Ten years of protesilaos.com

On 2011-02-08 I published my first essay on protesilaos.com: “The Theory underpinning the Euro”, which was a take on optimal currency areas. At the time I was a Bachelor’s student in European Politics, Economics, and Law. That post was the first in a multi-year long series of articles on the European Union.

In those ten years I have published over 1 million words on this website (1.120.963 to be precise). This, of course, does not count private email exchanges nor all other important discussions or contributions I have made in written form, while it greatly underestimates the information I share through video files.

Furthermore, that number fails to account for my programming endeavours, as it does not capture the effort that goes into reading, writing, editing code. Plus, counting words in code is not particularly insightful, unless it pertains to the concomitant documentation. For an indication of the latter case, consider that my “dotemacs” (the literate program for my GNU Emacs configuration) is well over 50.000 words long in its current state with the actual figure getting close to double that once we add all files that together make up my private Emacs setup. While the official manual of my Modus themes, an otherwise technical and straightforward document, exceeds 17.000 words. Other projects of mine are accompanied by comprehensive commentary of this sort, none of which is included in that +1mil sum.

At any rate, this is the command I used on my GNU/Linux computer. It goes through all markdown-formatted files in the directories (“folders”) that contain my writings, returns a word count for each item, while also calculating the sum, and prints the latter.

~/Git/Projects/protlab $ find . -type f -iname "*.md" -exec wc -w {} + | tail -1
1120963 total

The quest for clarity

Quantity is not a measure of quality, while verbosity is not my goal. I am interested in clarity. For instance, my latest essay about politics, On platformarchs, the demi-state, and deplatforming (2021-01-26) tackles current events while framing them in terms of their wider historical and ideological context. The article is a bit less than 2000 words long, yet it presents every essential point about the subject and elucidates my thesis. A chronicler of ongoing phenomena could easily clock in at 20.000 words within the span of a few days or weeks, all while wasting their time on minutia and losing sight of the constants.

Emphasis on the quantity of output can lead to false findings. My Notes on Rules (2020-07-01) is a book that consists of aphorisms. It is an exercise in brevity, in that it consists of ~5700 words despite the broad scope of its topic. How about Notes on Simplicity (2019-06-22), which is less than 800 words long? Both express my thoughts and I feel that they need no further work to meet their telos. They are complete.

A brief history of protesilaos.com

  • This website started out as a blog on Blogger. Virtually all of my writings were about EU politics and economics.

  • In 2013 I migrated to a self-hosted Wordpress installation while the focus of the blog started shifting towards philosophy. Though politics was still a large part of it.

  • In 2016 the website evolved into a statically generated set of files. This marked the year I first ventured into coding and started learning about free software and GNU/Linux. My writings thus expanded into relevant areas, while I gradually shifted away from EU-specific affairs in my political writings.

  • In 2019 I switched to using Emacs as my main computing environment. More than 60 videos have been produced in the meantime, many of which are over 30 minutes long.

All this information is organised by content type.

The next decade of protesilaos.com

I am not slowing down on what I publish on this website. My future trajectory and the next ten years of protesilaos.com remain unknown. What I can promise is that I will continue publishing writings or videos on philosophy, politics, coding.

Doing philosophy

Since we are here

In retrospect, it is clear that I was never meant to be an academic in any of the fields I took formal studies in, nor become an apparatchik in some political party or bureaucracy. My tendency to philosophise was evident in those earlier writings, even though it was woven together with otherwise technical insights on current affairs.

A university professor who had noticed a pattern of theorising in the study material I would supply had warned me that incomplete bibliography would result in a 5% reduction from the total grade. “What references do you expect?” I thought to myself, “I am the authority”… So I replied that my homework would still qualify for an A, despite the penalty.

This was not me being rude or arrogant. False modesty and etiquette should not be mistaken for humility. I was merely expressing my honest intent to not pretend that I was echoing some undisputed source of truth on the matter: if I am wrong, address the point, not the formalities, not the superficialities.

The act of publishing my writings follows this exact principle. It is about standing by one’s words and being prepared to face the consequences. These are ideas that have been fleshed out in The Dialectician’s Ethos (2020-09-30), among others.

Doing philosophy is not a career choice: you cannot “just do it”—you are born with it, in the same way an Olympic athlete is endowed with the requisite physical abilities and talents to become a competitor in their field. And the like for all areas of specialisation and sophistication. Commitment can only refine and improve upon the end product of one’s innate strengths and inclinations. It does not outright engender them. No amount of training, formal education and certificates will make you a good philosopher, painter, footballer, listener, artisan, etc. if you are not already disposed for it.

I am a philosopher. This is just my natural propensity towards a field of interest, which comes with its pros and inescapable cons.

Philosophy has, in fact, hampered my EU-related efforts from yester years and catalysed my ultimate failure to pursue a successful career in that field. I could have done it, given that I had gotten a job at the European Parliament even before I had finalised my studies (the last 6 months were carried out remotely from Brussels). But I eventually quit after realising the disconnect between my intellectual pursuits and the quotidian reality of cutthroat politics.

Philosophy also limits my social life, making me a recluse even though I am friendly and easy-going. It has become increasingly difficult to hold a discussion with someone, as I can no longer tolerate gossip and irrelevant details, while the other party has no interest in my musings. Naturally!

Finally, philosophy does not pay the bills. Someone might ask for my advice and my insights might change their perspective on things, including the possibility of altering their course in life. Yet this is not a good that one can quantify and exchange in some transaction. I cannot price it hourly or per kilo: each case differs, while those who do pay for counselling have something specific in mind for which there already exist specialists. Here, have total creative freedom to speak your mind, and I will reward you with a wage. That is a thought that no employer in my life ever implemented, assuming they did entertain it.

So I am a farmer and do whatever part-time job comes my way…