Current Philosophy

Date: Thu, 28 May 1998

Dear Andrew:

I am the mysterious Charles S. Yanikoski -- writing to you from my business address -- I am now a software developer. My home address, and a better place to contact me, would be (or 69 Lancaster County Rd., Harvard, MA 01451; tel 978-456-2757). I don't mind, by the way, if you give the address out to other people.

I just this minute stumbled upon your web site, and saw your flattering write-up about Current Philosophy. Here's a little bit more of the story:

One day in the mid-80s I was riding the subway into Boston to work; I was then working for one of the big life insurance companies. But my true love was philosophy, a subject I tried to keep up with. Well, if it's hard for the professionals, it's all but impossible for the amateurs. I wished that there were a publication like Current Philosophy, and then decided: why not do it myself? So I did.

I subscribed to a host of publications, bought myself a personal computer with a good laser printer, quick-studied some languages I didn't know yet (Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Italian) and actually wrote my own computer program to lay out the text and do the indexing and cross-referencing automatically. I personally read and summarized all the journal articles, my wife edited (Linda H. Davis is her pen-name, also her maiden name, under which she writes -- her biography of Stephen Crane is due out this summer from Houghton Mifflin), my father proofread. The whole family helped me send out mailings.

In fact, we got two issues out the door. At that point we had a few hundred subscribers, but we needed a thousand to make the thing self-sustaining, and it wasn't growing fast enough. We were losing $2000 a month, I was working 70 hours a week on this in addition to my real job, and we didn't have any financial backing or other help. I still believe that if we had had enough cash to keep the thing going for a couple of years, we could have got it into the black, and I could have quit the insurance job, maybe hired some grad students or assistant professors to help, and the journal would now be celebrating somewhere around its 70th issue. Plus the whole index could have been computerized by now and put on the net. But it didn't happen that way.

It really pleases me that there is someone out there who remembers. I think I've moved past the point in my own life where I could think of starting something like this again, even if there was financial backing for it. But if you ever hear of anyone who wants to consider such a thing, I would be happy to share my experiences. That might be useful, since apart from not having enough capital to make this venture last (the #1 mistake beginning entrepreneurs make, I have since learned!), I actually think that I did most the rest of it right. If a university or foundation were willing to fund it, it certainly could be done again.

By the way, I think that I do still have a few spare copies of the second issue around the house; I'd be happy to send one along to you, if you want it and are willing to provide a mailing address.

Thanks again for your kind observations about this project. In a way, it was just hell to do, at the time. In other ways, it was the most exciting and intellectually rewarding adventure of my life.

Best of luck with your web site. It's a terrific idea!!

Chuck Yanikoski