Living in an Ethical Multiverse
Return of the Snippets

The Virtue of Discourse: A Clarification

This post is a reply to a Republic of Bloggers letter written by Chris Billows (@Doc_Surge) entitled Rooting for a Republic of Bloggers, over on his blog Journals of Doc Surge. Feel free to join in with our discourse via comment or blog post.

Sealed Letter Dear Chris,

Last year, I made a commitment towards attempting to get back what was valuable to me about blogging, and the primary means for that was to stop complaining about the shallowness of other social media and to focus on writing to others via my blog. I did not quite manage to write a blog-letter every month, but I wrote eight over the course of the year, which seems like a satisfactory outcome. In your blog-letter – your first! – you say many flattering things about me, but on one point I must take you to task: the Republic of Bloggers is definitely not mine, for all that I may be trying to popularise the term.

As I say in that original statement of intent, there was a Republic of Bloggers the moment blogs began talking to each other – which we did all the time before Twitter, Facebook etc. because the blogosphere (as it came to be called) was the locus of new kinds of communication. My view is that the Republic of Bloggers existed the moment the first pair of blogs exchanged posts, even though they were probably not doing so in a letter format. It was more common to begin a post “So-and-so over on such-and-such says something-or-other”, with a link so others could see what was said. This method of impersonal address obfuscates the underlying discourse, but it does not eliminate it.

So although I am certainly championing the Republic, I don’t want it suggested for even a moment that I created it – it was here when I arrived! – and indeed, I came here because my good friend Matt Mower, to whom I addressed my first blog-letter as such (Taxation as Injustice – actually, as much about drone assassination as tax, per se), insisted that I should be blogging, even though he could not articulate this intuition as clear reasons. Because the Republic is distributed in a way beyond any formal method of control or organisation, I feel it is important that no-one can own it, claim it, or be anything other than a citizen of this Republic. I have chosen to declare my citizenship – now you have too: welcome to this unabashed realm of invisible virtue!

Virtue is a term I am using more and more these days as it marks that aspect of ethics that is about individual agents, their positive moral qualities (as opposed to the aspects of ethics that concern the permissibility of actions, or the value of outcomes). Indeed, if we go back to before my trumpeting of the term ‘Republic of Bloggers’, you’ll find me already doing what I desired in my open letter to Oscar Strik entitled Virtuous Discourse, to which the title of this missive refers. What I desire is discourse that builds bonds between people rather than being mere entertaining distractions – for my fear is that the internet has taken the soporific power of divertissement possessed by television and added to it the addictive compulsion of certain games. I find little to celebrate in this aspect of our current technological apogee.

All this being said, I find no need specify that the content of our discourse will be “philosophy, politics, media studies, and far more beside” – unless it is to stress the ‘far more beside!’ We should talk about what we feel compelled to talk about. I think, perhaps, there is no other option. I greet you warmly across the digital pony express of the internet and welcome you to my province, parish, district, oblast, shěng, or prefecture of the grand disorganised Republic that we bloggers all have the power to belong to.

And I welcome your discourse – or, indeed, anyone else’s! – on whatever topic you should wish to discuss with me.

With grateful thanks for your engagement,


Chris replied with How Discourse Needs a Course of Action.

No-one else has replied.


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Dear Chris Bateman,

I am replying further to your reply, The Virtue of Discourse: A Clarification

Thank you for informing me that the Republic of Bloggers is not a concept that you personally founded. While I do not intend to embarrass you with an undeserved title, I do believe that any good idea needs its champions and it appears I projected this onto you.

Not only do good ideas need champions, they also need a good story. Perhaps this is what is missing from the Republic of Bloggers?

While the Republic itself may be a valuable concept, it is only made meaningful when it becomes something we can relate to, which is best done through the form of a story. Given your extensive experience in game design, narrative, and authorship, I think that you are uniquely qualified to help author the story of the Republic of Bloggers.

Yet, this does not need to be a restrictive, one-way narrative. Perhaps some of us could engage in a roleplaying game that recreates the virtual founding and beginnings of the Republic. Not only would this serve to create a imaginary and fictional history for the Republic, I anticipate it would be a source of fun.

For example, we could cheekily adopt the trope of how the Republic represents a rebellious pod of unconventional thinkers seeking unity to resist against the oppressive forces of social media. Imagine if you dare, how the Republic's Dr. Beta Man (you) could be our version of Dr. Who fighting against the Twitterleks. What fun!

While any form of campaigning does put one in a us versus them dynamic, the presence of conflict, setbacks, and progress are crucial foundation stones of stories. The romanticism of participating in a movement, no mater if it is artificial, does create a feeling of unity and a sense of direction and scope.

To blog about anything we want (I am paraphrasing your 'far more beside' comment) is both inviting and intimidating, but mostly intimidating. It is the equivalent of ordering off the menu, but for many of us menus are a safe way to invite exploration. Champions like yourself should not be embarrassed to provide a menu to the rest of us to help the Republic slowly bootstrap itself.

I recognize that you have many personal and professional obligations so can understand if you express reluctance or refusal to take on such a role. I myself do not have the confidence nor ability to take this role on but would lend whatever support I am able.

Thank you for your warm greetings. Whatever form the Republic takes and whatever direction it goes, I look forward to further engaging with you and others through our blogs.

Best regards,

Chris Billows

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