Arianna and the classical Greeks

Huffington0508In an amusing NY Times piece last week about the Huffington Post, David Carr writes about Arianna and her success in (re)building a brand with a blog. Here is Carr on The Arianna Position toward the Greeks:

"I am an obsessive, and the Internet rewards obsession," she said, adding in passing that there is still no Greek word for blog. "We should come up with a better name for it, but I guess that ship has sailed."

I don't like to disagree with Arianna (to whom I listen religiously on KCRW's excellent "Left, Right and Center" podcast show), but she's wrong here. I'm not sure about the moderns, but the ancient Greeks did indeed have a word for blogs. This word was "doxa" and it translates as "opinion."

200pxplato_1 Plato contrasted the idea of doxa with his theory of knowledge. In his Republic, Plato uses Socrates to articulate a Platonic theory of truth, distinguishing eternal knowledge from mere opinion. This theory is most clearly articulated in the Sixth Book of the Republic with its splendid "Simile of the Cave" metaphorical climax. Plato tells us that, in contrast with the eternal nature of truth, opinion has no lasting significance.

The culture of weblogging could have been invented by Plato to define doxa. Blogs are the essence, the Platonic form of opinion. Blogs, by their nature, embrace the fleeting, the ephemeral, the transitory. The are the styrophone cup of our new informational age.

Arianna might be right is saying that the "internet rewards obsession." More than obsession, however, it rewards the superficiality of the opinionated. Thus Arianna, Instapundit, Andrew Sullivan and, yes, me too. I am striving to be superficial, seeking to dumb-down my message for immediate consumption. I want to be that quick ideological fix, the Mr Doxa of the Internet.

The (not quite Platonic) truth, of course, is that If Plato and Socrates were around today, they too would be bloggers. Arianna would have them working aboard her ship. Both pundits would be peddling their doxa on the Huffington Post.