Sunday, August 15, 2004

Campbell and Norris; and the State of the Discipline

[Note: Since this was posted, Houyhnhnm Land has moved to this new location; the posts noted here can still, however, be found in either place.]

I've put up information for on-line resources on Norris and Campbell at H.L. I'm having trouble with Blogger again, so if they look a little weird, you know who is to blame. It's been doing a weird doubling and tripling of the content of the posts (not the posts, the content), and it won't save any of my edits. Infuriation! I still haven't done anything in the way of a real evaluation for these resources; and probably won't for a bit.

Looking at these four figures, Cockburn, Astell, Norris, and Campbell has reminded me of just how little one can glean from the internet in philosophy. To be sure, this is not entirely surprising. Philosophy is, after all, the Infinite Field of Study. We scholars of philosophy may build our little villages (schools of thought) and, when doing history of philosophy, turn the dark footpaths (influences, parallels) between the villages into well-lit roads, and even discover new villages; but there are continents upon continents, planets upon planets, galaxies upon galaxies, universes upon universes, of work to be done.

Nonetheless, the roads for early modern are often very bad, and there are lots of villages tucked away where no one ever visits. Even the important roads leading to well-known towns are often barely laid out. Serious study of Descartes's medieval influences has only started relatively recently, and serious study of Malebranche's influence on Hume has been patchy at best. There are rather significant towns that have been almost swallowed by the jungle (Malebranche himself, for instance), and we've only just recently begun to put our machetes to work on it.

So, again, it's not especially surprising that there's lots that cannot be gleaned in philosophy from the internet. Nonetheless, it is depressing how limited the resources are. I am, of course, deliberately starting with thinkers who are underappreciated. But it's a bit sad when George Campbell, for instance, whose influence on the nineteenth century is extensive, has as his best on-line representatives brief lecture notes and short undergrad papers.

On the other hand, it's not so much depressing and sad as challenging and exciting. It is not the case, after all, that things are much different in Real Life; the serious books and articles written on Campbell would not make a very long bibliography. And quantity of the sort found in, say, Hume or Aquinas studies, isn't always quality. So perhaps even more importantly than turning up philosophy resources, I am turning up where such resources are needed (even more than I had previously thought); and that's information worth having.

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