Date: Thu, 30 Nov 1995 10:21:32 -0600
Sender: Democracy on the Net <MII-DEM@LS.UNIVIE.AC.AT>
From: "John O. Wong" <jowong@FACSTAFF.WISC.EDU>
Subject: Re: Reality
> But what realism? The realism that sees the gov'ts of the world ...
> This goes back to what I asked before, what is it that we mean by
Could it be a unicorn? If so, why? And if not, why not?
John Wong <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Doing philosophy via e-mail is a new sort of enterprise, one that is still struggling with a number of uncertainties. Neither the way the participants (and audience) are assembled, nor the procedural schedule of the new experiments is easily determined by established means. Following academic custom a reasonably well-defined group of people will take part in discussions over a certain limited stretch of time. That this can be done is shown by several contributions to this volume. Still, this particular environment is apt to subvert several rules that are taken for granted in conventional philosophical discourse.
How to pick a conversational group and what to expect from an e-mail discussion become interesting issues in themselves once one does not depend on pre-established professional contacts. In retrospect it might have been an exceedingly naive idea simply to address as many (English-speaking) philosophers on the net as possible and to invite them to participate in a project which did not base itself on shared content - its main attraction being the novelty of the discursive medium. Yet one of the distinguishing marks of philosophy is its ability to look at the difficulties it encounters as something intrinsic to its own development. The present report on the dialogues that went on (and off) from November 4, 1995 to August 9, 1996, should be taken in this spirit.
The electronic forum discussing ``Democracy on the Internet''had its distinctive ups and downs. Smoothing over its (sometimes) troubled development would give a distorted picture of what electronic discourse can achieve in such an open context. And it would belittle the feeling of inspiration and delight when the discussion finally developed into a prolonged and profound exploration of the issues. The diversity of these interactions demands a multi-level description. I shall begin by sketching the efforts to shape the discussion and the general pattern it eventually took. Turning to the philosophical outcome after discussing such formalities I hope to indicate how the character of theoretical activity is modified by the electronic medium.