Introduction | Why are we here? | Why philosophy? | Why a degree? | Essay writing | Study groups | A short history | Where to go now | GVKlempner on YouTube | Contacting Pathways
Robert M. Pirsig R.I.P. 1928–2017
"My reading of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as a second year undergraduate was my most important influence, and the turning point of my life. I could never again look at the professors of philosophy with the respect and reverence I had done before.
"What struck me most forcefully about Pirsig's book was his passionate defence of the Greek Sophists. With hindsight, I can now see that Pirsig (or, rather, his alter ego Phaedrus) had been over-zealous in his attack on Plato and Aristotle. Battling against what he saw as a perniciously one-sided vision, in which the dubious character of the sophist was contrasted with the impeccable virtue of the philosopher, it was easy to fall into the opposite extreme. — Then again, there is more to philosophy than seeing every side of the question. That is something Marx saw.
"In the long history of philosophy, it is only over a comparatively short period that the universities have been the torch bearers for philosophy. Most of the great philosophers were not academics. That is surely sufficient grounds to raise a question."
Geoffrey Klempner 'My Philosophical Life' 1999
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.
Over two decades, we have developed an exciting 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,
• Q & A archives of the popular Ask a Philosopher service going back to 1999,
• 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.
• Also on this site Essay archive, How-to-do-it study guide, Featured books, Download page, and the electronic journal Philosophy Pathways.
Pathways to Philosophy is an online distance learning resource for philosophical study run in association with the International Society for Philosophers.
[Apply for the Six Pathways to Philosophy]
[Apply for Membership the International Society for Philosophers]
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.
"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.
Can you explain love? You can try. You can list qualities or attributes that you find worthy of love, but no-one was ever persuaded to fall in love by a list. You have to allow the questions of philosophy to grip you. For those who are gripped by the questions of philosophy, no further justification is required.
Take your time to look around these pages. There's a lot to read, although you don't have to read everything :) Give yourself time to decide. Let philosophy grow on you. You won't be sorry!
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 a degree?
Between 2003–2014 the Pathways School of Philosophy provided comprehensive tuition for the University of London International Programme in Philosophy. Students of the International Programme have edited issues of Philosophy Pathways and contributed to the Pathways Ask a Philosopher service.
We continue to work with students of the International Programme, and believe that it is the best — and best value for money — BA degree in Philosophy through distance learning available through the internet.
However, not everyone is ready and willing to commit to a degree. Many of the students at Pathways already have degrees, in a wide range of subjects. Pathways in conjunction with the International Society for Philosophers offers a flexible alternative to a Philosophy degree — or a stepping stone to a degree program — depending on your needs and interests.
We estimate that the Six Pathways Programs together with the Associate and Fellowship of the International Society for Philosophers should take approximately 4 or 5 years to complete — the same time, in fact that it normally takes to complete the University of London BA degree by distance learning.
There are many benefits from gaining a degree. It is not just a certificate to hang proudly on your wall. However, leaving aside the extra cost, a degree is not for everyone. With Pathways, you can dip your toe in the water and take your time to decide how and when you are ready to go to the next stage.
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." [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.
"We had our third meeting and the group to my delight is a constellation. I have a base of 14 people to pull from and from that base enough people are showing up continuously for the group to form a personality.
"One of the phenomena is happiness. In the third unit the group was able to discuss issues revolving around awareness, will and the soul without having to agree, and without fighting. Those who are materialist and hold that human consciousness is equal the the brain and those who hold that it can exist without a body did not go at each others throats at all. Quite the contrary. Each individual was able to explore their own and the other's opinion and knowledge without orthodoxy. The result was happiness.
"Everyone I spoke with today after the meeting to get feedback told me they were experiencing the afterglow of fulfillment which is the natural occurrence when a complete communication cycle occurs in which intelligence, and not just information, was exchanged. I am emboldened by the group. This is exceeding my original hopes." — John Moody
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 twenty-second 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.
See The Pathways Story (zip). The file comprises of four key offprints of articles by Geoffrey Klempner which tell the story of the Pathways School of Philosophy over the first 12 years 1995–2007.
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. In total, there are over 3800 pages.
If you have joined Pathways you can download the six original Pathways to Philosophy. Non-members can obtain free electronic texts from the Pathways downloads page and read a selection of essays by Pathways students at philosophyessays.wordpress.com.
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.
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.
Last but not least, a selection of fun links: Down the rabbit hole, the ISFP Poster designed by Gideon Smith-Jones, the Pathways Cupid T-shirt by Katharine Hunt, 10 Big Questions, Follydiddledah! and Philosophy of A–Z. Or you could try Pathways StudyPartners not just for philosophy but any college or university subject.
GVKlempner on YouTube
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 email to arrange a time.
Pathways is based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire UK, which has excellent transport links.
Alternate pathwaysriseupnet, pathwaysprotonmailch