2015: My year in review

This post is archived. Opinions expressed herein may no longer represent my current views. Links, images and other media might not work as intended.

I have been blogging publicly since early 2011. This is the first time I actually write a post of this sort. The reason for producing a yearly review has to do with a series of events and decisions that have influenced and are influencing me, and whose impact is partially reflected on this website.

I will mostly comment on what the reader knows about me: my writings.

Euroblog relaunch and the end of my philosophising

I started the year as a philosophy writer (I used to blog on EU politics when I first launched this website, but I switched to philosophy in mid-2013—the reasons need not be documented herein). I think I wrote some “okay” posts on such issues as logic, metaphysics, ethics, and epistemology. Just for the record, here is a non-exhaustive list with some of my favourites:

Philosophy has been a great benefit for me. It did help me clarify some of my thoughts, though the greatest gift it provided me with is the ability and the eagerness to be dialecticaldubitative, and inquisitive. These, I would argue, are the essentials of a philosophical lifestyle.

On June 25 I took a difficult though necessary decision: to quit writing philosophy and refocus on European Union politics. At the time, I wrote a post explaining my decision. Here is the gist of it:

There are two reasons for relaunching the euroblog:

Material: For all intents and purposes, I have been in unemployment for a full year. Though there are contextual/structural factors at play, it is imperative I do all I can to improve my chances at finding a decent job. That entails proving my merit on the subject I presumably know best. Though it embitters me, I have to admit that philosophy—or rather my philosophising—will not pay the bills.

Academic: One of the assumptions guiding my life, was that I would become a scholar. At some point, I wished to do a PhD in philosophy. As of now, I have no resources for undertaking such a task, while I no longer consider philosophy to be a materially viable option. If the academic path ever becomes accessible, I will choose some subject that has better chances than philosophy at improving my standard of living.

In hindsight, I may use the kind of self-criticism I greatly developed through my philosophising to suggest that I also had to abandon those writings because their underlying theme was that of conflating cleverness with wisdom. My impression is that a professional philosopher, or a philosophy blogger for that matter, may be clever, but that does not necessarily make them wise. What is prima facie true is that a good grasp of philosophy renders one capable of addressing issues that otherwise require certain technical skills.

My faults and the evolution of my writing

Wisdom is the capacity to consistently make the soundest judgement under the prevailing circumstances. That requires both analytical wit and an awareness of the actual issues involved. Though I could have recognised that in the past, I did not actually exhibit an understanding of it in my late summer writings on EU politics, in particular the case of Greece’s third bailout programme.

More specifically, I do have to admit that I erred when I argued that it was a good idea to follow the Syriza rebels led by Mr. Lafazanis. The Greek citizens’ vote in the latest elections, which penalised Lafazanis et al showed me my mistake.

Sure, the EU is flawed in some fundamental ways, national “monetary sovereignty” may be a great thing to have, while “absolute” sovereignty might be preferable to a rigid framework of rules. However, such value judgements are not made in the abstract or without consideration of the reality of things, the relative pros and cons, and the possible consequences. Greek citizens collectively recognised that. I did not. And there lies the difference between cleverness and wisdom.

To err is human. To deny one’s errors and to obstinately cling on to their own opinion in spite of cogent counter-arguments is dogma and foolishness.

The regular reader has noticed a change in mood in my writings over the past two or three months. I have removed from my articles the “critical” or “ideological” themes I used to expound on.

Criticism is helpful to the extent that it reveals realisable alternatives. All actual cases will pale in comparison to the ideal. The point is whether one can find ways to approximate the ideal rather than have it function as a source of negativity and nihilism.

Ideology is useful so long as it provides a set of values that guide one’s judgement. It becomes a hindrance when it turns into a self-serving telos, a form of absolutism that leads one to ignore the facts and the realistic possibilities.

I will not pretend to be ideology-free. I do continue to be left-leaning. The difference is that I am becoming a pragmatist.

The constants for the future

What remains constant through this transition is:

  1. my philosophical attitude towards things;
  2. my willingness to analyse the specifics of a given issue and, most importantly, to learn from my missteps and alter my course accordingly;
  3. my belief in a European Union that operates as a supranational democracy.

Going into the new year, now at the age of 27, I will try to develop and improve my writing skills, and will always strive to recognise the facts even if I have to refute opinions I previously held. Also, and though I only published it in early November, I intend to update my free ebook on the EU (A Handbook on the European Union) once I feel the time is right.1

I recognise that the reader may find my shifts in opinion, whether minor or major, to be some sort of humbuggery aimed at concealing my actual views. While I do not encourage anyone to take things at face value, all I can state is that I genuinely prefer to be proven false and to be offered a better proposition about a state of affairs, as that helps me escape from my ignorance. Believe it or not, I value truth—the approximation of it—more than my opinion.

I do plan to maintain this attitude going forward. If despite that you would rather read my take on EU-related issues, and are willing to be critical of the arguments I propound, then please make sure you stay tuned.

Happy new year! May it be one of creativity and fulfillment.

  1. UPDATE. Here is the new book: Little Guide to the European Union. Published on May 9, 2016. ^

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Protesilaos Stavrou

EU policy analyst. Philosopher. Web developer.
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