Fonds MG 4231 - Alastair Thomson McKinnon Fonds

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Alastair Thomson McKinnon Fonds

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  • Sound recording
  • Electronic

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CA MUA MG 4231

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  • 1948-2008 (Creation)
    McKinnon, Alastair

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Physical description

4.05 m of textual records
1 audio cassette tape
34 3-1/2 inch diskettes

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Biographical history

Alastair McKinnon was born on May 25, 1925 in Hillsburgh, Ontario, and educated at the Victoria College (B.A.), University of Toronto (M.A.), Edinburgh University (Ph.D.) and McGill University (B.D.). He married Mildred Mae Sutton, September 13, 1947. On August 13, 1956, and he was ordained by the Churches of Christ (Disciples) in Hillsburgh in 1956. McKinnon was a member of the Department of Philosophy, McGill University, from 1950 until 1990, serving as Chairman from 1975 to 1983. He was named Macdonald Professor of Moral Philosophy in 1971; and upon his retirement in 1990 was named Professor Emeritus.

McKinnon’s research and publications focused on several broad areas including the philosophy of religion, interpretation of the work of the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, and the application of computers to research in the humanities. His early publications and research included papers on “the sex of God,” God, Humanity and Sexual Polarity (1954) and the philosophy of religion, Miracle and ‘Paradox’ (1967) and the monograph Falsification and Belief (1970). A number of papers published between 1962 and 1969 argued against the irrationalist interpretations of Kierkegaard’s writings.

During the 1960s McKinnon began using computers as a means of studying and analysing text. The first phase, resulting in the publication of Kierkegaard’s Pseudonyms: a New Hierarchy (1969), focused on some of the important pseudonyms Keirkegaard used in his writings. The second concerned the creation of machine-readable files of Kierkegaard’s writings, culminating in the publication of The Kierkegaard Indices, vols. I-IV (1970-1975). The third phase explored a range of statistical tests to develop computer generated three-dimensional models representing the relationships between Kierkegaard’s major works and the topology of his concepts, among others.

In 1987 McKinnon published the Kierkegaard files, along with TEXTMAP, the programs developed to manipulate these files, in The Kierkegaard Text and Support Software Manual. This permitted other scholars to study Kierkegaard’s work using the TEXTMAP software, or by developing their own, without having to rely only on a printed concordance or indices. The electronic text files opened up opportunities to examine text in new ways, studying the words and phrases through statistically based methods. Multivariate analysis was a method often used to examine texts, used by McKinnon to develop three-dimensional models of the concepts, books and ultimately an entire body of scholarly work.

McKinnon received many honours and awards during his academic career, including but not limited to: Fellow of the Royal society of Canada 1981, Knight of the Order of Daneborg 1995, Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, St. Olaf College, 1998, President of the Canadian Theological Society 1959-60, and President of the Canadian Philosophical Association, 1979-80.

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Scope and content

The fonds consists of two accessions. The first includes research files, copies of publications, drafts, presentations and addresses, research notes, organization of the Kierkegaard conference, the acquisition by McGill University Libraries of the Kierkegaard-Malantschuk Collection and correspondence with other academics and scholars; workshop materials for content analysis software to explore the relationships of philosophical texts; teaching files containing lecture notes, course syllabuses, handouts, and examinations, 1951-1987; administrative files, activities within the Department of Philosophy and McGill University, 1961-1991; and personal material - sermons, clipping files, some papers and dissertations as a student, creative writing, two unpublished manuscripts, and a journal, 1948 – 1993.

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Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

2002-0103 deposited by Alastair Thomson Mckinnon, 17 July 2002
2009-0128 unknown depositor, 17 November 2009


This material was transferred to the MUA after being held in temporary records storage by the Faculty of Arts. Professor McKinnon had been active in selection of records for transfer (prior to the move of his office) and was key in the identification of research and teaching records. The accession listing reflects the arrangement of the records according to research, teaching, administrative and personal

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2002-0103; 2009-0128;

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