The Philosopher’s Magazine: an appreciation

TPM

The Philosopher’s Magazine now has its complete archive available for institutions on the Exact Editions platform with access via the web, iOS and android phones and tablets. The first issue was published in 1997 and the 80th issue of the quarterly publication will appear early in 2018. The magazine publishes articles of deep philosophical interest in an accessible and non-technical way. James Garvey is the current editor and Julian Baggini the founding editor, their rubric is to publish “philosophy that’s clear, thought-provoking, and relevant. The contributors are mainly professional philosophers who care about good writing and about being understood”. The editors and the magazine has thus been a steady exemplar of public philosophy on matters of general interest in ways that are appealing both to specialists and students of philosophy as well as the general public.

The quarterly issues are assembled around themes which can be controversial ‘Is it wrong to have children?’, ‘Must we do more: the west and global poverty’, ‘The gene genie’, ‘You ‘re being watched — surveillance and privacy’; but they can also bring us contemporary takes on classic issues: ‘Skepticism’, ‘Paradoxes’, ‘Facing death’, and ‘Serious sex’. Viewed as an educational resource, the complete archive to The Philosophers’ Magazine provides universities, colleges and schools with an accessible, serious and yet also entertaining window on philosophical research and contemporary work. The editors and contributors are for the most part from the analytic tradition, mainstream in English speaking universities, but with an open-ness to global culture, especially through art, science, sport and ideology. Every issue has reviews of books, films or exhibitions of philosophical interest. The magazine has regular forums where reader-generated questions are debated. Major thinkers: Bernard Williams, Gerald Cohen, Martha Nussbaum, Ronald Dworkin, Rae Langton, Timothy Williamson and Dan Dennett, have all been interviewed.

Since there is really quite a lot of philosophy in the complete archive, over 3 million words, and since the enthusiast might happily spend hours browsing through the back issues, it is helpful and even necessary that the Exact Editions platform provides some powerful browsing and searching tools. Browsing is easily and intuitively facilitated by the ‘stacking’ of quarterly issues, or even decades of issues into piles that the user selects and opens. The individual issues can be viewed as thumbnails whereby individual pages, especially those with illustrations seize the attention. Searching is accomplished using a simple and standard Google-style Boolean logic, one that connects search terms into logical expressions, so that a search across the whole archive for ‘Frege’ finds 63 hits, ‘Frege -Kant’ (ie Frege but not Kant) finds 48 hits , and ‘Frege +Kant’ (ie Frege with Kant) finds 15. Frege and Boole would surely have been pleased to see their logic being used to such accurate, mathematical and computational effect. Individual issues and groups of issues can also be searched separately.

In the educational context the digital magazine has several modes for sharing, commenting, referencing and printing content. The bottom line is that every digital page is exactly like the corresponding print page and so a persistent URL which guarantees that citation, sharing, printing and bookmarking all hits the same persisting target — a URL that corresponds to the print.

2pagespread

A double page spread. Note the menu beneath the page image with options for social sharing

Institutional licenses to The Philosophers’ Magazine are campus-wide and multi-user. Users of the college or school library system can access the resource through the network’s IP addresses. This connectivity also applies to the apps which run on iOS and android devices, so students can be encouraged to access the resource via the TPM app. Any committed honours student of philosophy should be encouraged to download and use the app, that way she will get off-campus access when she has synced issues to the device, and she will be prompted to take a look at the contents page when new issues are published. The Philosophers’ Magazine is primarily as a reference resource and a campus-wide asset but it is also a refreshing companion and thought provoker for the individual student of philosophy. The Philosophers’ Magazine also stays fully in touch with the latest and fascinating branches of philosophical speculation, and if you did not know why cephalopods are of deep philosophical interest you must read this review of a new book by the Australian philosopher Peter Godfrey Smith: Other Minds: The Octopus, The Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness.

 

 

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