous afternoon reading Nazi propaganda where they repeatedly called Jews atheist Marxists had shortened my nerves.

Anonymous said...

I gave each of these blogs in turn a glimpse, and it was Massimo's that really captured my attention because of his use of language.

I don't think intellectual necessarily means non-emotional. Spinning off into the biosphere from time to time is a natural effect of being impassioned by your topic. Maybe 'Rationally Speaking' is a misnomer, but I thought that was a wonderful nomination.