Here’s an influence map of the history of philosophy which used Open Source mapping software for its form and Wikipedia for its content. It is very much worth reading through what the author has to say about it as well as tipping the hat to the Partially Examined Life blog for initially drawing my attention towards it.

I’ve shared this recent instance of the mathematisation of western culture for at least three reasons. Firstly, it offers material to both ponder and tut tut over. If there is one thing of which we can be certain in this world of uncertainties it is the following – anybody who loves philosophy cannot witness this image and not become simultaneously fasinated and disgusted by it. Secondly, it offers material which would surely enliven the often arid area of research methodology pedagogy by potentially facilitating discussions over whether the methods of one discipline can be meaningfully applied to the problems of another, in part or at all.

Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, it offers material with which to think about the very nature of the task of historicising philosophy. At the moment I’m struggling to write a review of Anthony Kenny’s ‘A New History of Philosophy‘. Rather than challenging Kenny’s necessarily intimidatingly erudite account I wanted to propose pedagogical alternatives to the 1,000 page tome model of philosophical apprenticeship. Peter Adamson’s growing audio archive offers one possible alternative, whereas a raiding of the resources at websites such as Open Culture offers another. Perhaps this map offers yet another still?

Either way, I am tempted to conclude this brief entry on a slightly pessimistic note. This note would be informed by the philosophy of Martin Heidegger and Jean-Francois Lyotard and would attempt to draw attention to the philosophically regressive aspects of technological determinism. So I will. Heidegger has become a big green circle and Lyotard seems to no longer exist. This must come pretty close to somebody’s vision of hell.

3 thoughts on “Descartography

  1. There is something that disturb me about the network analysis. First, that in this case, the guy that build up the graph claims that he don’t know anything about philosophy.

    But I agree that visualizations are an important part of the actual massive free data availability within the web. As the author of the graph claims: He uses “Wikipedia where the information forms a network. I chose philosophy because firstly the influences section is very well maintained and secondly I know a little bit about it. At the bottom of this post I’ve described how I got there’ What is the criteria for ‘well maintain?

    In parallel with the question of the data quality, another question arise…What type of network is he using. An euclidean formation/performance? a topological formation? None of them?. Maybe the question is, what type of mathematics is Simon (the statistician) using to build up his graph/network. The instrument is also not free of politics!

    Well, just two cents on this nice and interesting post.

  2. Some tut-tutting.
    I rather liked the graph. Not only was Murray Rothbard bigger than thomas Aquinas, I also managed to find a hitherto unknown philosopher called crimethinc, located at On the more positive side, there were quite some non-western names that I never heard of before. In this way, a rather flat and potentially uninformed graph like this has the potential to draw one into thinking about the types of relations produced and to draw attention to the outliers, rather than the central ones.

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