HIPPIAS Limited Area Search of Philosophy on the Internet

Type in any philosopher's name, "John Stuart Mill," say, or any philosophical term, such as, "Solipsism," click on "Search" and HIPPIAS will retrun a list of sites on the web that match your entry. Use "*" for substring searches. "Plat*," for example, will return entries for "Plato, " "Platonism, " "Platonic, " etc. Hippias was launched on August 10, 1997.

Hippias is a peer-reviewed search engine that provides access to philosophy-related resources on the World-Wide Web. Quality is controlled by a system of hyperlinked internet sites which are managed by qualified professionals who serve as the associate editors of the project. The same procedures that govern quality also serve to limit the scope of Hippias to resources of interest to philosophers.

Hippias is the second search engine on the internet to use the LASE technology developed by Anthony F. Beavers and Hiten Sonpal at the University of Evansville. The Argos Project, a limited area search engine dedicated to ancient and medieval internet resources, was the first.

At the time of this writing, a search for "Plato" on the internet search engine Lycos returned 6,044 responses. InfoSeek returned 25,543, and Alta Vista 44,430. Intermixed with returns that may be of interest to philosophers were a wide variety of other responses, including popular pieces on the lost city of Atlantis, software packages for education and home automation, information on towns that go by the name of "Plato" and so on. Add to this broad range of responses the fact that these search engines return ten entries per page, making it necessary to examine thousands of pages of replies, many of which are irrelevant to a scholarly search of "Plato," and the result is a process that is frustrating and inefficient.

These larger internet indices are based on the notion that a broad search of the internet is more desirable than a narrow one. Such an ideology, if you will permit that term in this context, allows these major search engines to be useful to everyone everywhere in any field of study whatsoever. But the cost of such wide-spread appeal is the frustration and inefficiency that comes with using them for defined purposes. The idea behind a limited area search engine is otherwise. By limiting the range of the search engine, a LASE strips out many unwanted references, but at a cost. (If you wanted to know about Plato, the suburb of Chicago, for instance, Hippias is not the place to look.) The result is a higher quality index built for a specific purpose and for a smaller audience. Furthermore, the quality of the index, its purpose and the level of specialization expected of its intended audience are variables that can be manipulated with LASE technology. For example, a particular LASE could be designed using very strict procedures to create a resource for medical doctors that provided access to only scientifically-verified medical reports; another could be designed for a broader audience using less strict selection criteria when deciding what and what not to include within the search window of the LASE.

Hippias is aimed to create an academically viable resource for students, teachers and scholars of philosophy. To do this, Hippias is designed to use a two-tiered protocol to determine what to search and what not to search. This protocol serves two purposes, limiting the range of Hippias and determining the overall quality of the index. The way it does this is fairly straightforward. Hippias searches a small set of Associate Sites and all the pages they link to, with the exception of a few pages that Hippias is told to avoid, such as personal homepages and the major search engines discussed above. This procedure, in turn, passes Hippias' editorial control over to the experts that manage the associate sites. By simply linking their index to a page, these editors are also instructing Hippias to include it in the search window.

Associates Sites presently include Course Materials in Philosophy (edited by Andrew Carpenter, Antioch College). Course Materials in Philosophy is a systematic collection of syllabi, handouts, and other course material; it welcomes submissions from philosophy teachers. David Chalmers' Philosophy Resources (edited by David Chalmers, University of California, Santa Cruz). This site contains many resources in the philosophy of mind and links to online philosophy papers. Ethics Updates (edited by Lawrence M. Hinman, University of San Diego)/. Ethics Updates provides guides to World Wide Web resources on a wide range of contemporary moral issues and topics in moral theory; it also offers a calendar of upcoming ethics conferences, links to syllabi of ethics courses, discussion forums, and a special forum for the discussion of prepublication versions of ethics papers. Guide to Philosophy on the Internet (edited by Peter Suber, Earlham College). Suber's Guide is a comprehensive collection of philosophy resources on the internet, continually updated. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (edited by James Fieser, University of Tennessee at Martin). The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy is a growing collection of articles on many figures and topics; it seeks contributions from professional philosophers. Noesis: Philosophical Research On-Line (edited by Anthony F. Beavers, University of Evansville). Noesis is an index and search engine of philosophical content written by professional philosophers. It indexes essays, lectures and other course materials, images, graphs, charts, book and article reviews, primary texts, bibliographies, chronologies, and glossaries. Philosophy in Cyberspace (edited by Dey Alexander, Monash University). Philosophy in Cyberspace is an extensive, annotated index of philosophy resources organized into over 50 topical categories and updated regularly. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (edited by Edward N. Zalta, Stanford University). The Stanford Encyclopedia is a 'dynamic' encyclopedia of philosophy that is responsive to new research -- authors have ftp access to their entries to keep them up-to-date and a select Board of Editors monitors and referees all entries and updates. Argos: Limited Area Search of the Ancient and Medieval Internet Argos is Hippias' older sibling in using the limited area search engine (LASE) technology developed at the Unviersity of Evansville. It uses the same system of peer-review that Hippias uses to limit the range of responses to ancient and medieval resources.The Perseus Project: An Evolving Digital Library on Ancient Greece The Perseus Project includes several of its own search engines that provide access to information not covered by Hippias, including standard Greek editions of works by Plato and Aristotle. Some of these that might be of interest to philosophers include the: English Index to the Database, and Greek Word Search of Primary Texts, and English Word Search of the Liddell, Scott and Jones Greek Lexicon, and an engine for All Primary Texts (Greek and English).

The overall quality of Hippias is determined by a system of peer-review. This system is based on an "accreditation" model of legitimating resources, rather than a "referee" model. This system is chosen because accreditation models are designed for works, institutions, etc. that change over time and that may, in the process of their change, fall below certain standards. The associate sites accredit other sites by including them in their indices; when, and if, these sites fall below the standards established by the associates, they are removed from the associate site and, at the same time, from the Hippias search window. This procedure allows authors to take advantage of the flexibility (that is, revisability and expandability) that comes with internet publishing without having to abandon quality-control altogether.

Any page that turns up in a Hippias search may, therefore, be thought of as accredited, or certified, by the editorial board. This does not mean that the content of every page delivered by Hippias is true, whatever that may mean to philosophers, any more than every statement made by a faculty member at an accredited educational institution is true. It does mean that the page is delivered as a viable beginning for the academic study of philosophy. Students who are using Hippias for their research must play the role of scholars and evaluate the quality of resources themselves by confirming claims in more than one source, carefully considering issues and evaluating arguments, etc. Such a process does not impede students from a scholarly entry into the study of philosophy; more so, it introduces them to the "art and science" of true, hands-on scholarship, and, if used with proper guidance, may even sharpen their critical skills. Teachers and those "in the know," so to speak, will have to exercise the same judgment they use when choosing which books to cite and which to skip. Hippias does not intend to replace these more personal aspects of scholarly life. (Even within these limits, users may think of Hippias as a library at an institute of higher learning. Like a library, Hippias "contains" many texts, and all that the user can be certain of, as when approaching any university library, is that someone with academic credentials somewhere thought that this particular text was important enough to include in the library.)

Along with being quality-controlled and limited, Hippias is also up-to-date. Because it does not include sections of the internet irrelevant to philosophy, it is possible to rebuild Hippias' index regularly. This means that an estimated 98% of the links from Hippias will work at any given time. Larger search engines are unable to do this because of their scope.

Hippias was funded by grants from the University of Evansville. It went on-line to the public on August 10th, 1997, at 8:00 p.m. CDT. It has made more than 166746 searches of philosophy on the internet since that time.

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November 27, 1998

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