Flash fiction emerged as a new genre a few years ago. Flash fiction is simply a very short story, usually under 1,000 words and sometimes as short as a sentence. The most famous example of flash fiction is the apocryphal “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” sometimes attributed to Ernest Hemingway.
Flash philosophy has existed, in a sense, in the form of philosophical aphorisms, one of the favorite literary devices of thinkers such as Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche, and very short philosophical articles such as Edmund Gettier’s groundbreaking two-page paper “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge,” it just wasn’t referred to as “flash philosophy.”
That should change. Flash philosophy enables philosophers to take advantage of the technological advances of the digital age. Until recently, nearly all publishing in philosophy has continued on the model of academic journals that dates back to the nineteenth century. An increasingly number of journals are available electronically, but the length of articles and the length of the period of review has remained the same. This has meant that articles take a long time to produce, a long time to be approved, and an even longer time to become available to the general public. A number of philosophical blogs have sprung up in the last few years, but they tend to focus either on providing information about philosophy to nonspecialists, or on news relating to the profession.
Flash philosophy, on the other hand, while more accessible to the general public than the traditional philosophical article, is a genre aimed at professional philosophers. It provides them a way to exchange ideas with one another more quickly than is possible through conventional journal publishing, as well as to establish ownership of ideas that are still in the nascent stages. It is not meant to supplant traditional journal articles, but will quickly become an important step in the the process of preparing such articles.
My contributions to the genre of flash philosophy will appear as entries under the category “Flash Philosophy” on the blog on this website, The Life of the Mind, as well as on the new blog Flash Philosophy.