PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS ISSN 2043-0728
Issue No. 233
26th September 2019
List Manager's Issue
I. The Pathways e-lists: a proposal
II. Why am I here? (Revisited): transcript
The first issue of Philosophy Pathways was sent out to the Sheffield University e-list on 8th January 2001. It seems like a life time ago. There was just one item in Issue number 1, 'The Pathways Conference on the Use and Value of Philosophy'.
It was not until Issue number 6, 22nd April, that the first article, 'Inspiration Renewed!' by Chris Schmaling, a discussion of the philosopher Plotinus, appeared. Over time, submitted articles from a wide range of sources, both inside and outside academia, became the main content of the evolving e-journal.
Irwin B. Laya's Issue 179, 23rd October 2013, was the first issue of Philosophy Pathways to be edited by someone other than myself. Following that ground-breaking issue, the panel of Pathways Editors grew steadily to no less than twenty-seven worthy individuals. You can find their short bios on the Pathways Editors Page.
As you may know, the last five issues have been edited by me, as List Manager. I could have invited members of the Editors' panel to produce issues but, as I have mentioned before, I am not happy with the quality of articles currently available to be selected. I have been asking the Editors to make difficult decisions as to which articles they disliked the least. And that's not fair, to them, or our readers.
Meanwhile, over nearly two decades, the Internet has changed enormously. If you want to put your work online, you can do so without any difficulty or cost, on sites like Academia.edu and elsewhere. The whole process of publication has become democratized. The viewer, not some Editor, decides whether a piece of writing is worth reading beyond the first sentence or paragraph.
In the light of this, I have a proposal, which would radically alter the format of Philosophy Pathways, giving all subscribers the opportunity to contribute to the list. More details below.
Also in this issue is an edited transcript of a video I recently uploaded to YouTube, titled 'Why am I here? (Revisited)'. The topic of the video goes back to the very first video I posted on YouTube in 2013. In all, I have made 60 videos. Maybe there will be more? Watch this space!
© Geoffrey Klempner 2019
I. THE PATHWAYS E-LISTS: A PROPOSAL
For a number of years, I have been the sole Owner and Moderator for three University of Sheffield e-lists: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Ask a Philosopher list is used periodically to update current and former members of the panel of 'Ask a Philosopher'. The other two lists are for our two e-journals 'Philosophy for Business' and 'Philosophy Pathways'.
All I need to do to make a radical change to these e-lists is tick a check-box. The result would be that any subscriber can post to the list.
The Philosophy Pathways e-journal currently has over 1,000 subscribers. The list I would like to use as a model is Philos-L, which is approximately ten times that size:
The 'Liverpool List', PHILOS-L, is the largest Philosophy
email list in the world. The list currently boasts 10896
members in over 60 countries, with an additional 9000
Facebook subscribers and over 3000 twitter followers
(@philosl). Created by professor emeritus Stephen Clark in
1989, 'the Liverpool list' has been intrinsically linked
with the Department of Philosophy at the University of
Liverpool ever since. (LINK)
One important feature of the Philos-L list is that it strictly is for announcements only. Discussions do occasionally get going, but when that happens, the participants are politely requested by the Moderators to transfer their discussion to Chora, another Liverpool list expressly intended for that purpose.
I have no plans currently to create a discussion list, although that is something we have tried a number of times before, starting with 'The Use and Value of Philosophy' back in 2001. (For those interested in reading the debates, links to six completed Pathways online conferences totalling over a million words can be found at http://isfp.sdf.org/index.html, item number 7.)
However, I would like to make the experiment to see whether businesspathways and philosophypathways would work successfully as announcement lists, similar to Philos-L. What this would mean for you, the subscriber, is that if you have written an article or book that you would like to invite other subscribers to read, or review, you can post the information to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, as appropriate.
Whether the experiment is a success, or not, will depend a lot on how much work I have to do as Moderator. In other words, it will depend on how much I can rely on subscribers to abide by the rules, and refrain from posting material that is inappropriate in relation to the stated purpose of the list.
Before I take that step, however, I would like to hear from you. I know some will be disappointed that the Pathways e-journals will not be continuing on in their present form. But there will also be great opportunities -- to let others know about the work you are doing, and also to learn about the work that others are doing. I believe that's a great trade-off. What do you think? Let me know!
© Geoffrey Klempner
II. WHY AM I HERE? (REVISITED): TRANSCRIPT
YouTube URL youtu.be/eRAyc8He3DM
'I might not have existed but someone exactly like me might have existed in my place.'
It's taken me 40 years to reach that simple formulation. And you could ask, why did it take so long? why didn't I think of it a decade ago, two decades ago etc.?
I take that as a sign that beneath the apparent simplicity is actually something incredibly deep and difficult to get your mind around. Which is probably why you won't succeed in getting your mind around it -- at least you ought not to. If you think you've think you know what I'm talking about then you probably don't. That's not being me being arrogant or you or demeaning your intelligence or anything like that. I'm working on the basis of personal experience and how much has to shift internally before the kind of question that I'm raising can even make its way into consciousness.
I might not have existed. What are the circumstances under which I might not have existed? Well there are the obvious ones like my parents didn't meet and such-and-such like. But think about the idea of a repeating universe, Nietzsche's eternal recurrence: Must I be in the next universe along and all the others, or just someone exactly like me? I don't see there's any way to settle the issue.
Actually there's a book by Timothy Sprigge, a really great book, a kind of introduction to metaphysics called Theories of Existence (1984) and he says, in his chapter on Nietzsche, that he 'likes to think' that it would be him the next time around and so on. But there's no reason why it should be. There's no reason why someone exactly like me should be I, because I might not have existed at all. Someone exactly like me could have been making this video in a universe which is exactly like this universe, because it is this universe, it's physically identical to this universe. He could even have my soul, right? If there's such a thing as a soul, if there's a an entity that's different from the physical which is the seat of consciousness or whatever makes it possible to have consciousness. God could have given us -- supposing it needed a god to make it -- God could have given this person exactly like me a soul with the same mental properties as my soul.
All the Me's, all the Geoffrey Klempners in all the the worlds in the eternal recurrence have souls but only one of them is I. I need not have been here at all. Therefore there being I is a third thing -- supposing that there is such a thing as body and soul -- that is not body and is not soul, it's something else. What could that thing possibly be?
It's even worse because what I have described or defined isn't a substance as Descartes believed. The soul could maybe be a substance, but this is not a substance, it has nothing to enable it to carry on from one moment to the next. And the only reason I think that I started making this video however many minutes ago, that it was I and not someone like me, the only reason I have for thinking that it's going to be I in another minute's time who will be continuing to talk rather than just someone like me is... well, I don't know because there is no reason! I just believe it, not knowing exactly what it is I 'believe'.
If you recall Wittgenstein's remark in the Tractatus that the self of solipsism 'shrinks to the point of no extension' or Russell's claim that solipsism 'collapses into solipsism of the present moment', well I'm starting with the opposite of solipsism. Starting off with the absolute dead certainty that there is a world that's other than I -- there's no way I'm ever going to be tempted by solipsism -- there is no reason for there to be I in the world at all.
I is an additional fact over and above the existence of the world. This is what I said in my book Naive Metaphysics but I didn't express the point in the way that I've done here: 'I might not existed but someone exactly like me might have existed in my place.' I didn't make that final step and one of the reasons was that when I wrote Naive Metaphysics I still thought it was possible that some version of materialism could somehow be true, despite everything I said. And I've let that go completely.
The very idea of materialism is ridiculous. It was ridiculous two a half thousand years ago when it was first proposed by the Greek Atomists. One idea was that the soul atoms or atoms of consciousness were just very slippery like mercury, and ridiculous things like that!
And then more recently you have the idea of the mechanical model, Descartes, who thought that non-human animals were just biological machines. And the materialists in Descartes's time thought that we too were something like clockwork. Clockwork was the advanced technology of the day. Something like clockwork made human bodies move and made noises come out of their mouths etc. And that was what Hobbes believed.
And then that finally gave way to the computer analogy. The computer analogy is absolutely no better in any way, it's just as daft, just as silly. It really is. I mean, the idea that I'm running a program or that I'm kind of some kind of biological 'wetware' running a program, when you consider that a program is just basically a trolley going up and down and a very long tape writing down and erasing symbols -- in other words, a Turing Machine -- how could that be conscious? Or John Searle's version, the Chinese Room. These aren't debating points. It's just a matter of adjusting your mind to see the ridiculousness of it.
So, yes, my boldness in stating the thing in the way that I have done arises from my coming to the conclusion that materialism can't be true. But just to be a dualist isn't doesn't take you anywhere because you still have this same problem, the problem of I. All dualism does is is is provide a patch for the problems of materialism, with this indescribable entity that's not material but we have no idea how it works. Okay there's something besides the material. But then where does that take us? -- I don't know!
© Geoffrey Klempner 2019