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Philosophical progress

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 19 years ago, in 2005, on the World Wide Web.

A couple of notes are in order about new philosophical material on the web. First, I’ve put up some new new material at Philosophy, et cetera; and second, I’ve put up some new old material at the Fair Use Repository.

First, my new new material: Richard Chappell of Philosophy, et cetera generously invited me to contribute some guest posts while he was away at a conference. Here’s the results, such as they are:

Second, there’s quite a bit of new old philosophical material now available at the Fair Use Repository. One of my initial projects for the Fair Use Repository was to increase the availability and visibility of G. E. Moore’s philosophical writing; beginning with a freely available transcription of Principia Ethica (1903) and, after half a year and several atrocious puns on G. E. Moore’s last name, moving on to two other notable works on ethics. The scriptorium has been busy since then, too; the public domain Mooreana now available to the free world now includes:

There’s also lots of new old stuff to peruse besides Moore. Here’s a quick attempt at a break-down:

  1. Bertrand Russell, The Elements of Ethics (1910) is available in full. The essay attempts to sketch out the outlines of a theoretical ethics, based on by Russell’s reading (sometimes his misreading, but what else is new?) of Principia Ethica.

  2. Bertrand Russell, The Principles of Mathematics (1903): Russell’s first great labor towards a logicist account of mathematics. As of today, Preface, Chapter I: Definition of Pure Mathematics, Chapter II: Symbolic Logic, and Appendix B, Russell’s first full statement of the Theory of Types, are available in full online.

  3. Ludwig Wittgenstein, review of of Professor Coffey’s The Science of Logic (1913): the first public record of Wittgenstein’s philosophical views (and one of only three works on philosophy published in his lifetime); this is a merciless review of a logic textbook, written at the invitation of The Cambridge Review in late 1912 and published in early 1913, while Wittgenstein was still an undergraduate at Cambridge. The original (which has apparently not survived) was written in German, and then translated into English by Wittgenstein, with the help of his friend David Pinsent.

  4. T. H. Green, Prolegomena to Ethics (1884): transcriptions of the Analytical Table of Contents (which summarizes the argument of the entire book), the Introduction, the (enormous) first chapter, and Book III Chapter I are now available online.

  5. Lewis Carroll, What the Tortoise said to Achilles (1894) and A Logical Paradox (1895): Lewis Carroll published two articles in the philosophical journal Mind on logical paradoxes (interestingly, he published them as Lewis Carroll, rather than as Charles Dodgson). One of the articles, What the Tortoise said to Achilles, is discussed vigorously to this day. The other, A Logical Paradox was a hot topic in philosophical logic for about 10 years or so after its publication; today it’s almost unknown because people took it for granted that material implication had solved the problem. (Try reading it and see if you feel any intuitive pull towards the paradox.) Still, if there are good reasons to doubt that material implication does a good job of capturing the meaning of conditional statements, there may also be good reasons to start trying to get into the puzzle again. In any case, both articles are now available online.

  6. William James, Essays in Radical Empiricism (1912): James’s elaboration and defense of radical empiricism, the doctrine of a world of pure experience. Ralph Barton Perry’s editorial Preface and James’s first essay, Does Consciousness Exist?, are available in full online.

There’s more where that from. Stay tuned!

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