An und für sich is an intellectual community dedicated to innovative thinking in the humanities. We are an island of misfit toys, stubbornly insisting on staying in disciplines where we don’t belong and making connections that aren’t supposed to be made. We come here because we are tired of having the same old conversations. We tend to be particularly invested in the study of religion and continental philosophy, but for us those are only provisional starting points—the conversation can go anywhere. Indeed, we welcome the interruption of what might begin to look like easy consensus or uniformity. We extend, especially, an open call to those voices that have—historically—been less vocal in this particular forum: non-male, non-white, non-Christian.
Yet we also recognize the need, in other regards, for certain limits. For many years, we had a comment policy that emphasized the negative. We had seen so many of the things that can go wrong in online conversations, particularly when one takes an unconventional position—the demands for constant basic explanation, the bad-faith questions and cliché answers, the axes to grind and the use of “tone” as a proxy for disagreement. We felt it important to shut down such behavior as firmly as possible—and yet we consistently observed that our policy was also shutting down exactly the people we most wanted to hear from.
We still believe it is important to have a stated comment policy as a kind of social contract, and we still believe that it is important to moderate and prune comment threads to make sure the conversation is productive and in good faith. We don’t hold up unlimited free speech as a goal, because we have had too much hard experience of the “autoimmunity” that can turn a totally open forum into a closed and hostile one.
On the software end, these commitments have led us to implement a feature where new commenters must have their first comment approved before they can post freely. This allows us to catch certain kinds of rhetorical violence before they are posted. In certain cases, we also reserve the right to delete comments from established commenters that are derogatory or otherwise inappropriately personal—and in rare, extreme cases, to ban commenters.
Our goal in all this is to create a space where people can engage in authentic dialogue. Given the subject matter we deal in, that dialogue will sometimes be heated and intense. It will sometimes be characterized by deep disagreement and irreconcilable differences. But our hope is that it will be honest and thought-provoking, and that no one—above all those who aren’t normally heard in these kinds of discussions—will feel they are not welcome to jump in.