On Blogs: Part 1

The art of writing letters consists in not letting what one says become a treatise on the subject but in making it acceptable to the correspondent. But on the other hand it also consists in preserving and fulfilling the standard of finality that everything stated in writing has. The time lapse between sending a letter and receiving an answer is not just an external factor, but gives this form of communication its special nature as a particular form of writing. So we note that speeding up the post has not improved this form of communication but, on the contrary, has led to a decline in the art of letter writing.

Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method (Continuum, London, 2004) p. 362

This passage from Gadamer’s major work, Truth and Method (first published in 1960), has always made me question the depth and permanency of email and online forums as a mode of communication. Often debates on internet forums occur at such a pace that poorly thought out or regretful comments are made. The luxury of rumination is no longer available and the quick quip or rehashed, hackneyed arguments rule the roost. I am not saying that there isn’t a place for these modes of communication, but like Gadamer, I wonder whether the speed of communication has resulted in a decline in the art of letter writing (in broad sense).

It is this that has brought me to the world of blogs, or blogdom as one blogger referred to this magical land.

From what I have gathered blogs are informal and a certain flux about them that avoid the pitfalls of ‘letting what one says become a treatise on the subject.’ This is not fixed or beyond critique. Blogs also allow for more time for the writer and reader to ponder on the words, rather than people rushing in to post their witty remark before someone beats them to it. Basically, Blogs appear to offer the flux and pace for a return to the art of letter writing to which Gadamer refers.

Whether this blog can achieve this remains to be seen.

There will be more On Blogs to follow in the future….


  1. <>James Says:<> Mayesey!! Good to see you in blogworld! I read your comment on www.sydneyanglicans.net re: N.T. Wright then found your page. I hope you and Eve are doing well and i hope to hear from you soon.Ciao.


  2. Yeah I had one a long time ago and it died when I forgot the login and passaword and couldn’t be bothered with it any more.But I thought I should give it another go, so I started this one the other night.


  3. I am inclined the think that the writing of Blogs is something akin to the former practice of pampleteering. Your point about rumination, or better meditation, still stands of course. However the notion of spreading unsolicted opinions into the hands and minds of the general public is not really that new, just more pervasive.


  4. I have to disagree with my friend Drew about the quote – I don’t think it says anything of substance. Just sounds like nostalgia to me…


  5. Hi Craig,Thanks for your welcome and comment. But I would have to disagree with you, obviously if I agreed with you my intentions in posting the quote would be questionable. I think that there is a lot of substance in the quote, especially if taken in the wider context of Gadamer’s philosophy, but also on its own.The first point of significance is that in writing letters, or in this case blogs or written communication, there should be a degree of humility in writing, and an awareness that there is always more to be said on the subject. Also, what is written needs to be expressed in such a way that it is acceptable to the reader, in both the way it is expressed and what is being expressed. The second point of significance is in the time that lapses between correspondences. Temporal distance allows for reflection and clarity of thought, this is very important today in the way we are swamped with information; we need to recover the temporal distance that was characteristic of letter writing. I don’t think Gadamer is nostalgic about the quaint art of letter writing rather he misses the depth of thought and reflection that went along with it. He wrote these words in 1960, and he was troubled by the effect that the speed of communication was having on what was being expressed in letters, I wonder what he would think of today’s internet forums.Not that these forums are necessarily a bad thing, but I don’t think they are conducive to measured and delicate thought. This has been my own experience in reading and participating. I have often written stupid or regretful things in haste, occasionally something I would wish to put my name to but not often. I also see this in the way the others misunderstand or unintentional insult each other and I think this is due to a combination of a lack of temporal distance, thinking that they are writing a treatise on the subject, and not making what is said acceptable to the correspondent, the three points that Gadamer brings out in this short quote. This is a trivial example but I think it there are examples of this in politics and other areas controversial areas that I don’t feel capable to comment on.


  6. I think the sort of letter writing he is referring to was probably only ever conducted by a handful of people. And I suspect plenty of people have written hasty and ill-advised letters as well. Indeed, I greatly regret sending one of the very few hand-written letters I’ve ever done.If what you say is true, what is a practical response? A forum where you can only make 1 post per week, for example?


  7. I think the letter writing that Gadamer is refering did occur frequently enough considering that many collections of letters have been published. I was recently reading some of Bonhoffer’s letters from prisons, which were very interesting.There can be hastily written letters, just as there can be emails or forum posts that are very reflective. But I think the speed of modern communication does not lend itself to clear and deep thought.As for practical responses I think blogs could be a good step forward, I am not so sure yet though.A forum where some kind of “pause” on the topic was available, so that people couldn’t post a reply until a set time period had past. I am not sure though.


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