Below you will find extracts from email discussions that I have participated in. These dialogues took place in 1996 to 1998 on different email discussion lists of a philosophical character. I was mainly involved in Peirce-L, a list on the philosophy of Charles S. Peirce, and the Lila Squad, a list on Robert M. Pirsig’s Metaphysics of Quality. The archives of Lila Squad have, to some part, been compiled into a book called Lila’s Child, which is available in print, so the dialogues shown here are mainly from other lists. The dialogues are slightly edited for readability (the original contributions are often available in on-line archives).
The conversation on email discussion lists is, more or less, an on-going process where one topic glides into another, and the dialogues may for that reason start somewhat abruptly with much of the prehistory untold. Furthermore, some of them are quite long and winding. Each is therefore introduced below with a short description.
I have chosen extracts that I find still have some philosophical or pedagogical value. The other participants in the discussions come from all sorts of backgrounds, some of which I know and some I don’t. Some are philosophers by profession, and they all share an urge and a talent for philosophical dialogue. As a fitting beginning, the first dialogue concerns the nature of dialogue.
Dialogue, indexicality and dead authors
Peirce-L thread 22 - 27 Feb. 1998
This piece of dialogue has an obscure subject line: “A new liberation movement?” (something that often happens in the spur-of-the-moment discussions on email lists). The subject line alludes to the liberation of the dead in written communication. “Can the dead still converse?” was the subject of an earlier discussion on peirce-l, and, yes, we can still engage in discussions with long dead, or newly dead, authors.
The sad occasion for the reopening of this philosophical discussion was the death of Tom Anderson. Tom was a highly appreciated list member (yes, email discussion lists can, and do, harbour personal relations), who suddenly passed away.
The probability of a randomly drawn chord
Peirce-L thread 30 Jun. - 20. Jul. 1997
Bertrand’s three drawer problem and the Bayesian approach to probability
Mathematics, Nominalism and Realism
Peirce-L thread 6 - 10 Dec. 1996
This dialogue starts with my take on what mathematics is. It also relates to the question of nominalism and realism, a subject that keeps coming up on peirce-l.