1. By personal problems, I mean large or small individual or first-person difficulties, that need to be dealt with, and can be controlled to some extent by that first-person.
2. But an existential problem, as I will understand it, is a personal problem that is so profound and severe that it seriously raises the question of whether one’s own life has meaning, and is worth living.
3. I think that professional e-mail generates an existential problem, and also that the philosophy-specific version of the existential problem of professional e-mail is this:
How can you constantly use e-mail for the purposes of personal communication and work in your professional philosophical life, without having it become an individual sickness-unto-death that completely absorbs all your time and energy, and either turns you into a nothing but a Moist Robot of the Professional Academic Cyber-State and kills your philosophical will-to-live, or else drives you into the first-personal abyss/hell of a life of quiet or not-so-quiet desperation?
4. Of course we all know about how everyday moral problems can be replicated or even magnified over e-mail. That’s obvious, and I won’t re-tell those all-too-familiar stories. What I’m talking about, by contrast, are the perhaps seemingly mundane or trivial but actually very real and actually quite profound problems of e-mail hyper-absenteeism, hyper-procrastination, obsessive opportunism, and pathological refusardism.
5. E-mail hyper-absenteeism and hyper-procrastination are pretty much self-explanatory. That’s when people, for no obvious or good reason, simply disappear for days, weeks, or months from professional e-mail; when the rising tide of e-mail in one’s inbox has gotten so huge, that it becomes a deep weariness of the flesh and an intense anxiety-pump even to open one’s inbox; when one gives up the e-mail equivalent of the will-to-live; and when, day by day by day, no attempt is ever made to answer any message.
6. By e-mail obsessive opportunism, I mean highly repetitive and also highly manipulative, but burst-like, fleeting and seemingly random, professional e-mail appearances in the midst of a vast ocean of e-mail hyper-absenteeism and hyper-procrastination, that is, being abruptly, explosively, and ostentatiously present over e-mail only when it’s in one’s immediate self-interest, and then aggressively and manically demanding instant replies and fixes from others for crisis situations caused precisely by the obsessive opportunist’s previously being hyper-absent and/or hyper-procrastinating.
7. And by e-mail pathological refusardism I mean professional philosophers, especially and often very famous ones!, who pathologically refuse to use e-mail altogether, yet remain fully inside professional philosophy, and thereby obsessively, repeatedly, and systematically manipulate other people into dealing with virtually all of the everyday difficulties and tasks associated with professional e-mail. This is a little like people who literally cannot look you in the face when talking to you, looking at your shoes or into the middle distance above your head, to the right or to the left, perhaps associated with mild or not-so-mild autism, and say little or nothing at all, forcing you to keep talking, talking, talking, in order to fill in the conversational void, thereby prolonging, endlessly, what is clearly a completely failed and pointless conversational encounter from the start–why are they making you do this?; but it is even more aggravated and stranger than that. It’s like having demanded that someone else make a house call at your house, and then obsessively, repeatedly, and systematically refusing to answer the telephone or come to the door whenever anyone calls or knocks.
8. Am I not correct in thinking that e-mail hyper-absenteeism, hyper-procrastination, obsessive opportunism, and pathological refusardism are gradually becoming a spiritual pandemic of professional academic philosophy? How many of your professional philosopher colleagues are manifesting one or another of these symptoms? This is not just people being assholes. It’s people who are encountering genuine existential crises caused or triggered by one of the normally necessary elements of their professional philosophical lives. Correspondingly, these curious phenomena are only the most poignant and vivid manifestations of the individual sickness-unto-death that is professional e-mail.
9. By political problems I mean large or small social difficulties that arise inside contemporary states or other state-like institutions, or arise in relations between contemporary states, that need to be dealt with, and can be controlled to some extent by governments and citizens.
10. But an anarcho-political problem, as I will understand it, is a political problem that is so profound and severe that it seriously raises the question of whether political authority itself is rationally justified or not, and if not, then how to exit the state and other state-like institutions without all hell breaking loose?
11. By political authority I mean the coercive power of governments or other government-like groups to issue commands and rules, and obligate/require people to heed and obey those commands and rules, for the purposes of protecting and furthering the self-interests of some or all of that state’s citizens, without regard to the moral content of these commands, backed up by violence or the threat of violence (primary coercion) and other forms of non-violent harm or the threat of such harm (secondary coercion—e.g., fines, dismissal from one’s job, public humiliation, etc.), as administered by the legal and prison system, police, and armies.
12. I think that professional e-mail generates an anarcho-political problem, and also that the philosophy-specific version of the anarcho-political problem of professional e-mail is this:
How can the Professional Academic State coercively require professional philosophers to use e-mail, and yet also coercively control their use of e-mail, without it becoming a collective sickness-unto-death that either turns them into an Army of Moist Robots of the Professional Academic Cyber-State or else drives them in droves out of professional academics into the social abyss/hell of unemployment?
13. Other things being equal, and leaving aside for the moment the apparent spiritual pandemic of e-mail hyper-absenteeism, hyper-procrastination, obsessive opportunism, and pathological refusardism, professional academic philosophers, especially untenured people and contingent faculty, are coercively administratively or collegially required to use e-mail for various daily professional tasks.
14. Moreover, other things being equal, professional academic philosophers, especially untenured people and contingent faculty, are coercively administratively or collegially required to engage in professional happy-camper e-mailing, yay!, wonderful!, congratulations to X, Y, or Z!, whether they agree, or like it, or not.
15. By sharp contrast, spontaneous self-expression over e-mail, and critical free-thinking, which are supposedly covered by rationally-justified rights of freedom of thought and speech, are strongly and ultimately coercively discouraged. If you express yourself spontaneously or free-think over e-mail, sooner or later, probably sooner, you’ll get into serious shit.
16. Indeed, administrations and their colleague-collaborators increasingly use e-mail censorship as a device for coercive moralism, especially including e-mail wire-tapping and the use of e-mail transcripts, and the creation of Furious e-Mobs. Just read the latest issue of the fucking Chronicle of Higher Education! Correspondingly, these curious phenomena are only the most poignant and vivid manifestations of the collective sickness-unto-death that is professional e-mail.
17. Is there a solution to the existential problem of professional e-mail? Yes. Either you go off the grid forever, and exit professional academic philosophy, or else you do e-mail every single day on a 24 or 48 hour cycle of replies and follow-ups, with, say, 12 hours off every day (e.g., 6pm to 6am) for totally e-mail-free down-time.
18. Is there a solution to the anarcho-political problem of professional e-mail? Yes. University administrations and their collabo-colleagues should simply fuck off and stay out of professional e-mail, other things being equal. And in particular, erstwhile coercive moralists of the Professional Academic State should simply fuck off and learn to live with spontaneous self-expression and critical free-thinking over professional e-mail, other things being equal. Of course, general and specific moral principles always apply in every situation inside or outside professional e-mail!, and sometimes moral intervention is permissible or obligatory. But the appropriate, relevant test of whether a moral intervention may or should occur with respect to acts of spontaneous self-expression or critical free-thinking X, Y, or Z over professional e-mail is this:
If your next door neighbor said X, Y, or Z to you in conversation, or if you heard a next door neighbor saying X, Y, or Z to someone else in her or his own backyard, other things being equal, would you be morally permitted* to coercively prevent them from doing so, or punish them for doing so? If not, then you should simply fuck off and learn to live with spontaneous self-expression and critical free thinking, no matter how personally disgusted or offended you might be. Correspondingly, erstwhile coercive moralists of the Professional Academic State, under the same other-things-being-equal conditions, should simply fuck off and learn to live with spontaneous self-expression and critical free-thinking over professional e-mail.
* As opposed to legally permitted, which would still need to be critically rationally examined as to its moral content.