Why write?

THE perennial question. One answer, which would be perfectly correct, is that the ancient Greeks wrote and we are part of that tradition — the tradition of Western philosophy.
     The Presocratic philosophers wrote many books. Sadly, these were destroyed in the great fire at the Library of Alexandria so all we have left are a few precious fragments recorded or paraphrased by commentators. Yet these few fragments are enough to allow us to experience the magnificent universe of thought that they created.
     The Greeks didn't write for posterity. They wrote for themselves. They wrote for one another. They sold their books to the public. Diogenes Laertius quotes the typical price of a book as one drachma, which has been calculated as the pay to a slave copyist for one day's work (Kirk, Raven and Schofield The Presocratic Philosophers pp.356-7).
     So in all probability these 'books' (i.e. papyrus rolls) were not that long — what we would call 'essays' or 'papers'.
     The Greeks gave speeches, they read their 'books' out. Plato's dialogues, according to Gilbert Ryle (Plato's Progress 1966) were performed to live audiences.
     The Greeks didn't have the internet or blogs. They had live debate, as Plato's dialogues record. This was their main way of doing philosophy — on the hop. But crucial to these discussions and debates was the fact that you could refer to the ideas of Parmenides, or Heraclitus, or Anaxagoras because you'd read their books and you could count on the fact that your interlocutors had too.
     So we have a lot in common with the Greeks. We do philosophy the Greek way, because it works so well.
     But that isn't a sufficient answer to the question, 'Why write?'
     Today, you can surf from one YouTube video or blog post to another, fill your time consuming the ideas of others. (It would take more than a few days to read everything that has been posted on the Pathways web sites.)
     It's not enough.
     It's not enough to consume the ideas of others. You have to collect and assemble your own ideas, even if you have no interest in publishing, or subjecting your ideas to criticism.
     You have to create your own universe of thought — your own, personal philosophical take on things, your 'philosophy'. This is simply part of knowing who you are, or, rather, who you are in the process of becoming.
     — Knowing yourself.