P H I L O S O P H Y P A T H W A Y S 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
"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.
- If anyone reading this has any more light to shed, please contact me at
email@example.com. Richard Brodie's web site is:
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