PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 10 17 June 2001
I. Launch of the 'Naive Metaphysics' e-book
II. Pathways at the European Educational Technology Forum
III. A clue to the early history of the Society
I. LAUNCH OF THE NAIVE METAPHYSICS E-BOOK
Last week, 32 copies of my book NAIVE METAPHYSICS arrived at my home address by parcel courier. It was the end of an era. A few days earlier, a telephone call to the publishers Avebury confirmed that the book was coming to the end of its print run. From the time the book was published back in December 1994, the price had risen steadily and was now listed at 52 Pounds Sterling - in my view, totally unacceptable for a book numbering less than 300 pages. After initially offering me the 32 copies at one third list price - an offer which I promptly refused - Avebury agreed to let me have the remaining volumes free of charge, provided that I did not try to sell them for a profit!
Avebury relinquished publication rights on 15th June, allowing me to make the work available on the web. I am very pleased to announce that the complete text of NAIVE METAPHYSICS in Adobe PDF format can now be obtained free of charge from the Pathways Downloads page at:
The only change to the published version is a new 'front cover' with a dreamlike photograph which I took a few years ago in Eccleshall Woods, only two miles from where I live. In the centre of the picture you can just make out the observer/ photographer's shadow - an appropriate metaphor for a work exploring the nature of the subjective standpoint and its relation to the objective world.
The picture is appropriate for other reasons. In the last issue of Pathways News, Laura Laine Kelley commented on the disappearance of the photograph of Mount Everest from the Pathways programs page. It seems to me that finding one's way through a wood is a more appropriate image for the kind of activity that philosophers do than mountain climbing. Though philosophers sometimes imagine that they are able to leave the earth behind, the truth is that just like everyone else we are rooted in this earth.
The NAIVE METAPHYSICS e-text finds itself in excellent company. Three other Adobe e-texts available from the downloads page are:
THE POSSIBLE WORLD MACHINE. The fifteen short stories and introductions from Pathways program A. Introduction to Philosophy.
ASK A PHILOSOPHER Selections from my answers to questions submitted to the 'Ask a Philosopher' site between August 1999 and January 2001. This text is currently being translated into Portuguese by the Brazilian philosopher Paulo Ghiraldelli Jr. with a view to publication in his home country.
PATHWAYS INFORMATION PACK. Essential information from the Pathways web site for prospective students, together with the Pathways Study Guide, the Philosophical Society prospectus, and my paper 'Can Philosophy be Taught?'
A final word of caution. NAIVE METAPHYSICS is not an easy read. Although I originally wrote the work for an audience of beginners, I found myself drawn into thickets of argument which were sometimes way above my own head. My advice is approach this text with extreme care. Not just because, as the academic philosopher Jonathan Barnes dryly commented, there is a danger that some readers 'would find their critical faculties sufficiently impaired by the glare of the work's metaphysical vision for them to become acolytes of it'. Even though I continually aspired towards enlightenment and truth, I often stumbled and failed to hit the mark. Re-reading the book now, the errors are painfully obvious to me. For the critical reader who is willing to make the effort, however, there is plenty of rewarding stuff there too.
II. EUROPEAN EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY FORUM
A week ago, I was surprised to receive the following e-mail, from David Jennings, Educational Technology Officer at University College Dublin:
"Your excellent Project has been drawing lots of admiration and praise from various colleagues around college. I write in the hope that it may be possible for you or a colleague to provide a number of open workshops/ discussions for us on 27th or 28th of September 2001. We would be particularly interested in hearing how the project was conceived and designed, how it will be managed and of course to see 'Pathways' in action.
"The target audience would primarily be senior members of Faculty, Library and Administrative Staff and members of the Computing Services from the seven National Universities of Ireland.
"If it was at all possible to provide such an open workshops/discussions we would be most grateful, all travel and accommodation costs would be covered plus any other expenses.
"The European Educational Technology Forum will bring together those working in learning support services to discuss bench marking in telematics within the university sector. It will also provide an opportunity to critically assess some of the key pedagogical issues involved in employing educational technology and its impact on teaching and learning within universities.
"The Forum will give those wishing to explore some of the possibilities provided by educational technology the opportunity to examine models of best practice. It will also address how academics can become more pro-active in bridging the technology gap and work with key Learning Support Services, such as audio-visual services, computer services, libraries and teaching development units, to underpin high quality teaching and learning. The Forum will employ a mixture of seminars, workshops, case studies and delphi panels."
- Though it will be a wonderful break and my first trip to Dublin, I am facing the prospect with some trepidation. I would hardly count myself an expert in 'educational technology'. I have never heard of a 'delphi panel'. So I am hoping to learn a lot in the two days. My message to the forum will be that distance learning is not about technology, it is about people. The technology is there to enable people to get together in new ways. But how we get together, how we make the best use of the technological means available is something we can only learn, as I have had to do, through patient trial and error.
III. A CLUE TO THE EARLY HISTORY OF THE SOCIETY
Here is another e-mail from out of the blue. This time from Richard Brodie who came upon the work of Alfred H. Welsh, who was a member of the 'Victoria Institute, The Philosophical Society of Great Britain'.
"I recently purchased a very special book from a used bookstore that was going out of business. It is entitled DEVELOPMENT OF ENGLISH LITERATURE AND LANGUAGE, VOLUME I. It was first published in 1882 by Alfred H. Welsh, A.M. by S. C. Griggs and Company of Chicago. It contains the most inspiring descriptions of the lives and works of Caedmon, Chaucer, Sidney, Spenser, etc.
"Listen to this, from the section in the Influence of Caedmon:
"In our rasping life of gain, we are apt to imagine that
art is of little account, but when the years roll by, we
learn well enough what the ages value. No doubt this
Caedmon, in his ill-furnished room, seemed to the practical
men of trade a pitiful cipher, quite out of the march of
important affairs; but even their names are forgotten, and
all their wealth would now be given for one of the songs of
the Whitby shepherd.
"I think Professor Welsh's production deserves to be 'valued by the ages'. I intend to put up a website containing some of my favorite passages, and attempt to find some "practical man of trade", capable of being similarly inspired, who will be interested in underwriting a modern re-publication.
"Meanwhile, I am attempting to learn as much as I can about his life and work from the meager clues contained in the book. The reason I'm contacting the Philosophical Society of England is because the title page indicates that he was a 'member of Victoria Institute, the Philosophical Society of Great Britain'. I believe this was a predecessor to your own organization, and so I am hopeful that you might have relevant data in your historical archives. If so, I would certainly appreciate any information or leads you might be able to supply me with."
- The only information I have been able to glean is that it is possible, but not certain that the Victoria Institute was the predecessor of the Philosophical Society of England. This is what the authors of the official History of the Philosophical Society say in Chapter 1:
"Thus in 1913, a meeting was convened, primarily by the Rev. Elphinstone Rivers, (Vicar of Eltham from 1895) who was 'a prominent figure among the members of the old society in order to draw up the rules and constitution of the new scheme.' Subsequently the first general meeting of the Society was held in 1914.
"What do we know of this 'old Society'? Unfortunately, at the present time really very little. Intriguingly, in 1946 the then President of The Philosophical Society of England, the Rev. Dr I. Hartill gave a speech in which he spoke about 'the Philosophical Society of 1739. How it had been revived and was so active now.' No more details however, were reported. But we do know that the Victoria Institute or Philosophical Society of Great Britain was established in May, 1865 by J.. Reddie. This organization was established for Christians with the aim of defending revealed truth from the 'oppositions of science, falsely so-called.' To date there does not seem to be any connection between the founding members of the Philosophical Society of England and the Philosophical Society of Great Britain. However, given the high preponderance of clergy on the initial Council of The Philosophical Society of England the possibility of a connection cannot be discounted. Finding such a connection would of course still do little to illuminate the remarks made by the Rev. I. Hartill."
- If anyone reading this has any more light to shed, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Richard Brodie's web site is: http:--- .