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 Maarten Maartensz:    Philosophical Dictionary | Filosofisch Woordenboek

 Introduction

 

Introduction to the Philosophical Dictionary | Filosofisch Woordenboek

1. What it is
2. Why it is bi-lingual
3. Why it exists

4. What is special about it
5. What assumptions went into it
6. Why my Philosophical Dictionary is not called Encyclopedia
7. Warning for the philosophically or logically naive
8. A note on my language
9. Moral summary of the work

10. Limitations of the Philosophical Dictionary


1. What it is

The Philosophical Dictionary is a hypertext of alphabetically arranged terms and ideas in English or Dutch that relate to philosophy. That it is a hypertext means that there are many links between the entries, so that one can easily read through it non-linearly and as one likes.

The entries state what I thought when I wrote them and are dated at the end, and the whole dictionary expresses my own ideas, knowledge and values, and seems to be the best way to present these systematically.

The basic principle of hypertext that this concerns text read with the help of a computer in which there are links in text or pictures that when clicked directly pop up another text or picture.  

There are many links and many interrelations, and to understand all of the Dictionary you must at least have read all of it. Links are underlined, like so: Help.  

This enables another way of reading through large hypertexts made up of many files, such as the Philosophical Dictionary, because one needs to spend no time finding things, and each new subject can be given its own file, and be written and maintained apart from the rest of the hypertext, and may be linked at any convenient term or place to any part of all the files that make up the hypertext. Top.

2. Why it is bi-lingual

The Dictionary is bi-lingual, namely in English and in Dutch, with some but not much overlapping, and there are indexes restricted to English entries and to Dutch entries.

The reason it is bi-lingual is in part that I am, and in part that especially in the Dutch parts I allow myself to be satirical, since there is much cause for satire of Holland and the Dutch, that is best done in Dutch.  Top.

3. Why it exists

The reason for me to write the Philosophical Dictionary  - which is an ongoing project that started July 7, 2004 - is that it seems the best and probably only way to formulate and present my own ideas about philosophy, logic, science, humanity, civilization, ethics and related matters.

This is connected with my health, which has been bad now since 26 years, and the discrimination and total lack of help I have had to face in Holland - where I am unfortunate enough to live - "because of your outspoken opinions, in spite of your serious disease", as the Board of Directors of the University of Amsterdam wrote when they removed me from the university for the second time, briefly before taking my M.A. in philosophy there, and unlike any other Dutchman apart from what happened during World War II. Eventually, I received a brilliant M.A. degree in psychology - summa cum laude - from the same institution, but not thanks to the Board of Directors. The main reason I was removed were my protests about the then current Postmodernism. Top.

4. What is special about it

The Philosophical Dictionary is a means for stating my own ideas and values in a comprehensive, easily accessible, and more or less complete way, and it is, including most of its satirical asides, quite serious in intent.

Also, it is not merely a large set of interrelated ideas of a philosophical kind, but also it is the most systematic way in which a serious philosopher can explain his own thoughts: In effect, by explaining his own language and terms, and use these to state his explanations of things.

There are more special things about my Philosophical Dictionary, one of which is its scope, which is wider than academic philosophy, but I only want to remark here on one obvious feature and its main reason, namely that it is bi-lingual, since it is in English and in Dutch. Also I want to briefly remark on the fact that the Dictionary is actively being written, as it were under your very eyes.

The main language is English, but there are many Dutch entries, that may tend to be more satirical than the English part, though this too is not free from satire and sarcasm. The reason for my Dutch satires and sarcasms is my treatment in Holland, that is considered elsewhere on this site in Dutch. See "ME in Amsterdam".

And something the serious reader should keep in mind - for the time being, at least, and until the Dictionary is nearly finished - is that it is actively being written, rewritten and updated. I'm trying to explain my own ideas, and try to do so in a consistent and coherent way, but I am certain to make mistakes and certain to repair those that I have found. Top.

5. What assumptions went into it

I may as well indicate here briefly what my background assumptions are: My own general conception of philosophy is realistic and analytic - by which I mean that I presume that there is one reality in which all things that exist do exist and that the generally best way to philosophize and try to find rational beliefs is by logical analysis, and in most things that have to do with theoretical philosophy I am a scientific realist:

I hold that there is a real world of which everybody is part, and about which one can find knowledge, and this is best done by scientific methods, which mostly amount to a combination of free discussion and creative imagination controlled by logic and experiment. A brief introduction is in my Natural Philosophy.   Top.

6. Why my Philosophical Dictionary is not called Encyclopedia

Although it is quite large, it is not called an encyclopedia for three reasons.

First, because the only comprehensiveness it aims at is as a survey of my own ideas, definitions of terms and assumptions of rules, plus such background as is necessary to explain these.

Second, because there is at least one good Encyclopedia of Philosophy on paper, namely the one edited by Paul Edwards, and there is also at least one rather good internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, that does pretend some sort of comprehensiveness, namely Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Both were or are being written by many specialists, and both are - mostly - in the analytical and scientific tradition in which I also write. (I like the Edwards's Encyclopedia better than the more recent Stanford one, though.)

Third, because a proper philosophical encyclopedia, like the ones just mentioned, are the product of the cooperation of many specialists, each of whom tries to summarize the main ideas about his specialism, in a fairly objective and adequate way, without trying to be original other than in scholarship. By contrast, many of my ideas, definitions and rules are original, and my main reason for writing my Philosophical Dictionary is to explain these and give them a background.  Top.

7. Warning for the philosophically or logically naive

Although apart from such places where I am satirical, my intent when writing this Philosophical Dictionary is quite serious, and although I believe most entries are genuinely informative and true to the best of my knowledge, persons who do not know much about the topics I write about are recommended to consult also other dictionaries or encyclopedies. The ones I mentioned in the previous section are quite good.

Consulting several sources is wise in any case, if you want good or at least balanced information, and is recommended here because what you get in my Philosophical Dictionary are my ideas and my formulations - and obviously I am one person only, and my aim when writing this Dictionary is not quite the same as that of other writers of other philosophical dictionaries or encyclopedies.

In fact, I write my Dictionary because it seems to be the only way, given my health, to write out most of my ideas in an accessible format, that should be comprehensive and self-explanatory when completed. 

This also means that for the time being, and probably at least till 2010, everything in the Dictionary is provisional and a first version, and stands in a context where the parts explain and support each other, and where everything necessary to understand all is given by the whole work, when completed - and it is especially in this sense that it is like an ordinary dictionary, since that also contains and uses the terms and ideas it defines and explains.

8. A note on my language

I try to write a clear and natural style, and I try to avoid the mannerisms and cant that mark the academic or indeed priestly styles:

"No style is good that is not fit to be spoken or read aloud with effect."
    (Hazlitt)

What can be explained, can be explained clearly and with style - though this may be difficult, and may involve some unavoidable technical terms. And in any case, whatever the subject and whomever the writer: What has not been explained clearly, has not been explained well or at all; and what cannot be explained to a human audience of sincere, intelligent, rational and informed human beings, cannot be explained humanly at all, as far as current knowledge and capacities go.

Indeed, I hold that whomever cannot write clearly and well about philosophy is not fit to write it. On this rock founders many a philosophy, deservedly: Abstruse philosophy is cant.

Incidentally, here is what Voltaire, who wrote a Philosophical Dictionary, wrote about Bayle, who did the same earlier, though not under that title:

"Would to God that Bayle had been drowned along with the rest of the heretical Dutch! He sets forth things with such an odious accuracy, and puts the arguments for both sides before us with such shocking impartiality and is so intolerably intelligible that he puts even those of the most meagre understanding in a position to judge and even to doubt what is told them."

Also, I may be on occasion quite sarcastic, satirical or ironical, certainly far more than (would be) academic philosophers dare to afford if they want tenure. My main reason is that there is much in philosophy an intelligent rational man only can react to with scorn, disdain, or contempt, not only because much of it consists of, - in Hume's words - quite obvious "sophistries and illusions", but also because so much second to hundredth rate philosophy and philosophers have become the tools for cruel dictatorships, mass murder, persecution and discrimination. (See: Communism, Fascism, Feminism, Marxism, Political Correctness, Postmodernism, Totalitarian).

9. Moral summary of the work

It is always right to try to think rationally and try to act reasonably.

See also Clifford's dictum:

"It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence"

10. Limitations of the Philosophical Dictionary

I believe my Dictionary to have strengths that other dictionaries and encyclopedias of philosophy lack, but it should be noted that it also has two limitations, next to being the product of one mind only - although this also has its advantages for discerning minds:

First, as noted in the above sections 3, 4 and 6 the Philosophical Dictionary exists primarily to become a vehicle for my ideas, values and formulations.

And second, at least for the time being, and until well in 2010, at least: The Dictionary is in the process of being written (if mostly using existing materials), and certainly in the first years of its existence all entries into it are provisional first versions.

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Maarten Maartensz

 Last edited: 28 December 2012.   Top.