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Thoughts about Philosophy

(last altered on Saturday 18 April 2020)

I've been interested in Philosophy since my schooldays, and long ago developed the habit of jotting down thoughts in little notebooks. I subscribed to

The Philosophers' Magazine from its first appearance until a few years ago when the novelty seemed to have worn off.

As an afterthought I decided to put on this site some rambling, gossipy recollections of Philosophy at Cambridge during my days there.

In Februray 2018 I spotted an online argument about the existence of 'facts', and decided to collect my thoughts on the matter before joining in. The outcome was Facts_and_Truth

My Notes on Philosophy

In 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.

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. In 2014 I changed to a new computer running Windows 8 and found that that no longer supported MS Works, so I suspended revision of the notes. After a while I realised that Libre Office could handly Works files and resumed revision of these notes early in 2017.The original files are in the Libre Office format, but for this web site I've saved copies in Word format because that is one most people can read. I considered pdf format, and may use that eventually. Anyone who has difficulty reading any of these documents should let me know what format would suit them, and I'll see what I can do.

'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.

I haven't checked the Word format files at all carefully, or even in some cases at all, so there may be minor irregularities, though Word files created by Libre Office seem better than those I used to create from MS Works. I've noticed that diagrams sometimes move to the end of the document when the files are converted, so if you find a reference to a diagram that isn't there, you may find it at the very end. Being able to make infuriating remarks like that is one of the advantages of this form of publication.

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 plan moves of 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 November 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 27/01/17. This chapter also acts as a preface, and sketches out the contents of later chapters

Chapter 2, Logic revised on 29/01/17.

Chapter 3, Knowledge revised on 01/02/17

Chapter 4, Mathematics revised on 09/02/17

An essay on Goodstein's theorem supplementing Chapter4

Chapter 5, Meaning revised on 13/02/17

Chapter 6, Science revised on 06/03/17

Chapter 7, Mind and Spirit revised on 10/04/17

Chapter 8,Ethics revised on 01/05/17

Chapter 9, Politics revised on 04/11/20. 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, these often contain no systematic examination of the theories discussed.

Chapter 10, Tentative Conclusion Revised on 05/06/17

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:

Education revised on 09/11/07

Aesthetics 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 it.

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 clearly worded, concise and thoughtful comments by email from people who have read this material carefully.

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