A Virtual Learning Environment on the World-Wide Web
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In print, an index is a list of resources, but when an index is moved to the Internet and provides ready access to the resources it lists, it becomes a library. When these resources are carefully selected on the basis of their relevance to a particular topic and rendered searchable by a central mechanism, the result is a quality-controlled region of cyberspace that is, more or less, sealed off from the broader Internet and yet vast in its domain.
With this site, we have taken the limited area search engine (LASE) technology developed at the University of Evansville -- first used to power Argos: Limited Area Search of the Ancient and Medieval Internet -- and modified it for a different purpose. In order to make accessible the wide range of resources related to Plato that are already available on the Internet and potentially enhance the study of Plato for anyone with an Internet connection, we have employed a search engine to track, catalogue and organize these resources. We have also presented them in an easy-to-navigate hierarchical index.
Users may search the items listed in this index in a variety of ways. They may browse through topical listings or use a search engine. We have divided resources into six domains, including articles and essays, bibliographies, book reviews, lecture notes, maps and images, and primary texts, each of which may be searched alone or in any combination with the others. Cascade search techniques allow searching downward from any point in the hierarchy, and we offer a full range of parameters for formulating search requests, including the use of boolean operators and both substrings and phrases.
When used in conjunction, these options provide a powerful range of possibilities for isolating data in search return sets. Users may start at the top of the hierarchy, set the search domain parameters to "Book Reviews," select "Cascade Search" and search for "Plato AND Aristotle." Or users may go to a particular point in the tree and search from there downward. By going to the section called, "The Dialogues," under "Plato's Life and Thought," for example, and setting the domain to "Primary Texts," users may search only the texts of Plato. See our search help pages for more information.
In addition to providing an index to resources at other places on the Internet, we provide many of our own. We begin here with four of Plato's dialogues with the promise of adding translations of the other dialogues over the next few years. We are currently working on editions of the Apology, Crito, Euthyphro, Meno, Parmenides, Sophist, Statesman and Theaetetus. We have also provided easy access to the Greek editions at the Perseus Project by hyperlinking the Stephanus numbers in Plato's texts directly to the relevant text at Perseus. To see the Greek, however, a Greek font is necessary. We have provided a page explaining how these fonts may be acquired.
To help readers dive more deeply into Plato's world, we have linked all proper nouns in Plato's texts and the other files in this project directly to the search engine, thereby creating an interactive context for exploration. Readers of these texts may click on any hyperlinked noun, such as "Thrasymachus" or "Glaucon," and search for their occurrence using any of the combinations discussed above.
In addition to finding resources through the search engine, we have listed related Internet resources on special pages throughout the site. Readers of the opening of the Phaedo, for example, may click "Related Internet Pages" and find links to texts on the Pythagoreans that serve to establish the context for the references that Plato makes to Echecrates, Philolaus and Phlius in that section of the dialogue. Relevant bibliographies, book reviews, lecture notes, maps, images and primary texts are indicated on these pages as well.
This site also offers a comprehensive bibliography of print resources, maintained by Christopher Planeaux, for the dialogues we currently have in the project, and a small library of public domain secondary sources, featuring John Burnet's classic study, Early Greek Philosophy. This collection will also grow over time, as we add the works of earlier Plato scholars, such as Eduard Zeller and Constantin Ritter. Plans are in the works for an anthology of professional papers, and we already have a few items in a collection dedicated to undergraduate papers. Finally, to connect those interested in the study of Plato with others who are also interested, we sponsor an Internet discussion group, administrated by Bernard Suzanne and open to anyone.
Overall, the goal of this project is to produce an interactive learning environment that uses technology to enhance the study of Plato in ways previously unavailable. We wish to bring together in one place the work of Plato scholars and others who work in related areas, from wherever it may be on the Internet, and build an easily accessible community of resources for anyone who might find it helpful. Our hope is that high school and college teachers will integrate this resource into their courses and that the presence of this project will inspire Plato scholars to put their own resources on-line and help us fill out gaps in our search window. Contributing to this effort is as simple as putting pertinent pages anywhere on the Internet and letting us know where they are. In order to keep this site useful, all resources will be evaluated for their scholarly merit and relevance to this project before being linked.
This project is a commercial-free effort designed to promote liberal education everywhere. It is a service of the Internet Applications Laboratory at the University of Evansville.
The previous version of this site, titled "The 4th Tetralogy: Exploring Plato's Middle Dialogues," went on-line to the public on January 7th, 1998. It was featured in Academe Today, the on-line edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education, on January 21st, in the print edition of the Chronicle on January 30th, and in the "Circuits" section of the New York Times on March 5th. It was the topic of an interview (aired May 6th, 1998) on The Best of Our Knowledge, a radio show produced by WAMC (Albany, New York), and aired on National Public Radio affiliates across the United States. It was also included in the Scout Report, a publication sponsored by the InterNIC and funded by the National Science Foundation, on January 22nd, 1998. The current version of this site went on-line on July 19th, 1998.
This project was presented at the 1998 Computing and Philosophy Conference, which was part of the 20th World Congress of Philosophy, sponsored in part by the American Philosophical Association and held in Boston during August of 1998 and at the 12th International Workshop-Conference on Teaching Philosophy, sponsored by the American Association of Philosophy Teachers and held at Mansfield University (Pennsylvania) during July of the same year.