"The accident of where one is born is just that, an accident; any human being might have been born in any nation"
Martha Nussbaum, 'Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism' in For Love of Country (Beacon Press, 2002)

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Phil Papers

Extended details from David Chalmers of a very exciting new online resource...



I'm pleased to announce the launch of PhilPapers, a virtual environment for philosophical research. PhilPapers has been developedat the ANU Centre for Consciousness by David Bourget and me, with significant help from Wolfgang Schwarz. PhilPapers is an outgrowth of the MindPapers project in the philosophy of mind, but it is much greater in scope and ambition. PhilPapers encompasses all areas of philosophy, and it has many features that MindPapers lacks.

The core of PhilPapers is a database of close to 200,000 articles and books in philosophy, concentrating especially although not exclusively on items that are available online. Around this database, the site has all sorts of tools for accessing the articles and books online wherever possible, for discussing them in discussion forums, for classifying them in relevant areas of philosophy, for searching and browsing in many different ways, for creating personal bibliographies and personal content alerts, and much more. The best way to get an idea of what PhilPapers can do is to go to http://philpapers.org and try it yourself. A casual browser can browse listings for new and old papers, search for papers in a given area or by a specific author, read the discussion forums, and so on. However, we encourage you to create a user account, which enables many more sophisticated features. If you do this, you'll have a profile page from which you can set up personal research tools such as bibliographies, filters, and content alerts (via RSS or email). Your profile page will include a list of your own work (compiled via name matching), which you can edit where appropriate. With a user account, you can also submit new entries (giving publication information and/or a link, and optionally uploading a paper to our repository), edit and categorize existing entries, and contribute to discussion forums.

At the moment, the PhilPapers database includes entries for 188,000 articles (typically via publication information and/or links, with full papers stored elsewhere). The database has been compiled mainly through automatically harvesting many Internet sources. It includes entries for
(i) 124,000 journal articles harvested from the websites of more than 200 philosophical journals,
(ii) 33,000 books harvested from the Library of Congress database,
(iii) 18,000 books and articles from the MindPapers database,
(iv) 7000 papers harvested from more than 1000 personal websites,
(v) 5000 papers harvested from Internet archives,
(vi) 1300 historical e-texts from the Episteme Links database, and
(vii) a few hundred user submissions.
About 95% of thearticles are available online (via links to journal sites, personal sites, archives, and so on), while about 17% of the books are available online (typically via a Google Books preview). The database itself is growing fast. For example, the addition of books has just started and is still in progress (so far we have only added books published after 1970).

A key feature of PhilPapers is a fine-grained category system for philosophical areas. The system is an extension of the MindPapers category system, and now has about 3000 categories under five main clusters with 6-8 main areas each. Of course the category system is still very tentative and is subject to ongoing refinement. To date, there has been only very partial categorization of papers, through limited automatic and manual classification, and through inheriting categories from MindPapers. However, we have developed a number of categorization tools (e.g., a "categorize" link under each paper) that users can use to classify entries themselves. Our hope is that over time, in a Wiki-like way, this will lead to every entry being categorized in 1-3 categories, with resulting dynamic bibliographies for all sorts of areas of philosophy. If you have relevant expertise, please contribute by categorizing papers. The PhilPapers site has much more information under the "help" menu.

Discussion forums are another key feature of PhilPapers. These are devoted to discussing the papers and books in PhilPapers, as well as to discussing other philosophical and professional issues. By clicking "Discuss" under a paper or book, you will be given the opportunity either to create a discussion forum for that item, or to contribute to an ongoing discussion. Each such forum will be included in turn in encompassing forums for associated areas of philosophy, where these encompassing forums can also include other discussion threads, not associated with papers and books. There are also forums for general philosophical discussion, for discussion of professional issues, and for discussion of PhilPapers itself. These forums are something of a grand experiment, but we encourage users to use them, in the hope that these might become a central locus for discussion among philosophers.

PhilPapers is primarily intended for professional philosophers and graduate students, although anyone interested in the field is welcome to use it. Non-professionals are subject to some restrictions in contributing articles (contributions are possible, but they won't be included in the default "professional authors only" filter for listing entries), and in contributing to the discussion forums (for which they are subject to a daily posting limit). We hope that this arrangement strikes a reasonable balance between keeping the site accessible to all, and maintaining a high quality that will maximize the value ofthe site to researchers in the field.

PhilPapers has been through a month or so of beta testing with a limited number of users, who have uncovered various bugs and other issues, but there are certainly many problems that remain. For now,the site remains in "beta" mode, and we encourage all users to report any bugs that they encounter, via the bug report link at the top of every page, or through the bug report forum. (So far we've mainly optimized the site for recent versions of Firefox and Explorer, and there may be problems with other browsers.) There are also numerous glitches in the database, especially for articles harvested from personal websites. In these cases, we encourage users who know the correct information to correct the entries themselves, using the"edit" link under each entry. We'll monitor edits, but we hope that the editing functionality will lead to a self-correcting system over time. (Users might start by correcting any errors in the listings for their own articles.) More generally, we encourage you to give feedback and suggestions in the forums dedicated to discussion of PhilPapers.

Finally, I should say that this site is largely a product of the programming and design genius of David Bourget, who had the idea for the project in the first place and who has done most of the hard work. He has done this in the middle of writing his Ph.D. thesis and having articles published in Nous, the Journal of Consciousness Studies, and the Blackwell Companion to Consciousness. (My own role has mainly been limited to designing the category system and to endless discussion.) A major role has also been played by Wolfgang Schwarz, who designed the system for harvesting papers from individuals' websites, and who has contributed some very useful Javascript features to the site.
--David Chalmers.

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