Dictionary of Arguments

Philosophical and Scientific Issues in Dispute

We need condensed and easy to find information

Interview with Martin Schulz June 25, 2014

Liliana Moldovan (L.M.): - “A lexicon”, in a usual meaning, is a book or a catalog of words about a well-defined topic. “An argument” is a reason or a system of reasons used to defend an opinion, a belief or a conclusion. What is the „Lexicon of Arguments”?

Martin Schulz (M.S.): - The „Lexicon of Arguments” is just what you said! Only „without paper” and so it has some additional features that make the combination and new constellation of pieces of information become easier. What we are seeing today is a lot of link lists that send you to other link lists. But sometimes we want to get an answer to our questions, and not only a link where to find more links. In the end it’s the content that is decisive and not the form in which it is presented. And it is the question how much of a text we want to read. The Lexicon of Arguments supplies condensed information to keywords in a discussion within a field of specialization.

L.M.: - In what field of knowledge and education can it be used? What is the “mission” of this lexicon?

M.S.: - At the moment the lexicon is covering the field of philosophy, especially analytic philosophy. It shall be extended for economics, social sciences, history, legal theory, art theory, linguistics and more fields. We are preparing cooperation with universities for semester projects. That is, students together with their professor can establish their own lexicon for a field of specialization and decide afterwards, to publish it or to keep it for their own intranet.

L.M.: - What makes it special? On what kind of mechanism of searching is it built?

M.S.: - One of the key features of the „Lexicon of arguments” is the possibility to find counterarguments to theses that seemed to be unquestionable. By entering “VsKant” or “KantVs” you may find more than 60 arguments that arouse within controversies. But also current debates are displayed, e.g. in the field of philosophy of mind or philosophy of language.
The lexicon is equipped with an SRU interface which makes it possible to integrate it in your library and makes it possible for the users of the library to find content plus metadata, not only the metadata alone.

L.M.: - When did you start to work on the „Lexicon of Arguments” and how many contributions are involved in this project?

M.S.: - Up until now we have about 10.000 entries in the field of Analytic Philosophy. We are open now for contributions from other fields such as economics, legal theory, social sciences, history, art theory, linguistics and many more. Everyone, graduate student, professor or researcher can contribute for his field of specialization and propose a new entry.

L.M.: - The Internet provides us many searching engines like Wikipedia, Google, online catalogs of libraries, online dictionaries. How can we be sure that we will find accurate information?

M.S.: - The contents in our lexicon are taken from publications with documented metadata. The lexicon is not a forum but a “Dialog beyond book covers”. It opens the books for a lively conversation. A „Dialog” even with authors from past centuries! Readers contribute what they found convincing during their studies. Authors contribute their own most relevant arguments. Everybody tries to keep it short in order to save time. Saving time is one of the main points in our project: it means that we will have more time for our studies and spend less time reading repetitions of the state of the art. The state of the art is important of course - but it is already in the lexicon! So we have a platform for discussing newer developments. He who wants to get information about development that lead to the current situation finds this in the synopses of the lexicon.

L.M.: - Can students, researches, academicians use the Lexicon of Arguments on their scientific papers?

M.S.: - They can - everybody in his own special way. Students can perform semester projects and get credit points, professors can help their students and take the role of an editor. Researchers can publish their newest research very easily, using our Lexicon as a pre-print server. Or they can quickly get information whether other researchers already published results on a particular question, they are working on. Other researchers or teachers can use the lexicon as a platform for their private research and knowledge organization, in a password protected area. Later on, they can publish their work on our platform if they want to. The Lexicon is thus a platform for a quick overview of the state of the art and on the long run it is a growing repository and thesaurus for research results.

L.M.: - Is this a free online lexicon? Where, in the Internet, can we find it?

M.S.: - You can find it when you enter “Lexicon of Arguments” or even simply “controversies science” or by entering the URL www.philosophy-science-humanities-controversies.com . German: Lexikon der Argumente www.philosophie-wissenschaft-kontroversen.de
Donations are welcome and will help us to carry on the project.

L.M.: -May we believe that the online dictionaries put in danger the libraries which provide to the public large and various collections of valuable dictionaries, encyclopedias and lexicons?

M.S.: -This is an interesting question for librarians and I think many of your colleagues are working on solutions. I would not speak of a danger but of chances for development in the direction of better search results and easier ways to find help when we search information. Isn’t it the work of a librarian? Librarians are specialists in finding information. They will go on with this, I am sure, and they will become better and better at it with the help of new tools.

L.M.: - How do you think that the future of libraries will look like? Will they become libraries without walls, institution with online catalogs and with collection of electronic resources that can be used by anyone, anytime and from anywhere?

M.S.: - I think there will be libraries with good old books for a long time. So many people want to read “real books” and do not like the idea of changing the medium they were used to for a long time. Anyway, two tendencies will bring about new forms: 1st, better searching and transport of information – 2nd, new forms of combining information – be it text with pictures or film, be it further information that was located in footnotes before and can now be directly found and read because you can get it by simply clicking on a link and come back to the main text afterwards. So many new forms are possible now with the help of new electronic media.

L.M.: -Martin Schulz, thank you very much for the interview!

M.S.: - My pleasure!
Source: Ultima actualizare în Miercuri, 25 Iunie 2014 19:11 Scris de Asii Români Miercuri
Reprinted in "The Library, published by the National Library of Romania Rev_Bibliotheka 9/2014"