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History of Western Philosophy Influence Charts
November 11, 2010 12:07 PM   Subscribe

History of Western Philosophy, illustrated in huge scroll-down timelines. Kevin Scharp at OSU made these, based on work by Randall Collins, and they are great. Includes the influence of the Muslim world. He also has separate diagrams on a few specific issues, eg paradoxes, theories of truth, etc. This link goes to his fast-loading index page, where you can click to load the (big) charts.

About the big overall histories of western philosophy, he says: "the first runs from 600 B.C.E. to 600 C.E., and the second covers 600 C.E. to about 1935 C.E. They are based on Sociology of Philosophies by Randall Collins. Each one is 4 feet wide, and together, they are about 44 feet tall when the font is 12 point." via Leiter
posted by LobsterMitten (43 comments total) 82 users marked this as a favorite

 
[This is good]
posted by Wolfdog at 12:10 PM on November 11, 2010


I found Waldo!
posted by theodolite at 12:10 PM on November 11, 2010


Wow, this is amazing! THANK YOU!
posted by strixus at 12:12 PM on November 11, 2010


Very impressive. Thank you.
posted by blucevalo at 12:12 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wish he would release a left to right version, so sections could be printed.
posted by phrontist at 12:17 PM on November 11, 2010


Extremely impressive! Now, let me start my professional axe-grinding about the woeful and cosmos-shattering inaccuracies of my pet philosophers in 3... 2... 1...
posted by reverend cuttle at 12:19 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Say "Husserl" five times. And don't mumble.

Also, love the number physicists and mathematicians in there.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:20 PM on November 11, 2010


This is just what I needed today.
posted by shothotbot at 12:20 PM on November 11, 2010


What? no connection between Whitehead and the Cambridge Metaphysical Club? You know, the guy did have a whole career as an American metaphysician after the Principia. Sheesh.

And there's no link between Dilthey and Gadamer? Oh, the injustice of it all.

(but seriously amazing effort. The scope man, the scope of it all!)
posted by reverend cuttle at 12:21 PM on November 11, 2010


I agree about a left to right version. This would get hung up in every phil department hallway in the country.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:21 PM on November 11, 2010


Zoom.it, for your pleasure:
Part 1: http://www.zoom.it/PdRn
Part 2: http://www.zoom.it/BX7D
posted by hanoixan at 12:31 PM on November 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wow.

I have a copy of that Collins book and I've been meaning to read it for some time, but like these diagrams, it is BIG. Sociologies of philosophy are cool; I wish there were more of them. There's a good one on psychologism out there.
posted by painquale at 12:37 PM on November 11, 2010


Needs color.

Also, i'm not seeing where the Islamic philosophers cross over -- Maybe I'm missing it -- where is Avicenna?
posted by empath at 12:41 PM on November 11, 2010


I hate netbooks... I need a bigger screen...pfft.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 12:47 PM on November 11, 2010


Perfect timing...I'm currently listening to this podcast, and now I can use these charts like the map that came with Lord of the Rings.
posted by rocket88 at 1:05 PM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't get this at all. What are the lines meant to convey? Correspondence? Influence? Engagement? As far as I can tell, there seem to be a lot of omissions and gross inaccuracies.
posted by fryman at 1:20 PM on November 11, 2010


When I saw the description of the dimensions, I thought to myself "yay! my TV is four feet wide. Perfect!" Then I saw the 44 feet tall part and was sad. I do not have a 44 foot tall television set. :(
posted by wierdo at 1:41 PM on November 11, 2010


This is amazing and it hurts my head to try and cypher what I'm looking at.
posted by nola at 1:45 PM on November 11, 2010


I wish it wasn't in graphic format alone. I wonder why he didn't use XML or some similar standard for documentation of relational data; I'm interested in reproducing this in a software tool, but am going to have to type, tag, and connect all of them by hand. Perhaps his intent is to require at least that minimal level of commitment, but from looking at his web page I'm guessing it just hasn't occurred to him yet. That said, mapping this information in such extensive detail is a great achievment and it will be a useful resource for generations of future students.

I don't get this at all. What are the lines meant to convey?

Legend is in upper right corner: plain lines indicate acquaintance, arrowed lines indicate academic parentage, dashed lines indicate disagreement, and dotted lines indicate a probable (but uncertain) relationship. Status is indicated via typography: MAJOR PHILOSOPHERS, Secondary Philosophers, Minor Philosophers, (Non-Philosophers). Grey blobs represent schools of thought. Time runs downwards from 600 BC to 600 AD. Part 2 continues to modern times.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:31 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


where is Avicenna

The Islamic chunk is top of the second big chart. Avicenna is Ibn Sina, at 1035 AD in the middle of the chart. (Yeah, it would be better if he included the Latinate AKAs)
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:41 PM on November 11, 2010


I like how when my browser scrunches it to fit in the viewport it looks like the world's most insane golf course. I also just really freaking like it for the monument it is. Someone carve this sucker into some 44 foot tall block of granite please. That would be something worthy of haj to the secular crowd (no disrespect intended for the Muslim crowd).
posted by Fezboy! at 2:53 PM on November 11, 2010


I had to take a mandatory course in Western Early Moderns, and the prof taught the whole thing on overhead. Everything was a graph or chart. Everything was fixed and rigid. He couldn't have sucked the life out of the material more if he tried. I was bored out of my nut, but since it was a required course, completely stuck.

This reminds me of those bad, bad days. I understand the urge to simplify and categorize in one's own mind, but a project like this seems a little misguided to me, removing the dynamics and fluidity in favour of straight lines and fixed categories. Exploration is more fun without a map.

To each their own.
posted by Capt. Renault at 2:58 PM on November 11, 2010


...it hurts my head to try and cypher what I'm looking at.

This is where I'm stuck. I love the idea behind this, but I think I'm just failing to follow the charts. They just keep hurting me.
posted by meese at 3:06 PM on November 11, 2010


Avicenna = Ibn Sina
Averroes = Ibn Rushd
Algazel = Al-Ghazali
Alkindus = Al-Kindi
Alpharabius = Al-Farabi
Avempace = Ibn Bajjah
(Cribbing from wikipedia for those last three)
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:10 PM on November 11, 2010


I’m a big fan of diagrams.
posted by ovvl at 5:16 PM on November 11, 2010


Needs more hypertext. Seriously great diagrams though, greatly improved by the zoom link.
posted by stp123 at 5:21 PM on November 11, 2010


I'm incensed that there's no La Mettrie.

I'm a bit astonished that Wordsworth and Coleridge don't have any line connecting them.

These are quibbles. This is cool as hell.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 5:32 PM on November 11, 2010


I'm incensed that there's no La Mettrie.

He's there, sort of floating off on his own ca. 1755 with only two names anchoring him (Boerhaave and Frederick the Great, both non-philosophers).

My quibble is, in what universe are Nietzsche, Husserl and Heidegger all "secondary philosophers"? Oh, right--the U.S. philosophy department universe. That doesn't explain why Goethe is a "major philosopher," though...
posted by DaDaDaDave at 5:55 PM on November 11, 2010


My quibble is, in what universe are Nietzsche, Husserl and Heidegger all "secondary philosophers"? Oh, right--the U.S. philosophy department universe. That doesn't explain why Goethe is a "major philosopher," though...

I think the only neat aspect of this, besides its impressive design, is its idiosyncratic layout. For example, it's really deep into Polish logicians, but the only people from the Frankfurt school I could find were Marcuse and Habermas (and they had weird (non-) connections). And the Vienna Circle includes Hahn and Reichenbach, but I couldn't find Von Mises or Hempel anywhere.

More than that, I'm sure everyone has their own quibbles. (Among mine are that there's no "acquaintance" link between Keynes and Ramsey, nor one between Levinas and Heidegger.)

And I'm still not entirely sure how to read the map. I get what the different links are now, but I'm not sure if there's supposed to be information to be gleaned from them. However, this does make me much more interested in reading Collins' book, so there's that.
posted by fryman at 6:20 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like how Gilbert Ryle just springs out of whole cloth.
posted by stargell at 6:23 PM on November 11, 2010


I'd say my biggest quibble by far is that there's no connection between Hume and Kant... isn't that the single most famous relationship in philosophy, other than Socrates and Plato? And there should be a connection between Avicenna and Averroes and practically everyone.

Ignoring that, the chronology is pretty cool.
posted by shii at 8:21 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Heh, I know Kevin very well. I'll let him know he made it up here, I know it's been bouncing around the net now.
posted by Kwine at 5:33 AM on November 12, 2010


I wonder why he didn't use XML or some similar standard for documentation of relational data; I'm interested in reproducing this in a software tool, but am going to have to type, tag, and connect all of them by hand.

I have plans to port them into processing.js...but I'm probably not going to get to it for a while.
posted by Kwine at 5:38 AM on November 12, 2010


Well, if he's going to be seeing this...

You know what I think would be really cool (but even harder to follow and more difficult to make)? A chart that shows how, say, Plato has influenced people. I mean, a chart that really does show the effect that Plato has had on everyone. I figure it'd make us go, "Woah -- lookit all those lines."

You know what I'd also love? A chart that focused on the different influences between analytic and continental philosophers. I know there's a little bit of this here, but one that can really show where the divides are between who reads what and mentions whom.
posted by meese at 6:19 AM on November 12, 2010


Hey guys. Thanks for the interest and all the kind words. Some responses:

I agree about a horizontal version. In retrospect, I fell like an idiot for not doing this from the start. I don't know why I thought a four-story diagram would be in any way practical. So, I'm working on this now. It is taking a long time. I'm also working on smaller vertical posters that are about 7 feet tall and cover only about 300 years.

I didn't know about xml, but that's a great idea. I'm looking into it right now. Eventually I want the whole diagram with hyperlinks that take you to that person's Wikipedia page.

As far as complains/suggestions on who is represented and the connections between them, I just went by Collins. I'm working on updating the thing by adding 1930s to 2000, but that's a big job. The idea of going back through and making substantive changes to what Collins has done fills me with dread, but I'll probably do it at some point.

I like the idea of adding color, and I played around with it a bit, but couldn't get it to look right. What should be colored? The names? The lines? The schools of thought? Should I add color by nationality? By time period? By philosophical subject matter? A background color for the whole thing?

meese suggested something on Plato's influence and something on analytic vs. continental. That would take a long time and a lot of expertise I don't have. Although I'm primarily an analytic philosopher, I have a lot of experience with continental. But trying to map out influences between the two would require someone with way more understanding of continental than I have. Same goes for Plato. I like the ideas though.

If anyone finds mistakes (I know of a few already) that would be very helpful.
posted by kevin_scharp at 8:38 AM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


Hi Kevin! Nice to see you here.
One mistake - I think you've misspelled Gaunilo (transposing the "a" and "u").

Could you turn it into a left-to-right chart by just rotating all the text 45 degrees, so that a person could print sections, then display the chart left to right (the names would read from bottom left to top right)? I don't know if there's an easy way to do that in your diagram program.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:41 AM on November 12, 2010


Could you turn it into a left-to-right chart by just rotating all the text 45 degrees, so that a person could print sections, then display the chart left to right (the names would read from bottom left to top right)? I don't know if there's an easy way to do that in your diagram program.

90 degrees, right? That's what I'm doing, but the text of the names then overlaps the lines. So I have to go in by hand and move the lines around, which takes a long time.
posted by kevin_scharp at 10:43 AM on November 12, 2010


Well, I was thinking if you just rotate it 45 degrees then it would be at a readable angle for either scroll-down OR left-right viewing, and maybe it wouldn't interfere with the lines so much? Not sure.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:55 PM on November 12, 2010


This is something that xml will help with: you can separate the structure of the nodes and connections from how they are displayed, so you can make presentational changes very quickly. In fact, I wouldn't even bother doing any more work until you find a programmer to help you organize it (I would like to help you with it but I just don't have the time right now). But I bet someone reading this or on some of the other sites where you've been posted would love to dig into it...
posted by Kwine at 1:00 PM on November 12, 2010


I hadn't thought about the 45 degree idea, but I like it. I just tried it and it does mess with the lines. It looks a bit odd too. Still, it's probably worth it to be able to view the thing in either orientation.
posted by kevin_scharp at 8:00 AM on November 13, 2010


After looking into xml a bit, I think I could probably teach myself without too much trouble. I have some free time right now (I just got tenure and finished writing a book!) so I might try my hand at it. Any suggestions on tutorials?
posted by kevin_scharp at 8:05 AM on November 13, 2010


I have some free time right now (I just got tenure...

sign near the philosophy department:
WARNING: XML LEARNING IN PROGRESS
YOUR TUITION DOLLARS AT WORK

(I kid because I love)
posted by shothotbot at 4:56 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just to be clear: it would be during my free time (which is not being used for research right now)!
posted by kevin_scharp at 9:22 AM on November 15, 2010


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