PATHWAYS TO PHILOSOPHY
Study philosophy online
— Pathways to Philosophy was the first complete online distance learning program in philosophy.
— Launched in 1995, Pathways went on the web in 1997, long before the likes of Oxford, Harvard or MIT had considered offering online philosophy courses.
— Pathways is 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 which are free to download including:
• The six original book-length Pathways to Philosophy written 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 written for students taking the Six Pathways and University of London BA, upwards of a million words.
— Students from over 70 countries around the world have studied successfully with Pathways.
— We are still the only independent school of academic philosophy in the Western tradition.
— Six Pathways plus the ISFP Awards represent a credible alternative to a university degree in Philosophy.
"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.
We have a range of free course materials including the six original Pathways to Philosophy. To register as a student and gain the benefit of membership of the Pathways community, all you need to do is apply for membership of the International Society for Philosophers. As a registered member, you can submit an essay portfolio and dissertation for the ISFP Associate and Fellowship Awards. Successful submissions are archived on the Pathways Essays page.
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, write to email@example.com. 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.
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 take one of our philosophy courses. But don't expect us to save you from the struggle, and sometimes the anguish, of getting to grips with the most sublime problems and 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 aim of reason is the pursuit of truth.
Essays for the Six Pathways are short, around 800—1,200 words. So you need to make every word count. Look for loopholes in your argument. Cut out the fat. Style is less important than substance. Your Pathways essay will be assessed on the basis of how well you have done in making a persuasive case in answer to the question you have selected.
This is the last year we shall be offering formal tuition for the University of London BA Philosophy. Instead, students are encouraged to join the ISFP and submit an essay portfolio and dissertation for the Associate and Fellowship.
Thank you very much for your wise words of advice over the past academic year. I am very appreciative. Without your advice I would have struggled to even answer two questions in the Logic exam. And I would have carried some fatal misassumptions regarding Hume into my [Ethics: Historical Perspectives] exam... I now have a Certificate in Higher Education: Philosophy with distinction. More importantly, I now understand some really fundamental ideas.
Besides Matthew Ratcliffe, who gained a First for Ethics and will be continuing with his studies towards the BA, Pathways students Graham Hackett, Emelie Gorman and Matthew Sims each passed two modules with First Class grades, and Lisa Turner obtained a First for her Introduction to Philosophy module. Graham Hackett and Matthew Sims have joined the panel of contributors to Ask a Philosopher.
In 2013 Christian Michel with a First Class Honours degree. Six other Pathways students gained First Class grades for some or all of their University of London modules.
In 2012, Mark Selikowitz graduated with First Class Honours, while four other Pathways students gained First Class grades for their University of London modules — each student scoring marks in the 70s for two modules. Mark Selikowitz is currently undertaking his PhD at the University of Sydney, where he is researching the topic of mental causation.
In 2011, three University of London students tutored by Pathways, Craig Skinner, Julian Plumley and Plinio Coll, graduated with First Class Honours. Craig and Julian have joined the panel of contributors to Ask a Philosopher.
Pictured above is Pathways student Sachiko ('Pearl') from Singapore, who received a Prize of £100 from the University of London for her outstanding performance in the BA Philosophy examinations in 2010.
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 1998, the Six Pathways Programs were reviewed by Professor David Bell and Professor Peter Carruthers at the University of Sheffield. Professor Carruthers wrote:
"The Pathways materials are excellent, and the whole idea is a very good one, for which there is an obvious need. I believe Pathways will provide a route into degree-level work in philosophy which is both rigorous and exciting... I am confident that students following one of Dr Klempner's Pathways will receive an excellent, carefully structured, grounding in philosophy."
After the formation of the International Society for Philosophers in 2002, Professor David Bell joined the Board of the ISFP.
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 under the supervision of the International Society for Philosophers. The Board of the ISFP are responsible for reporting on the essay portfolios and dissertations submitted for the Associate and Fellowship awards.
At the beginning of 2006, Pathways moved to commercial web hosting at philosophypathways.com. Today, Pathways is the leading independent internet distance learning site for philosophy courses online. Since 1995, students from over 70 countries have studied with Pathways.
Where to go now
You can look at our range of courses for self-directed study including the original Pathways to Philosophy, and the Associate and Fellowship Awards.
After that, you might try the links at the bottom of this page. Some of these are to directories on this site, such as the Philosophy Study Guide or Pathways Essays, while other links point to different domains such as The 10 Big Questions or Electronic Philosopher.
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 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.
If you want to know more about me, have a look at my Brief CV. There's a recent 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 for the Arts and Humanities Research Council. You can also read the short bios of past and present Pathways mentors.
There are over 3500 Pathways pages on the web. Running Pathways has taken up most of my energy and passion over the past 19 years. I have chosen to be a philosopher in the world, rather than apart from it.
Updated: 8th August 2014
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
In the Pathways banner and collage, credit for the Plato clipart goes to ETC Florida. The computer screenshot is from the movie 'Matrix Reloaded' (Trinity's hacking exploit featuring the legendary 'sshnuke'). I was helped with the packshot image by John Riley, using an Agfa scanner. Following that, a bust of Marcus Aurelius, a Pathways student practising the Japanese martial art of iaido, 'Zombie with Qualia' by my colleague and former Pathways student Glyn Hughes, and finally Senate House University of London at Christmas time, copied from a Google image search.
The image at the top of the page is copied from Wikipedia: 'Philosophy, (1896) a mural by Robert Lewis Reid located in the North Corridor on the Second Floor of the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C. The caption underneath reads: "HOW CHARMING IS DIVINE PHILOSOPHY".' Source at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Philosophy-Reid-Highsmith.jpeg. The image is in the public domain.
Cupid the 'philosophy lover' is by Pathways student Katherine Hunt I added the bow and the volume of Plato. The Porta Rosa at Velia (ancient Elea, Italy) is reputed to be the actual pathway that Parmenides the great Presocratic philosopher walked. The photograph was taken by Pathways student David Faber in 1987. The open window, the Pathways logo and emblem, was photographed by me back in 1974. The digital camera images of Meersbrook Park Sheffield and my office desk were taken by me more recently. The photo of Sachiko is from her blog 'Hermit Philosopher'. The etching of Bertrand Russell was done by the painter Emmanuel Levy (1900—1985), a family friend. It is based on his original oil painting.
At the foot of the page, the ISFP logo was designed by Pathways student Zelianne Yeates in 2002. Zelianne also designed the original web site for the International Society for Philosophers.
In the bottom banner, low-resolution images for University of Sheffield, Directory of Online Access Journals, Birkbeck College Department of Philosophy and University of London International Programme for Philosophy are intended solely for use as graphic web links under the 'Fair Use' provision of UK Copyright law and are not intended to imply the existence of any official connection between the Pathways School of Philosophy and the aforementioned institutions.