Theo Todman's Web Page - Notes Pages
Status: Personal Identity (2008-June)
(Text as at 18/07/2008 21:25:55)
(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 have been grateful for the forbearance of my Supervisor (Birkbeck: Jen Hornsby).
Summary of Progress during June 2008
June 2008 was my final month back at Birkbeck now that I’ve decided not to continue with my part-time PhD beyond the end of this academic year, but to re-apply for a full-time place commencing in October 2010.
Items that were addressed in June included:-
- Stopped reviewing "Fine (Kit) - The Non-Identity of a Material Thing and Its Matter" in favour of focusing on "Fine (Kit) - A Counter-Example To Locke's Thesis", quoted by Fine therein; much easier and shorter, though probably less relevant. The paper1 resulting therefrom was submitted for review at my final Supervision on 16th June.
- Attended the above supervision, which went well enough, though Jen was more sympathetic to Fine’s perspective than to my criticisms. The write-up2 is still outstanding.
- I’ve abandoned attending the Graduate Seminars. I’ve also been excused the responsibility of presenting a paper this term.
- Started listening to "Smith (Steven B.) - Introduction to Political Philosophy" - rather tenuously connected to my Thesis topic, but useful background no doubt. Four lectures listened to in June.
Time Divisions (Where, for “YTD” – Year to Date – the year commences in October 2007):
I spent a meagre 22 hours in June (557 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 86 hours (783 hours YTD). Hence, my expended hours are woefully short - 26% of expectation for the month (71% YTD). Moreover, of this 10 hours (177 hours YTD), or 44% (32% YTD) were spent on background activities. This means that only 13 hours (380 hours YTD) were spent on core activities. This is only 15% (49% YTD) of the minimum requirement. The terminal decline is doubtless due to demob-happiness, but I must put in more effort on-going if this project is ever 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 (nor fall within the 20-hour / week expectation).
Priority Tasks for Immediate Progression
- Complete the write-up3 from my final Supervision of 16th June.
- Complete reading and reviewing "Fine (Kit) - The Non-Identity of a Material Thing and Its Matter".
- Write a paper on Constitution.
- Complete a full review of "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View".
- Complete listening to "Smith (Steven B.) - Introduction to Political Philosophy".
- Revise / correct / complete essays in the light of supervisions. Ie:-
- Trawl Philosophers Index for recently-posted papers on my research topic.
Items Outstanding for Less Urgent Progression
- Complete a draft chapter11 on “What are We?”; sub-tasks as defined in the plan.
- 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 3:
- Supervision: 16th June12 2008.
- Reviewed13 "Fine (Kit) - A Counter-Example To Locke's Thesis", discussed at the above supervision.
Year 1, Term 2:
- Detailed term plan (not adhered to).
- Supervisions: 4th February14 and 18th February15 2008, 3rd March16 and 17th March17 2008.
- Wrote reviews of papers prerequisite to my draft chapter18 on “What are We?”
- Commenced reviewing
- Completed listening to "Kagan (Shelly) - Death: Course introduction".
- Somewhat irregular attendance at Birkbeck Research Seminars.
Year 1, Term 1:
- Supervisions: 28th September30, 22nd October31, 12th November32 and 19th November33 2007.
- Essay34 on "Dennett (Daniel) - Conditions of Personhood" produced and reviewed35.
- Chapter-outline36 for my thesis drafted, reviewed37 and revised.
- Web-technology38 paper drafted and reviewed39.
- 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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