Yet if the goal is to share with people what is true, it is extremely important for a resource to have all of these things. Books also produce a coherent overview of a subject, as the editors consider how each entry fits into the whole.
But they become obsolete whenever new research comes out.
The story of how the SEP is run, and how it came to be, shows that it is possible to create a less trashy internet—or at least a less trashy corner of it.
A place where actual knowledge is sorted into a neat, separate pile instead of being thrown into the landfill.
1): A fundamental problem faced by the general public and the members of an academic discipline in the information age is how to find the most authoritative, comprehensive, and up-to-date information about an important topic. Unfortunately, all of the other current ways of designing an encyclopedia very badly fail to meet at least one of these requirements.
The three requirements the authors list—”authoritative, comprehensive, and up-to-date”—are to information what the “impossible trinity” is to economics. It is like having your cake, eating it, and then bringing it to another party. Printed books are authoritative: Readers trust articles they know have been written and edited by experts.
(Achille Varzi, the author of the holes entry, was called upon in the US presidential election in 2000 to weigh in on the existential status of hanging chads.) If you ask Wikipedia for holes it gives you the young-adult novel Holes and the band Hole.
In other words, holes as philosophical notions are too abstract for a crowdsourced venue that favors clean, factual statements like a novel’s plot or a band’s discography.
Something that would make humans a lot smarter than the internet we have today. Edward Zalta, a philosopher at Stanford’s Center for the Study of Language and Information, launched it way back in September 1995, with just two entries.
Its creators have solved one of the internet’s fundamental problems: How to provide authoritative, rigorously accurate knowledge, at no cost to readers.