How to Use this Website


Welcome to the Great Voyages website! This website is a multipurpose tool. You might think of it as an analytical or conceptual time machine. (Your Captain is Dr Who? No. --Dr Uzgalis) It is a tool to explore and analyze and understand the philosophical era of the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries. This is an extraordinary period peopled by great philosophers and filled with intersting philosophical systems, remarkable ideas, fascinating controversies and notable developments. Your personal voyage involves going back, finding and bringing back whatever treasure or philosophical enlightenment you can.

How to Time Travel

Francis Bacon says that books are ships which sail the vast seas of time, connecting together remote ages. You are going to go back to the era we are studying mainly by reading, writing and talking about philosophical works from this period. The most important and helpful thing you can do for yourself in this class is to engage the philosophical texts of this period. This may sound easy enough to do. Often, in fact, students find it quite difficult. While most of the philosophers we will be reading are not only great philosophers but fine writers, encountering them for the first time, and coming to some understanding of what they are saying is almost always a significant challenge and requires hard work.

This website is intended to help you do that work. It is not the only aid you have. In addition there are books, lectures, class discussions and so forth. The Great Voyages website is intended as a supplement to these. May you have a wonderful voyage!

How Not to Get Lost and Frustrated

The Great Voyages website is big enough so that you can get lost in it. You can wander around and find yourself on a computer in Italy or Ireland or at the Library of Congress or in material which is relevant to the ninth week of the class or only relevant because it might be a paper topic or provide some perspective.

There are two or three important things you need to keep from getting lost. The first is to have clearly in mind what you are doing, that is, what task you aim to accomplish. The second is to have basic net skills. The third is to understand the organizational structure of this website.

  1. What are you doing? As noted above, you are on a personal voyage whose aim is to bring back philosophical treasure from the period we are studying. Some great explorers have spent a lot of time wandering around. And I would say that there is nothing wrong with wandering around and browsing this website at any time if you are simply interested in finding out what is available or hoping you will stumble on something interesting. Hopefully you will. Even then, however, you have a purpose. It is likely that as time goes on, your purposes in using this website are going to become much more goal oriented and specific. You are going to want to find out what kind of information as available about debates over free will and determinism in the period we are studying, for example, to help you decide if that is what you want to write your paper on. Or you are going to discover that you lost the paper copy of the reading quide for Locke's chapter "Of Identity and Diversity" and you are going to the website to get a copy of that reading guide. Or you may want to use searchable electronic texts to help you write your paper. In any of these cases, your specific goal is going to determine what parts of this website you go to and what you are going to do there.

    You may also find that what you need is not here. That is likely to happen, and likely to be frustrating. You need to remember, however, that this web site is very new. You are very likely one of the first people to make use of it. So. if there is something which you clearly see would be helpful to you in achieving whatever goal you have, but it is not on the web site, contact your friendly webmaster and suggest that that feature be added.

  2. Basic skills. To use this website you need some basic net skills. How do you get in and out of a web browser? How do you get back to the last place you were? If you click on a link and suddenly find yourself on a web site in Ireland, how do you get back? If you don't have an answer to this question you may need a tutorial in basic web navigation. If you feel you need to learn basic net skills a tutorial is available.

    Let us now turn to the organizational structure of this website.

The Two Main Parts of the Great Voyages Website

The website itself is divided into two main parts, "the Course," which has to do mainly with skills and resources to help you read the philosophical works we are studying with understanding, and to do research and write about them. "The Era of Great Voyages," the other main part, deals directly with the subject matter of the course. Each of these main parts may be of use to you for a variety of purposes. Let us consider each of the two parts.

The Course

This part of the website gives you 1. The Syllabus, 2. Reading Guides to the philosophical works we are studying as well as Exercises which may help you understand the material better. 3. A variety of resources to help you in doing research and writing papers, including a number of searchable electronic texts..
  1. The Syllabus: If you need to find out where we are and what you are supposed to be doing, having the syllabus on line may prove useful to you. There are hypertext links to other parts of the website, mainly so you can get a sense of what materials are available to help you with that section of the course.
  2. Reading philosophy texts so that one gets a good understanding of them is often difficult, and it is often difficult to do this on schedule.
    • To help you with this I provide a variety of reading guides to underscore significant points in the reading. Some of these reading guides have questions which you need to answer and turn in in class at specified times. Some of these will serve as the basis of discussion in class.

    • There are also some exercises, most of which we will do in class which will help you understand the material better.

  3. Writing philosophy is generally a difficult process. It has, however, enormous rewards. Writing a philosophy paper is one of the very best ways to get engaged with the material. It is, however, especially difficult to do this in the short span of time allowed by the quarter system. The main aim of this section is to try to help you get going more quickly than you would otherwise.

    The section on writing and research provides you with information and suggestions about how to find a topic for your paper, a brief guide to paper writing, useful research materials and techniques, including searchable electronic texts, and information about libraries.

The Era of Great Voyages

This part of the website is devoted to the material we are studying. There is a section called "Stories and Themes" to help you understand what the class is all about, an historical timeline to give you some perspective and put the philosophical works and philosophers we are studying in a context which will help you appreciate and understand their ideas, a section on "the parts of philosophy" which will give you a feel for issues, problems and ongoing controversies during the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries, and finally a section called "The philosophers" which provides you with information about many philosophers of this era.

There are a variety of things which you may be trying to use this part of the website to achieve. Here is a discussion of some of them.