I recently had a discussion with a mate over some beers about intellectual property. My mate was worried that I ‘give away my ideas for free’ on this blog. My mate intimated that there are examples where ideas that at the very least had been ‘inspired’ by my writing on here was actually finding its way into other people’s work. My mate would not elaborate with examples. This is a very serious matter within academia because it goes to the heart of what an academic or scholar is meant to do. It really doesn’t worry me, in the way my mate was talking about it, however. Beyond professional contempt, and even the ethical question of using someone else’s labour for your own purposes, is a bigger problem for me that bankrupts intellectual culture.
My immediate response to my mate was to point out the difference between having the capacity to create and being able to think an idea. Most people who have read a bit of Deleuzean philosophy or maybe some of the secondary literature will be able to understand the sort of posts I write on here and that my mate was talking about. Being able to think ideas and understand the arguments developed here on my blog is of course what I hope will happen. Otherwise there would be little point!
Sure I’ve taken the time to read half a library’s worth of books, as have most people of a similar age with a scholarly disposition, not because I want a job out of it*, but because I actually enjoy reading. I find almost nothing as pleasurable as engaging with the challenge posed by the text; yes, I am an epic geek. (That is what I find so frustrating with some contemporary philosophy in particular, it valorises obvious ideas and seems content to dress up regurgitation. The challenge becomes a bullshit rhetoric of defending a position or term, rather than working towards something.) I feel sorry for those people who do not experience this pleasure (and I meet these people everyday!) as books provide a near infinite resource. When it is someone who has read a whole bunch of stuff, then reads my blog and finds the arguments or points made worthy enough of being included in their own work, but keeps this connection to themselves, I feel there is a far more profound problem than some bullshit to do with whose ideas are used by whom and when.
Intellectual practice is always distributed across many acts of creative thought. Inspiration can come from anywhere. It seems to me that the ‘paranoid’ academic misses out on this. To appropriate ideas is not inspiration, there is little transformative potential in appropriation. An appropriated idea is liquidated of the capacity to bridge between thinkers and the virtual structures of thought assembled by the thinker-architect and the power of their imagination. Imagination is like a muscle, it needs to be exercised, otherwise it atrophies.
*That is not to say that I don’t want to have a proper punt at academia at some point and for me to do that I need to publish. I have started this process of churning out journal articles.