Friday, May 21, 2010
Insomnia & Philosophy
Today marks the final installment in a three month series of New York Times Op-Ed pieces on insomnia. Back in February the Times launched this series they called All-Nighters:
What do you do when the world's asleep and you're awake?
All-Nighters is an exploration of an ancient malady and modern fixation -- insomnia. With contributions from writers, scientists, artists and others, it will document the many ways we approach sleeplessness -- as a nuisance, a disease, a curse, and opportunity or even a gift.
There have been twenty-eight articles in all in the All-Nighters series, as someone who has not had a serious bout of insomnia is over thirty years, I found the full set to be a revealing take on the subject. Several of my friends who have frequent episodes of sleeplessness, did not find them as intriguing:
"Been there, done that too often. Reading about it doesn't help."
"I started reading the first few articles late at night when I couldn't sleep; so besides being tired and awake, I was also pissed off and annoyed at the efforts to chronicle insomnia by what were obviously late night dilettantes."
Just a few days ago the editors of The Opinionator section ("Exclusive Online Commentary from the Times") introduced another new feature -- The Stone, as in The Philosopher's Stone. The Stone is proposed to be "a forum for contemporary philosophers on issues both timely and timeless." The first article in The Stone was entitled: What Is a Philosopher?
While I intend to follow this new venture as it unfolds, I have two early (too early?) comments. First, this appears to be an open-ended discussion not limited as was the insomnia exploration. Giving NYTimes editors and writers free reign with a subject as vast as philosophy seems at least to be overly broad and subject to criminal expansiveness.
More critically, the pieces tend to be short; not blog-short but still depth is often sacrificed to brevity. As in the opening article: What Is a Philosopher? I dare say should you read that 1300 word piece, you will come away with many propositions but nary an answer to the question: what is a philosopher.
Still an interesting attempt by the NYTimes folks. I would point out again, this is online content and at least for now still free.