Saturday, January 31, 2015

Progress in philosophy: Phil Index edition

I'm ancient enough to remember when Philosopher's Index required you to peruse two volumes of listings to find the abstract of an article---two physical, paper volumes, that is, (one for listings under subject and another under author or journal) and the abstracts weren't always available. So this development, flagged by Justin, is nifty:
The Philosopher’s Index, an academic philosophy database available through the libraries of many universities and colleges, is rolling out a service that contains not merely abstracts (which it has long featured), but the full text of its indexed articles, according to a recent press release. Called “The Philosopher’s Index with Full Text,” it provides articles from approximately 200 journals. An assistant editor with the project, Dr. Anne Seshadri, is quoted in the press release:
Scholars get immediate access to the articles they are seeking, with the full text available within the citation, along with rich bibliographic records, complete and accurate citations, detailed abstracts by authors and quality indexing by philosophers. Nowhere else can researchers find all this in a single philosophy database.
When I tell my students about days when finding an article required hauling volumes of Phil Index to a table in the reference section of the library (lit by kerosene lanterns, they probably think), then to whatever lower basement floor had the bound journals, then back to the upstairs floor where the copier was (not a monk with a quill, as the students probably think, but a xerox machine) where, with a fistful of dimes and quarters fed into a slot on the side of the machine you could copy the article, they smile at me tolerantly, waiting for what they think is the next story, like when I drank Aristotle under the table, or helped Spinoza grind his lenses.

Whether or not philosophy makes progress, doing philosophy certainly has, with technology allowing philosophical research, reading and writing to be notably easier.

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