Eugene, OR

The text's origin might be illuminating. It was in the summer of '93; I was standing in a bookstore in Eugene, Oregon reading the New York Times Book Review. There I came across Robert Coover's article The End of Books. I bought that Times. Coover claimed that the aspiring hypertext fiction authors in his writing classes were using hypertext to question the linearity of narrative. I wondered if hypertext could be used to question the linearity of philosophy. It seemed at first glance unlikely, since philosophy seemed even more wedded to linear argument than was fiction to linear narrative. When I returned from that vacation I began to write about this question, trying to find ways that hypertext could do that questioning or exceeding, and in the process expanding an old line of thought I had had about doing philosophy without arguments.

At that time I contacted George Landow, visited Brown and saw what they were up to there, bought a copy of Storyspace, and began some experiments. Eventually I had written a linear essay on the subject. Then I felt that it really ought to be a hypertext. A very early version of the resulting hypertext is available at the Brown university hypertext archive on the Web. It still distinguishes sharply the linear essay portion and the chaotic hypertext portion. I eventually cut the essay up into shorter fragments and many paths, and added material to erase that distinction. This led to my rewriting and expanding the original essay; the new version has since been published in the volume Hyper/Text/Theory edited by George Landow (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995). The published essay incorporates some material developed in the hypertext. The hypertext, however is more complex and considerably longer (25,000 words in the hypertext essay vs 9,000 words in the linear essay).

In the beginning, I was more addressing philosophers, saying there is something in hypertext (that is to say, I was addressing myself). Later I realized I would be addressing hypertext people saying, philosophy can be done in hypertext, and asking what kinds of new discourses will develop, and what would be the descendant of philosophy's self-critical role?

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