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Status: Personal Identity (2007-June)
(Text as at 26/09/2007 20:41:17)
(For other versions of this Note, see the tables at the end)
Summary of Progress since Last Report
This is the first Status Report. See “Summary of Progress to Date” below.
I am researching the subject of Personal Identity primarily because of its intrinsic interest and importance. It is really a sub-topic in my Philosophy of Religion project. Additionally, I hope to acquire a PhD in Philosophy from Birkbeck at the end of my research (or at least at an appropriate point within it). This PhD is neither an end in itself, nor the usual means to an end; I do not want a job in philosophy at the end of the course. It’s intended to teach me research techniques, provide focus and direction, and furnish a professional qualification should I want to publish any results in this or any other area of philosophy.
Summary of Progress to Date
All work to date has been preparatory, though I think I’m now ready to start serious research.
- Reading lists researched & papers / books obtained. I seem to have accumulated over 3,000 papers on the subject. Note that while a lot of these are held electronically, I’ve not made my copies available on the web (for copyright reasons).
- I have my collection of 1,400 philosophy books and 11,000 philosophy papers catalogued and the catalogue available on-line. Clearly I will not live long enough to look at more than a small fraction of these.
- Reading commenced. This is a bit of an understatement. My database informs me that I’ve read 407 papers or book-chapters on the subject. Unfortunately, any notes on these exist only as copious marginal annotations.
- Web-based Research infrastructure enabled. I cannot stress enough how important this is. My theory is that we have many conflicting intuitions about Personal Identity (and any other philosophical topic) and our positions in one area affect those elsewhere. So, being able to get one’s hands on all these assumptions and arguments at the click of a mouse is a huge advantage. This is now the way philosophy ought to be done. We don’t discuss philosophical questions any more in the agora, so we don’t write dialogues. We don’t need to communicate by letter, so there’s no need for papers. Of course, there are issues of volume and quality control. I expect to write a paper-generator in due course. But before all this, I’ll need the material to link to. That’s where the real philosophy starts.
- Abstracts for many papers obtained and incorporated into the database.
- Research proposal produced and used as a prototype for the metaphilosophical model I’ve developed.
- Application to Birkbeck made and being processed (I hope).
Items Outstanding for Immediate Progression
- Ensure some minimal data on Abstracts for all Identity Papers Read.
- Transfer marginalia to Notes. I think this is the key next step, and will lead to the proper structuring and interlinking of the Notes by topic. I find myself writing variants of the same thought over and over again. This way, one priceless nugget per topic can be continually refined. Or so I hope.
- Correct data content on Identity Sub-topics. Ie. ensure the categorization of papers is correct. When I started off, I wasn’t clear what categorizations I should have. Nor am I yet, quite. The Names of Primary Notes and Topics are supposed to be in line, for the automatic reading-list links to work. Obviously I can make this more flexible …
- Correct author's names (Surname (Forename)) for all papers and books. I was originally rather sloppy on this, and it’s messing up the indexing.
- … then the real work starts.
Some Tedious Tasks Outstanding
- Correct data format on Identity Abstracts. Required because of failures in the extraction process from the Philosophers Index. The formatting in PI is often upper case, so I wrote a change-of-case algorithm, which unfortunately de-capitalised proper names in some instances. Also some websites or .pdf documents seem to have embedded carriage returns at the end of lines displayed, which have carried forward on cutting and pasting. And finally, truncation to 255-characters seems to have occurred on occasion.
- Complete extraction of abstracts from the Philosopher’s Index and elsewhere. I did a large matching-exercise based on the first 6 characters of the author’s name, together with the article title (but accounting for the annoying occasional full-stops in the PI titles). This picked up 1,500-odd abstracts, but there must be a lot more out there. Of course, I could use PI directly, but it’s slow and not integrated with the rest of my database.
Live Version of this Archived Note
Earlier Version of this Note
Table of 12 Later Versions of this Note (of 74)
|This version updated
||Reference for this Topic
||518 (Status: Personal Identity (2007-June))
||Research - Proposal|
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