Theo Todman's Web Page - Notes Pages
Status: Personal Identity (2008-March)
(Text as at 07/04/2008 13:58:05)
(For other versions of this Note, see the tables at the end)
Rationale for this Project
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. Maybe the most important reason is to get feedback on my outpourings, for which I’m grateful for the forbearance of my Supervisor (Birkbeck: Jen Hornsby).
Summary of Progress during March 2008
March 2008 was my sixth month back at Birkbeck. This month was something of “one step forwards, two steps back” as a result of a competition for my affections from Bridge1. The wildly-optimistic plan for the completion of my first Thesis chapter is abandoned (click here and scroll down for the “actuals”).
Items that were addressed in March include:-
- Supervisions: 3rd March2 and 17th March3 2008.
- In support of the above plan, I wrote reviews of papers prerequisite to my draft chapter4 on “What are We?”
- Completed listening to some lectures from Yale University, namely: "Bloom (Paul) - Introduction to Psychology" (20 lectures, 5 in March). I cannot claim these to have been hugely relevant, other than as background to the various psychological approaches to Personal Identity. I would like to find the time to follow up on the background reading, but this is unlikely.
- Attended one Graduate Seminar in March on "Reuter (Kevin B.) - Frege's Syntactic Arguments that Numbers are Objects and an Interesting Analogy Between Numbers and Colours". Found the discussion intensely annoying. Does anyone actually believe this stuff?
- Was signed up to present a paper to the meeting on 26th June 2008. Woe is me!
Time Divisions (Where, for “YTD” – Year to Date – the year commences in October 2007):
I spent 52 hours in February (458 hours YTD) on my Thesis or other Birkbeck-related work. The minimum requirement for a part time student is 20 hours / week, which would give 89 hours (523 hours YTD). Hence, my expended hours are woefully short - 59% of expectation for the month (88% YTD). Moreover, of this 12 hours (144 hours YTD), or 24% (31% YTD) were spent on background activities. This means that only 40 hours (314 hours YTD) were spent on core activities. This is only 45% (60% YTD) of the minimum requirement. I must put more effort in if this project is to achieve its goals.
The background activities include Book / Paper cataloguing, Aristotelian Society / Philos-List, and General Admin and Status Reporting. This needs to come down, as they are not strictly necessary (or fall within the 20-hour / week expectation). For clarity, I’ve now included Research Seminar preparation and attendance in core activities.
Priority Tasks for Immediate Progression
- Complete a draft chapter8 on “What are We?”; sub-tasks as defined in the plan.
- Complete reading and reviewing "Fine (Kit) - The Non-Identity of a Material Thing and Its Matter".
- Write a paper on Constitution.
- Write a paper for delivery at the Research Seminar of 26th June 2008 (if different to both / either of the above).
- Revise / correct / complete essays in the light of supervisions. Ie:-
Items Outstanding for Less Urgent Progression
- Continue write-up of "Moreland (J.P.) & Rae (Scott) - Body & Soul - Human Nature and the Crisis in Ethics".
- Continue write-up of "Bynum (Caroline) - Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200 - 1336".
- Complete reading "Plato, Gallop (David) - Phaedo"
- Ensure some minimal data on Abstracts for all Identity Papers Read.
- Transfer marginalia to Notes. I think this is a key step on-going, 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. Unfortunately, this approach conflicts somewhat with the “essay-style” approach to philosophy demanded at Birkbeck, which seems to require that one topic be pursued resolutely to a (tentative) conclusion to the (temporary) exclusion of others. This is all very well and focused, but reading a collection of papers to see what they have to say on one sub-topic, and then reading them again and again for others is rather wasteful. I’d prefer to read them once or twice and at that time update the Notes I have on all the sub-topics they address. I’d prefer to leave essays and chapters alone for a year or so until I’ve finished accumulating enough comments on material read from which (any number of) essays can be developed.
Some Tedious Tasks Outstanding
- Ensure the categorization by Sub-topic of books and papers is correct. When I started off, I wasn’t clear what categorizations I should have; nor am I yet, quite. The Names of the Sub-topic level Notes and the Sub-topics themselves are supposed to be in line, for the automatic reading-list links to work. Obviously I can make this more flexible (and should do so).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Summary of Progress to Date
Year 1, Term 2: See above, plus:
- Detailed term plan .
- Supervisions: 4th February15 and 18th February16 2008, 3rd March17 and 17th March18 2008.
- Wrote reviews of papers prerequisite to my draft chapter19 on “What are We?”
- Somewhat irregular attendance at Birkbeck Research Seminars.
Year 1, Term 1:
- Supervisions: 28th September31, 22nd October32, 12th November33 and 19th November34 2007.
- Essay35 on "Dennett (Daniel) - Conditions of Personhood" produced and reviewed36.
- Chapter-outline37 for my thesis drafted, reviewed38 and revised.
- Web-technology39 paper drafted and reviewed40.
- Regular attendance at Birkbeck Research Seminars. Some correspondence with fellow students.
- 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 successful.
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