International Society for Philosophers

International Society for Philosophers

Wisdom begins with wonder

PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS                   ISSN 2043-0728


Issue number 15 23 September 2001


I. The Courage to Face Uncertainty. Essay by John Paolini

II. The European Educational Technology Forum

III. Hermeneutics in Russia



I received the following essay from Pathways student John Paolini on 12 August. In view of the recent terrible events in the USA, I originally thought of removing the sentence, "The certainty of heaven affirmed by suicide bombers is frightening" which in hindsight seems to have been a gross understatement. That writer surely meant merely that it is frightening that anyone should hold that degree of certainty. He did not mean - because he could never have predicted - that we ourselves should be frightened because of the threat posed to ourselves and our loved ones by "the first war of the twenty-first century".



The truth hidden in nihilism is that there is no Absolute Truth. Hidden in atheism is the truth that there is no certainty in theism or religion. Absolute Truth has died. We live in uncertainty. We need courage to find and argue for provisional truths with a small 't'. For millennia humankind has lived in a bewitched world of mythical and unexamined certainty. Then and now we are still learning to live bravely in a world without miracle or providence. We live naked in a lonely world. We look back and see a mirage of a lost golden age. Fundamentalist ghost dancers are trying to restore the world of absolute truth. All they can do is to show the destructiveness of absolutism. The certainty of heaven affirmed by suicide bombers is frightening. Christian, Hebrew, and Muslim fundamentalism in their hunger for power hold so tightly to their belief in the absolute that they, through their destructive acts, betraying an inner nihilism and despair.

Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes, had the courage to leave the certainly of Hesiod and to venture to explain their world in naturalistic rather than in theological terms. I don't know other people's experiences, but I guess that unless you have grown up in a fundamentalist cosmology you may not know how uneasily we journey into the unknown.

As an experiment, after I was told by my pragmatist college professor that there is no supernatural, I tried to live between two stops on the subway line as if there were no God. It frightened the piss out of me. I decided to go on into the ministry. Later in life I left my position as pastor of a church and studied in Paris. I was walking down a crowded street looking at the mob and then realized that the church meant nothing in this word in which I was living. There is no divine safety net for believers. The 'foule' in Paris lived as if God were truly dead. How could this be? I wondered as I was preparing to be a missionary to Algeria. My desire to proselytize was zero. I decided that I would try to help the poor. As the spiritual went, "I didn't feel at home in this world any more."

In this kind of world the Milesian philosophers could not prove their theories, shame, call down lightning, heal, or preach. They could only reason, present and persuade. Their visions of reality were leaving the temples and entering the market place. Rhetoric replaced theology.

The profession of being a sophist was invented to teach citizens to live in a more mobile world for the common man without gods or hierarchy but where wealth replaced the advantages of high birth. A certain vagueness was an improvement over the absolute. They were making a world where democracy was possible. Hierarchy demands absolutism. The hoi pollio had needed a theology to keep them from revolting against their "betters." Now they usurped the aristocracy. The had the power of unity. As in the TV show "Survivors" they had the power to vote troublemakers or potential trouble makers out of the city. As Heidegger would say "averageness" replaced the dominance of rulers and heroes.

Imagination, inventiveness and improvisation of ideas replaced the storehouse of the unchanging truth of mythology. It was dangerous to do this in that society and is as dangerous in ours. Rooted, systemic, powers defend their boundaries. In order to defend the core of power they set the limits of trespass far from the core. I was a young methodist pastor who smoked and used explicit language that was in violation of my ordination vows. I noticed that no one in authority would bother to punish my smoking and language unless I were to become embarrassing or inconvenient. When I did become troublesome I was brought up before a group of my peers on the Board of Ordained Ministry with the bishop presiding. This was at annual conference. (I swear this to be true!) A member of the board brought up the charge that I used foul language. I escaped because it was all so silly. I was fortunate that I lived in a gentler society. It was out of vengeance that Socrates was proclaimed a blasphemer and put to death. The men of the time felt that Socrates was harming the old order and causing the existing decadence in society.

It is not that I am less interested in the arguments of the early Greek philosophers over physics than I am in the dramas and issues of existence. I am ignoring many issues in stressing the new situation in the trading towns of secularism and individualism. The old religion had united people. That was its purpose as in the root of the word. The Milesian philosophers were demythologizing: windowing out the grains of truth from the fanciful world of their time.

They did not have time for the evolution of powerful concepts like "being." In their work of demythologizing and laying the ground for individualism they focused the attention of thought on individual people away from the stifling lock step of life in the villages. I wish that there had been a straight line from this beginning to universal respect for each individual human being. We are still killing and fighting between tribes, groups and nations. The individual's ego has not established its rule over the animal beast in us and the tyranny of the punitive moralists. Yet in theorizing about physics these men unintentionally laid the groundwork for a liberal society.

Note: I use the word 'men' in a literal sense. In Ancient Greece, the greater majority of people were without any rights or recognition. They were women and slaves. In this day and age women still are not ordained in the largest churches.

(c) John Paolini 2001



As reported in issue 10 of 'Pathways News', I have been invited to give a presentation at the European Educational Technology Forum, to be held next week at University College Dublin.

Provided that I can get the hang of the technology, I shall be introducing my talk with guided tour of the Pathways web sites, using a 'data projector' to display the web pages on a big screen. That will be fun!

In my talk, I shall tell the gathering of distinguished academics how Pathways was launched as a way to "find an audience for my work":

"Pathways was conceived as a one-to-one dialogue between student and mentor, following the Socratic ideal. The form of the program is thus determined by the unique character of philosophy itself.

"Pathways tuition is designed to be labour intensive, at a time when universities have been looking to distance learning and computer technology as a way of increasing the throughput of students per lecturer hour. Yet Pathways is entirely self-financing, receiving no grant aid of any kind.

"The hub of Pathways is the Pathways web site, and its ancillary sites. It is through the Pathways web site that students from five continents and thirty-eight countries to date have enrolled on the Pathways programs. The web site is not just a marketing tool. The many hundreds of pages add value to the experience of being a Pathways student.

"In terms of my initial goal, I have succeeded. I have found a way of working in philosophy which I love and would never give up. Now I am looking for more philosophers to join me."

Here are the latest details of the Educational Technology Forum, gleaned from the University College Dublin Audio Visual Centre web page.


      Hosted by the Audio Visual Centre
      University College Dublin

      Supported by the Higher Education Authority

      Date: 27th September 2001
      Venue: O'Reilly Hall
      University College Dublin

The European Educational Technology Forum is designed to provide a platform to senior academics and key academic support personnel to discuss strategic issues in relation to how educational technology can be employed to enhance teaching and learning within the university sector.

Leading European academics will share their experiences and present their findings on the most effective ways to integrate educational technology into third-level curricula. Models of best practice will be demonstrated and ample opportunity will be made available to discuss some of the key issues that will impact on future pedagogical models.

This years event "Educational Technology: Shifting Pedagogical Paradigms" builds on previous seminars, such as the Educational Technology Forum (2000) and the Telematics Breakfast (1999), organised by the AVC to heighten awareness and stimulate critical debate on the benefits and pitfalls of integrating technology into existing pedagogical models within the university environment.

Registrars, Faculty Deans, Associate Deans, Librarians, Directors of Computing Services, Audio Visual Centres and Teaching Development Units, from all the universities in Ireland are invited to participate in this strategic event.

For further information on the Educational Technology Forum contact:

David Jennings Educational Technology Officer Audio Visual Centre, University College Dublin Tel: 01-7167035, Fax: 01-2830060

For conference booking, or travel and accommodation information contact:

Elisabetta McKeown Assistant to the Director Audio Visual Centre, University College Dublin Tel: 01-7167031, Fax: 01-2830060 e-mail:

                   SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

8.30 am Registration

9.00 am Opening Address and Chairperson of Session One

9.1 5am "The Impact of Educational Technology on Teaching
         and Learning within the University Sector"

         Dr. David Cavallo,
         Epistemology and Learning Group
         MIT Media Lab.
10.00 am "Integrating Educational Technology: Systems,
          Processes and Outcomes"

         Dr. Paul Blackmore
         Centre for Academic Practice
         University of Warwick.
10.45 am Question & Answer Session

11.00 am Coffee.
11.15 am Chairperson Session Two

11.30 am "Copyright and Intellectual Property Rights in
          Relation to the Use of Educational Technology"

         Professor Robert Clark
         Faculty of Law
         University College Dublin
         Professor Norma Dawson
         The School of Law
         Queen's University of Belfast
12.15 pm "Issues of Authentication in University Virtual
          Learning Environments"

         Dr. Nick Heap,
         Department of Telematics
         The Open University
12.45 pm Question & Answer Session

1.00 pm Lunch

2.15 pm Chairperson Session Three

2.30 pm "Ethics and the Internet"

         Professor Gordon Graham FRSE
         Regius Professor of Moral Philosophy
         Kings' College, University of Aberdeen.
3.00 pm "Pathways: the Leading Philosophy Open Learning
         Programme on the World Wide Web"

         Dr Geoffrey Klempner
         Director of Studies
         The Philosophical Society of England
         University of Sheffield
3.30 pm Question & Answer Session

3.45 pm Coffee

4.00 pm Chairperson Session Four

4.15 pm "Telematics: Digital Television and Life Long

         Professor Maria Amata Garito
         Director NETTUNO
         NETTUNO National Centre, Rome
4.45 pm "Basic Electronic Surgical Training: E-learning
         in Medicine" (Winner of the Best Online Training
         Programme 2000 International EMMA Awards)

         Michael Horgan
         Deputy Chief Executive
         Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
5.15 pm Question & Answer Session. Reception Follows

7.00 pm Dinner in the O'Reilly Hall (Pre-booking Essential)



The editorial board of "Hermeneutics in Russia", the interdisciplinary international electronic journal, is currently seeking submissions for its 2001 issues. Philosophical and linguistics papers as well as economical, pedagogical and mathematical works relevant to philosophy will be considered.

Aims of the Journal

1. Development of dialogue between Russian and English-speaking investigators in hermeneutics and philosophy.

2. Cultivation of Russian philosophy and literature critique in the context of contemporary world philosophy. Raising the level of knowledge of Russian philologists, philosophers and teachers.

3. Assistance to postgraduate students and young researchers in progression of their research works. 4. Attention to problems of Human rights and democracy.

Main topics

1. Philosophical hermeneutics. The problems of reading and treatment. Linguistic and ontological problems of text. Metaphysics and hermeneutics. Literary critique as a form of philosophy.

2. Phenomenology of reading. Perception and treatment.

3. Philosophical and linguistic problems of interpretation. Problem of symbol and symbolization.

4. Religious phenomenon of text. Dualism of religious symbolism. Religion and mind: problems of text reading and treatment. Dialogue and polylogue: phenomenon of church.

5. Analytical tradition in philosophy and the problems of reading. Hermeneutic aspects of the theory of argumentation and logic.

6. Structuralism and poststructuralism. Writing and reading. Figures of author and reader in hermeneutics.

7. Time and history as the hermeneutic problems.

8. Psychology of treatment. Psychoanalysis. Psycholinguistics.

9. Russian philosophical tradition in hermeneutics. A. Potebnya, M. Bakhtin, M. Mamardashvili

Submission requirements:

Any person who has reached the level of an MA, MPhil, MPsy, or MLitt degree may submit their original work to "Hermeneutics in Russia".

Submission papers should be written in English, and should not exceed 80,000 characters.

On the cover page, with the title, please include the following:

Full name
Mailing address E-mail address University affiliation Brief (50 word) biographical citation

In addition to a hard copy of the paper, submissions must include a 3.5" floppy disk containing only a copy of the submitted work and biographical citation. Clearly label the disk with your full name, phone number, the title of your work, and the software (including version) and platform used.

Submissions should also contain an abstract of the paper (not exceed 50 words).

Please mail your submission to:

Dmitry Olshansky Lenin avenue 51 Urals State University Room 311
Yekaterinburg City Russia 620083

We are hoping to organize a printed version of the Journal. Please contact me by email or at the above address if you know anyone who might be interested in this project.

Dmitry Olshansky e-mail:

© Geoffrey Klempner 2002–2020