I've been interested in Philosophy since my schooldays, and long ago developed the habit of jotting down thoughts in little notebooks. I've subscribed to
The Philosophers' Magazine from its first appearance.
As an afterthought I decided to put on this site some rambling, gossipy recollections of Philosophy at Cambridge during my days there.
My Notes on PhilosophyIn 2002 I decided to sort out my thoughts by organising them into one sequence of linked documents, an undertaking that kept me quite busy for the following three years and still continues in a desultary fashion. I undertook this work mainly to clear my own mind, so it concentrates on material interesting to me. I use the notes as a sort of electronic notebook; when a thought that strikes me as interesting crosses my mind I usually add it to one or another of these chapters. Often I don't make the addition in quite the right place, so the material becomes gradually more confused until I eventually print out a chapter and conduct a full revision. Such exercises usually leave me a little ashamed at how confused much of my thought still is, and the consequent changes almost always make the chapter under revision even longer than it was before. If I give no revision date for a chapter it has not been significantly altered since 2005.
I originally set up this site mainly to enable the select few to see the resulting Philosophy Notes. I originally wrote most of the material with MS Works version 4, towards the end of the process changing to version 7 after buying a new computer with Windows XP installed. As most people prefer the ostentation of more elaborate word processors I have saved the files in Word format, but that loses page numbers and footnotes. I've therefore copied footnotes into the main text, enclosing them in square brackets.
Readers who don't have Word can read such files with Wordpad, so a better policy is to download from the Microsoft site the Microsoft Office Word Viewer - it is free. Files in the original Works format are available on request; I have just discovered the the MS Word viewer will read them too but haven't got round to putting those files on this site.
'Why not publish it?' people
sometimes ask. When I point out that I already have published by
putting the material here, they ask why it isn't available as a printed
book. If they'd read the material one answer should be obvious to them;
this is not a work of scholoarship, it is fragmented and
indiosyncratic, it has no bibliography. A vast quantity of work would
be needed to put those matters right, work I should find very tedious
and which I should do very badly because I am rather careless and
accident prone. Even if that work were successfully completed, a
printed volume would be useless to me, because these notes develop from day to day as my thoughts develop and change.
Most of the text was written using a font called Charter BT with which many people seem to be unfamiliar so I have put that here too.
I assert copyright in all the material here, though I'm perfectly happy for anyone to download files to read them. In the most unlikely event of anyone considering distributing this material in an altered form or using any of this material for any commercial purpose, or passing it of as their own work, my consent must be obtained first.
Early in 2008 I decided that the weakest chapter was 8, Ethics, so I started doing some reading in preparation for a thorough revision.
There are three ways I revise chapters. Sometimes I make a few changes, usually minor additions, when they occur to me. Less often I read through an entire chapter in the word processor, revising as I go, and on special occasions I follow that by printing the chapter and revising the printed text - that is the easiest way to move around large chunks of material. The revision of chapter 8 was of the third kind, supported by additional reading. I conducted similar revision of chapter 7 in August 2010 and of chapter 6 in October and Nocember 2010. I'm not sure whether any other chapters will ever be revised to drastically, but I expect to continue to make minor changes here and there from time to time.
Chapter 1, the introduction revised on 16/07/11. This chapter also acts as a preface, and sketches out the contents of later chapters
Chapter 2, Logic revised on 01/08/11. Anyone still on dialup should note that this file is more than five megabytes long, because it contains several diagrams. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but most pictures take up a great deal more space than that!
Chapter 3, Knowledge revised on 03/08/11
Chapter 4, Mathematics revised on 25/04/12
An essay on Goodstein's theorem supplementing Chapter4
Chapter 5, Meaning revised on 16/08/11
Chapter 6, Science revised on 22/08/11
7, Mind and Spirit revised on 29/08/11
Chapter 8,Ethics revised on 05/11/12
Chapter 9, Politics
revised on 31/12/12. At nearly one and a half megabytes, this is both
the longest and, even after correction, the least
polished chapter. The latter third in particular needs more work, though I am ill equipped to do it. I have never made a systematic study of Political Philosophy, so much of the material consist of notes summarising writings with which I was until recently unfamiliar.
Although the notes are interspersed with some comments of my own, they often contain no systematic examination of the theories discussed.
Chapter 10, Tentative Conclusion Revised on 09/11/11
There is also other material that I've haven't yet fitted into the general pattern, of which the only chapters yet at all presentable are:
revised on 09/11/07
revised on 11/11/07 but still mainly a collection of unco-ordinated
notes and jottings. I have never studied the subject, and the material consists
of notes and observations made in an attempt to find out a little about
I have found it extremely helpful to have access to almost all the well known Philosophical classics on the Internet, either by courtesy of Project Gutenberg,which offers out of copyright literature of all types, or from The Internet Classics Archive at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is almost exclusively devoted to Greek and Roman writers.
I should be interested to receive
concise and thoughtful comments by email from
people who have
read this material carefully.
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