Pathways to Philosophy
Founded in 1995, Pathways to Philosophy was launched on the world wide web in 1997. The Pathways web sites currently receive around 1500–2000 unique visitors daily.
Our philosophy courses are suitable for all levels of ability from beginners to graduates.
Our aim is to illuminate and provoke, to challenge preconceived ideas, and make you see things differently.
Over nearly two decades, we have developed a huge range of philosophy study support materials including:
• The six original book-length Pathways to Philosophy authored by Dr Geoffrey Klempner,
• The innovative Philosophical Connections by Dr Anthony Harrison-Barbet, a history of philosophy covering 124 philosophers from the time of the Ancient Greeks to the present day,
• Archives of the popular Ask a Philosopher service going back to 1999 running to several million words,
• Over 1000 essay reviews in Electronic Philosopher and Letters to my students written for students taking the Six Pathways, the ISFP Awards and University of London BA — upwards of a million words.
• Also on this site Philosophy essays, How-to-do-it guide, Featured books, Free downloads, and the electronic journal Philosophy Pathways. — For more jumping off points, click or scroll down to Where to go now.
"You can philosophize for sheer enjoyment. Or because you want to change the world. Or to develop and hone your mental powers. Or out of insatiable, childlike curiosity. Or because your very life depends upon it." — Those words written by philosopher Geoffrey Klempner in 2002 express the sheer diversity of motives for choosing philosophy.
One needs a motive. Sometimes we do things not fully knowing why, because we feel it is the right thing to do, or the right thing to do now, at this point in our lives. That's good enough!
We are all enthusiasts here. The word comes from the Greek enthousiasmos — being possessed by the gods. Discovering philosophy is like falling in love. Which explains the Greek word philo-sophia. We are in love with what we do.
Take your time to look around these pages. There's a lot to read, although you don't have to read everything :) If you need advice on your philosophical studies write to us. Even if you don't need advice but just have something to say, write anyway. Tell us your ideas, or how you think we are doing.
Pictured above is Pathways student Sachiko ('Pearl') from Singapore, who received a Prize of £100 in 2010 from the University of London for outstanding performance in her BA Philosophy degree examinations.
Why are we here?
In 2001, Pathways to Philosophy at PhiloSophos was launched with the motto: "Philosophy is for everyone and not just philosophers. Philosophers should know lots of things besides philosophy."
We believed then, as now, that universities have for too long held the monopoly on the teaching of philosophy in the Western tradition. Academic philosophy is mired in a new age of scholasticism.
In the university tower blocks, professors of Physics or Psychology, History or English are baffled by what it is their philosopher colleagues do. They might as well be speaking a different language.
At the time of the great British philosopher David Hume (1711-1776), it was considered a necessary mark of culture to be knowledgeable about philosophy. Not just knowing names and dates, but to know why Berkeley attacked the theories of Locke, or what Locke debated with Leibniz. It seems incredible to us today.
In these pages, you will find the case for philosophy made in numerous ways. We hope you will try one of our philosophy programs. But don't expect us to save you from the struggle, and sometimes the anguish, of getting to grips with the most sublime questions that human beings have every conceived.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, born Austrian but adopted as a British philosopher, once remarked that philosophers should greet one another with the words, 'Take your time.' That is sound advice. If you want to become a student of philosophy then don't look for quick, easy success. You won't find it here. But you will succeed if you are prepared to take your time.
We are here to work. As a philosopher (or student philosopher, we don't see any difference) you know that you are only as good as the essay you are working on now.
As students of philosophy we gain great pleasure and satisfaction from studying the works of the great philosophers of the past, as well as significant contributors to contemporary thought. But study and reading alone are not enough:
"Writing — whether in the form of books, articles, essays, or dialogues — is, quite simply, the way one works at philosophy. Reading, thinking, talking philosophy are all parts of the process. But none of these is a satisfactory substitute for the discipline of expressing your thoughts on paper."
Geoffrey Klempner 'Writing a philosophy essay'
In our view, essays in response to precise and focused questions are more valuable than essays on a general topic. It's relatively easy to waffle on about what you know or have learned about a topic — like free will, or scepticism or the mind-body problem — but harder to construct a logically argument which makes a case.
This is what philosophers do. Theories and ideas have no value in themselves, but only in relation to, or to the degree that, we have reason to think that they may be true. Philosophy is the art of reason. The ultimate aim of reason is the pursuit of truth.
A short history
Pathways was founded in 1995 by Geoffrey Klempner. In 1997, the six Pathways to Philosophy programs were launched on the world wide web as an independent project hosted on the University of Sheffield web site.
In 1999, the Pathways Ask a Philosopher service was introduced. The Pathways web site was expanded with a Study Guide, Pathways Essays and Letters to my Philosophy Students.
In 2001, the first issue of the Philosophy Pathways e-journal was published, followed two years later by Philosophy for Business.
Since 2002, the Pathways to Philosophy has been run in association with the International Society for Philosophers.
At the beginning of 2006, Pathways moved to commercial web hosting at philosophypathways.com.
In 2011, Ask a Philosopher moved to a second web page at http://askaphilosopher.wordpress.com where you will find the latest questions with answers from our panel of experts.
Now in its twentieth year and with students in over 90 countries, our program has a proven record in inspiring interest in the questions of philosophy as well as giving students the critical tools needed to pursue their interest to degree level and beyond.
Where to go now
The structure of the Pathways presence on the web is more organic than hierarchical, which reflects the fact that the web sites have grown and developed over a number of years.
If you are a member of the ISFP you can download the six original Pathways to Philosophy. Non-members can obtain free electronic texts from the Pathways downloads page. ISFP members can also view or join the Pathways online conference.
If you are a returning visitor and are wondering what happened to the old Pathways home page, you can find it here. Some of the links have been changed as they pointed to pages that no longer exist. Or you can choose your entry page from previous versions dating back to 1999. Another jumping off point is the Pathways sites page.
If you want to know more about me, have a look at my Brief CV. There's an interview, Geoffrey Klempner on taking philosophy beyond academia by Jules Evans of the Centre for the History of the Emotions Queen Mary College, University of London conducted as part of his project Philosophical Communities (PDF) for the Arts and Humanities Research Council. You can also read the short bios of past and present Pathways mentors.
There is more material to explore on the International Society for Philosophers web site including the Gallery of Russian thinkers, the electronic journal Philosophy for Business and ISFP Publishing.
Last but not least, a selection of fun links: Down the rabbit hole, the Pathways Cupid T-shirt designed by Katharine Hunt, 10 Big Questions, Follydiddledah!, Philosophy of A–Z and Flies in the history of philosophy (!). Or you could try Pathways StudyPartners not just for philosophy but any college or university subject.
There are over 3500 Pathways to Philosophy pages on the web. Running Pathways has taken up most of my energy and passion over the past 20 years. I have chosen to be a philosopher in the world, rather than apart from it.
Updated: 31st January 2015
© Geoffrey Klempner 1995–2015
If you have any questions about the Pathways study tracks or about the materials reproduced here, or experience problems viewing Pathways pages email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For all inquiries you can also use the Pathways Feedback form.
If you would like to meet Dr Geoffrey Klempner face to face, then please call or email to arrange a time.
Pathways is based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire UK, which has excellent transport links.
Mobile: +44 (0)7772 406124
Office: +44 (0)7582 121423