Philos-L History

The Liverpool List, PHILOS-L, is the largest philosophy email list in the world. The list currently boasts 15,000 members in over 60 countries, with an additional 12,000 Facebook subscribers and 9,000 Twitter followers (@philosl). Created by Professor Emeritus Stephen Clark in 1989, the Liverpool List has been intrinsically linked with the Department of Philosophy at the University of Liverpool ever since. 

The list’s early motto was ‘Anarchy Tempered by Despotism’! A missive from Stephen Clark in August 1989 set the early tone:  

For those of you who haven't previously used a[n email list]: the success of such a thing depends entirely on the willingness of subscribers to make a spectacle of themselves, without losing their tempers and without going on at quite inordinate length. Think of it as a common-room conversation, with slightly more time-out for reflection, and no problems about getting a word in edgeways. Try out half-baked ideas if you like, or make pithy comments on such half-baked ideas as have been posted already. But the hotline isn't only for philosophical conversation: use it to convey information - both administrative and academic - and to ask straightforward questions (“where can I find a machine-readable text of Philo De Somniis?” “who said that this life is a dream and a delirium?”). 

While there’s a little less anarchy and despotism now, the Liverpool List has flourished and is now a place for philosophers worldwide to share information, in whichever language they think will help them best reach their intended audience. While messages are moderated, we operate a ‘light touch’ moderation policy. If your message fits with the intended purpose of the list (to share information of interest to philosophers), you are good to go. We would like to remind users of the list that it is up to them to use it responsibly. We are not responsible for third-party content linked in messages to the list. We also do not permit commercial adverts, and we ask users to keep any self-advertising within reasonable limits. 

How to Join the List 

To subscribe simply email as follows to ‘Subscribe philos-l yourname’. Read the welcome message carefully. 

How to Post a Message 

To send to the list send an email to 

Once it is sent, your post will go to the moderator and should be posted to the list, usually within one working day. 

Please note that your message will go out exactly as you sent it. This means that you should use the subject line you want to appear, and you shouldn’t put anything into the message that you don’t want on the list. There is no need to be polite and ask us to send your message! 

How to Sign-off the List 

Send a blank message to 

Our Archive 

You can view our archive, which goes all the way back to 1989, here: 

Have a question? Before getting in touch with us look at these frequently asked questions. 

What if I Make a Mistake? 

If you realise there’s a problem with your message after you have sent it, simply send a new message with ‘CORRECTION’ in the subject line.  

Why is My Message Getting Rejected? 

There are many reasons why a message might get rejected—read the error message carefully. If it says that you aren’t authorised to post to the list, this means that the address you are posting from isn’t subscribed—either subscribe this address or use an address that is subscribed. 

A common reason why a message is rejected is that it contains attachments or images. The list isn’t configured to accept attachments or images so remove them (you might want to put the text from the attachment into your message). Some users have images in their email signatures, which cause problems. If possible, delete your signature from the message and try again. 

If your message is repeatedly rejected because it contains something that the List doesn’t like, a good idea is to copy and paste the text into a new message without formatting 

If you have tried all the above and still can’t post to the List, get in touch! 

Why Has My Message Not Appeared Yet? 

We operate a light-touch moderation process, which means that your message must be moderated before it is sent out on the list. This can take some time, especially over holidays or weekends. Please wait at least 1 working day before emailing to ask about the status of your message. 

How Do I Know My Message Went Out? 

It can happen that you don’t receive a copy of your own messages in your inbox. The simplest way of checking that the message went out is to see if it is in the archive: If it’s in the archive, then your message went out. 

I’ve Signed-Off the List, so Why Am I Still Getting Mail? 

You may still receive mail for up to 24 hours after you signed off. 

I’ve Heard There’s a Digest Option. How Do I Get It? 

Some users prefer to receive individual messages; others prefer the digest option. To receive the digest, send a message with the command SET PHILOS-L DIGEST to 

Why Can’t I Sign-Off? 

It may be that the email address that you use to read messages from the List isn’t the address that is subscribed—try signing off from all of your email addresses. 

Users are sometimes unable to remember which email address they originally subscribed with or are unable to access the address that is subscribed. If this happens, get in touch with us. 

Can I Re-Send My Post? 

We appreciate that you may want to remind subscribers of your upcoming CFP, conference, job, etc. You can send reminders, within reason, but be sensible! 

What Should I Put in the Subject Line? 

You should send your message to the List exactly as you want it to appear on the list, with the subject line you want and without a polite request to post your message. 

Why Do I Receive So Many Messages??!! 

This is the downside of the List’s popularity, If you are finding the number of messages overwhelming, you may want to consider the digest option (see above). Always bear in mind that you are responsible for using the list sensibly—if it annoys you to see constant reminders of events, make sure you don’t send constant reminders yourself. 

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