Monday, July 02, 2007


In honor of the six month anniversary of The Barefoot Bum, I'd like to hear from my readers.

Who are you? Where are you located? How did you hear about the blog? How often do you read it? Give as much or as little information as you please; you may post anonymously if you like.

What do you like about the blog? What do you dislike? What would you like to see more (or less) of? Feel free to flatter me shamelessly or throw a brickbat: I'll receive all criticism without defensiveness or rebuttal—although I might not take it to heart. Even formerly banned commenters may comment here... once.

Who should I be reading? Who should be on (or off) my blogroll? If you have a blog of your own, mention it and you'll be on my own blogroll, reciprocal or not.

Any other suggestions would also be welcome!


  1. You want honest feedback? You got it. You have so much potential as a thinker. But you blow most of it by being such a relentless prick. You think it's a badge of honor to be banned from blogs and to be looked at by other bloggers and readers as a pain-in-the-ass who tries to be a Mencken but only succeeds in being obnoxious? Holy Christ! What world do you live in?

    Here's what I wrote about you on Time Immortal. I'm sure you've already seen it. Now I wish you'd take it to heart.

    "I can’t pretend to know what The Barefoot Bum’s motives are for gleefully playing Thrasymachus (it’s ironic that he fancies himself a Socratic-like figure–take a look at the image on his blogsite–when in fact he’s more like the self-absorbed bully in Republic), but my guess is that he just has a splenetic and insecure temperament that begs for attention, regardless of how it’s gotten. If his personal background had been different, he could’ve just as well become a rip-roaring, pain-in-the-keester fundamentalist gleefully slaying atheists. His spleen would’ve still needed and found an outlet.

    But his attention-hunger, swaggering, and bullying aside, his arguments against religious belief are interesting (although not as absolutely conclusive as his arrogance leads him to believe) and deserve to be taken seriously by theists. The rub, of course, is that his personality gets in the way of his message. Even his defenders have called him down for his mean-spiritedness, but he just won’t listen. Instead, he embraces his pissiness and wears it as a laurel (just what you’d expect Thrasymachus to do, isn’t it?). And why shouldn’t he? If you’re as needy of attention as he apparently is, outrageousness fills the bill. The tragedy is that his message trips over his ego, and more and more people quit taking it seriously. In his case, the messenger kills the message.

    All of which leads me to wonder why it is that so much philosophical and theological (not to mention political!) discourse is of this adversarial, Thrasymachian kind. The Barefoot Bum isn’t alone in operating under the assumption that people who disagree with him are stupid and/or immoral, and need to be conquered/demolished. You don’t need a course in conflict resolution to realize that this approach, fueled by insecurity and anger, gets no one anywhere. Even if arguments are good and interesting (like many of The Barefoot Bum’s), the motives that fuel them get in the way of presenting them and genuine communication and listening are impossible. A tragedy. Perhaps part of the function of the Babel story is to remind us of this."

    And that's that. I'm done. I've tried to put up with your hatefulness for the sake of listening to your arguments, so I've been a pretty steady reader of your blog. But no more. Enough is enough. What a fucking waste.

  2. Stephen: Thanks for your commentary.

    If you'd like, write an essay pointing out what you consider objectionable in detail and with quotations, and suggesting alternatives, and I'll (subject to ordinary standards of composition and accuracy) publish it on the blog.

  3. I'm not sure how I first got here: probably via one of the atheist blogrolls, or as a result of a comment you posted somewhere... Anyway, I think I added you to my blogroll at 6-8 weeks ago (about the same time I added Stephen Law).

    Unlike your correspondent Stephen, I don't mind your "uppity atheist" style. I share it myself - while I am fond of (my former teacher) Dan Dennett, I'd rather choose Christopher Hitchens' style. I tend to view secularism as the next civil rights issue: we've gone from Selma, AL to Colin Powell and Obama in a couple of generations, but people still wouldn't vote an atheist for president. Civil rights campaigns need forceful, "uppity" speakers, not respectful accommodationists.

    Me? I'm a long-time net atheist (check out the Usenet alt.atheism archives); I live in Seattle (though I'm posting this from Scotland). And I'm an expat Brit who decided not to take out US citizenship because of GHW Bush's anti-atheist bigotry and the deafening silence that followed it.

  4. I think this is a great Blog, but I do understand why theists might have trouble with it. My wife is a very nice, very liberal Christian. I am an atheist. My wife would have trouble with the blog, but that is a function of her likes and dislikes. I love philosophy, and I had not spent much time reading it for close to two decades. I thank you for reawakening my love of it. I went through most of the analytical and linguistic philosophies in college (and even dabbled in Aristotelian ethics and metaphysics for a while.) Your clarity is astounding, and usually interesting.

    I have followed your postings on some of the other blogs, and I don't completely understand Stephen's point. I do not see your postings as showing "attention-hunger[ing], swaggering, and bullying...arrogance,...pissiness,..." " What I do often see on some of these blogs a simple annoyance that you, the atheist, have bothered to even show up.

  5. No one ever published anything in any medium to escape attention.

  6. hey, i'm an academic in Australia, i came here via your wife's blog, which i found via Ren's blog. As a happy atheist via science, i enjoy the philosophical rigor of your posts.

  7. I probably check your blog daily (or so, depending on computer usage). I can't remember how I found it but it was probably atheist related. Or maybe it was just through a link from some other blog.

    I would have blogrolled you by now if you weren't already linked in the atheist list - I mostly put people on my blogroll just out of laziness on my part - to provide a quick way to get to places I read often, and if I already have a quick way there, well, I am less inclined to put in a link. But eventually I seem to add all the blogs I read anyway.

    I appreciate your thoughful posts. I admit that the epistemology posts or the philosophical dissection posts don't interest me, but that is because I have little patience for abstract philosophy - I'd rather build a bridge or a skyscraper or something tangible. Though I probably delve in there sometimes myself when discussing ethics with theists who are under the delusion that ethics come from religion.

    And now my word well has run dry.

  8. Too new here to really offer any substantive opinions, but I can see where an acerbic wit can get one in trouble.

    "If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence." Brandeis

    I came here via STR. Through logic I have arrived at atheism and anarchism, though I cannot live my life as an anarchist -- just yet.

    My name is Jimi G of Tustin, CA.


  9. Came here after seeing your comments at Stephen Law's blog. I find you forthright, but not offensive as such. Perhaps it's because I agree with much of what you say. I wonder what sort of reception I'd get if you disagreed with a comment I made?

    You're one of my favorite reads at the moment, but don't let it go to your head; I'm very fickle.

  10. Thank you all for the kind comments!

  11. Larry,

    I think it is great that you are taking a moment to reflect on the blog and to get feedback from your readers. I am now a graduate student in physics, and have a background in philosophy. I look for updates on the blog several times a week.

    I enjoy your posts on philosophical topics, including those about ethics, epistemology, and philosophy of science. As Stephen says, you have real philosophical potential, and I encourage you to cultivate it further by continuing to practice philosophy on the blog, but also by engaging with writings by professional philosophers. Naturally, then, I would like to see more articles on philosophy out of you!

    With the aim of providing constructive criticism, I concur with much of the negative parts of Stephen's comment. By and large, you assume the worst of the people who disagree with you, especially theists, linking in your mind their views with unreason and moral defect. One of the most important lessons of philosophy is that highly-intelligent, intellectually honest, and good-willed people disagree on very fundamental issues. Perhaps William Gladstone's warning bears repeating: "Men are apt to mistake the strength of their feeling for the strength of their argument. The heated mind resents the chill touch and relentless scrutiny of logic." Do not allow the strength of your conviction blockade open, rational discussion!

    Try to live up the the image of the Socrates-type you have donned: cultivate the intellectual virtues of humility, patience, and analytic rigor. Socrates valued truth, so he was willing to listen and talk with anyone, never bullied nor derided others, and had a keen awareness of his own fallibility.

    Besides, if you always exercise patience, and speak with respect and courtesy, people won't shut you out. Racking up blog bans and having people push you away in frustration is nothing to be proud of, nothing to put a notch in your belt over. (Think of the difference in attitude of a philosopher and an ideologue.) You may even win adherents to your views along the way.

    As always, I verily wish you continued success here at The Barefoot Bum.



  12. I enjoy your "attention-hunger, swaggering, and bullying." Actually, I don't see much of that at all here, but I've only recently discovered your blog...

  13. saif ahmed7/2/07, 2:25 AM

    My name is saif ahmed, an ex-muslim from India. I came to know about you from your love :) the apostate. I like your philosophy very much.


  14. potentilla7/2/07, 4:05 AM

    I found you via Stephen Law's comments, and I visit most days; I would comment more if I were in a better state to think clearly just now.

    I tend to be more interested in the posts that are not about religion (directly anyhow, although they might be about epistemology or other things that have consequences for religion). The religious ones, I tend to find myself skating over thinking, blah blah blah, despite the fact that I am an atheist. Much of the Salman Rushdie one was just silly, and a big turn-off. If you did that stuff much, I would drift away, I expect.

    It would be interesting, in fact, to know what your intention is in relation to the religious posts? Not, presumably, to persuade the religious or the wavering to your point of view?

    Here are some good books; slightly random selection, based upon what I have been reading recently so are in the forefront of my mind:-

    Why Would Anyone Believe in God? Justin L Barrett (cog psych/ev psych reasons why tendency to believe is natural)
    The Islamist Ed Husain (might suggest to you that Islam is a more complex phenomenon than you necessarily think)
    Intuition: its powers and perils" David G Myers (psych research on intuitions vs reality)
    The Company of Strangers Paul Seabright (intersting stuff about us and them and economic life)
    Fooled by Randomness and/or The Black Swan Nassim Nicholas Taleb (the randomness of life and humans' inability to cope with it
    All of Daniel Dennett (not just BTS).

  15. I very much enjoy the combination of vitriol and rigor on your blog.
    I found you via a comment you made on Paul's blog Pensees.
    I will link to you from my own blog Secular Thoughts if that's ok with you.

  16. Psiomniac: Feel free to link to me! I've already linked to you.

  17. Timmo: I'm both an ideologue and a philosopher, happily and intentionally so; for that reason I'll never be a professional academic philosopher, nor do I aspire to be one.


    I write for the only reason—or so I've been told—that anyone should write: I have something to say and I cannot remain silent.

  18. I wonder what sort of reception I'd get if you disagreed with a comment I made?

    For clarity, I should add that I've never thought your responses to people were actually offensive, and it interests me that some people have. Forthright, yes. Offensive, no. Attacking the idea, yes. Attacking the person, no (mostly). But would I feel different if it was my views that were being criticised. Would your responses sound just as reasonable then?

    I believe so. But I'd still be interested in finding out. I'll have to find something I particularly disagree about and confront you with it!

  19. Keep in mind that I've been justly accused of being slow to apprehend irony and sarcasm if it's not explicit: I'm quite literal-minded.

  20. I have a formatting quibble: Your sidebars are way too cluttered. It can be distracting. I dig the cartoon of Socrates.

  21. If you would like to see a search for the name "Al Sharpton" turn up the phrase: "Al Sharpton admits the Bible is a bunch of crap" on Google, then the next time you use the name "Al Sharpton" make it a link to my blog post here:

    Or, write your own Sharpton blog with a similar title and I'll link you.

  22. James: I agree. There's a lot of stuff in the sidebar. I want to keep it all (all the links on the main page keep the link counts high for those I link to). Do you think a change of font and/or size would do?

  23. Owen has, as I think you might say, found the crux of the biscuit. While I have always seen you refrain from ad hominem and personal attacks, you hold no such respect or consideration for views you find wrong -- as do most of us, including myself. Many of the views you hold yourself in opposition to are not just dearly held, they are definining to the people who hold them. In such an event, calling, say, Christianity so much sophistry and bullshit is perceived by Christians as a personal attack.

  24. I don't know what would fix it... Maybe if Blogger added a "more/less" option like Typepad or different leafs like Wordpress.

  25. keep up the good work, you crazy bastard! and don't mind the enemies of free speech that'll try and get you down.... you know, the government, the citizens, the religious groups.... pretty much all of your readers... well damn, I think that might be just about everyone... yeah. good job. keep it up, man.

  26. I use Google Reader to notify me of updates to blogs and their comments. It's a great tool for keeping track of the (too) many I read. You take the high score for most prolific blogger in that lineup of what I consider to be worthwhile content.

    I started reading your blog after reading your comments on Stephen Law's blog. I believe postmodernism was the subject of that entry. I've enjoyed the posts and discussions regarding ethics and epistemology, with those surrounding metaphysics as runners up.

    I agree with some of the critical comments here, in that you will at times treat the metaphysical views of others with open disdain. Some of them deserve it, no doubt. Of course, I don't think you started this expositive enterprise to win friends and influence people. Just as a personal outlet. Although, now that you're asking for feedback, perhaps that's changed? Thinking of writing a book, perhaps?

  27. When I am on theist boards debating with them, I am often forced to resort to making disclaimers that I do not think religious people are stupid, evil, etc. Those disclaimers do express truth, and they are important as reminders. People can easily form wrong impressions if you do not occassionally make such comments. If you do not think all religious people are stupid, evil, etc. it would be good to not just mention it sometimes, but explain exactly what you believe about religious people rather than just what you believe about religion itself.

    I came here from a link at the IIDB (you used to post as SingleDad!), and occassionally steal a turn-of-phrase from you and other blogs that I read. I would find it helpful if you gave some short explanations of why various theological arguments fail. They can vary from the dumbest theological arguments to the very complex. They are all good to understand.

    Thanks for blogging!


  28. Hi,

    A reader from Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

    I find your writing refreshing. You use sarcasm with great skill and are not afraid to name names. Your basis in philosophy and logical reasoning seems very strong.

    I wish I had more time to read all your longer posts too. My basis is not in religion or metaphysics (but in computer science) so the finer nuances of your references to Popper, Heidel and Kant often escape me. Apparnetly you write for a slightly smarter public than me but I don't consider that a problem with you. :-)

    In short, keep up the good work. I enjoy your texts very much, both the shorter notes and the longer treatises.

  29. your pal, david8/20/07, 7:28 AM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.