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Deniz Cem Önduygu

Hüseyin Kuşçu

Eser Aygün

Right now I’m working on many new names to be added to the visualization, and we are also making progress on useful interface upgrades. I’ll be announcing a big update before September; you may witness some work-in-progress meanwhile. (21/07/2018)

This is a summary of the history of (Western) philosophy showing the positive/negative connections between some of the key ideas/arguments of the philosophers. This first version is based mostly on one book, Bryan Magee’s The Story of Philosophy.

First off, let me announce that though I read my share of philosophy and history of philosophy, I’m not a historian of philosophy. This is a purely personal project that I’m doing in my own time, with my limited knowledge, for myself; and I’m sharing it to get feedback and to make it accessible to those who are interested.

I’m summarizing argumentations with isolated sentences, noting the positive/negative connections to old arguments, putting all this information in a spreadsheet and creating the visualization at the end. If an argument agrees with or expands on an old one, I connect them with a green line. If it disagrees with or refutes an old argument, they’re connected with a red line. Some of these connections are explicitly described by the philosophers or the historians, some of them are drawn by me.

Maybe you can complain that I have low standards for a connection in general. The question always arises: “Clearly these two arguments are talking about the same thing, but did he really read that old guy, or did he come up with it all by himself?” Except for a few specific cases, I ignored this question for two reasons. First, most philosophers read people before him/herself and they don’t always give names/bibliographies, making it hard to create a definitive list of references; so I usually assume there may be a direct connection even though it’s not written somewhere. (You could make a version with only the connections confirmed by the historians, but that would be too boring for my taste.) Second, when I’m drawing a line I’m not always claiming that the philosopher directly took the idea from the connected philosopher. I rather believe that these ideas are “around” in those periods of time, with or without a name attached to them. So the lines here do not always depict a transfer between two specific people but the development of an idea throughout time within our collective conception. In that broad sense I’m confident that they make sense but I may of course be mistaken with some of them; please warn me if you think so.

I am of course aware that not everybody is here, contemporary philosophy (which I’m very much interested in) is missing and the listed ideas/connections of the included philosophers aren’t exhaustive. (Many of these people have generated dozens of arguments worthy of including here.) Although I don’t think this project can ever be complete in that sense, what you see now is the first step after finishing one book – I had to stop somewhere to pack it up and release a first version. From now on I will be expanding it by adding information from other sources on the history of philosophy and from the original texts, maybe until I die. What I want to do first is to work on contemporary philosophy and add names from my favorite contemporary fields, philosophy of mind and of biology. (You will be able to see the list of updates on the Updates page where you can also subscribe to get notification emails when I add new philosophers.)

One warning: looking at this cannot substitute reading a good book of history of philosophy, let alone reading the original texts by the philosophers. These sentences are dry summaries of long, intricate argumentations and some of them are not even comprehensible if you’re not already familiar with the subject/philosopher. Some of these ideas are best understood within the historical/political context, as they are presented in books of history of philosophy. Accordingly, I’m not proposing that this is the right way to look at philosophy; this is just how I like to see it – how my mind works – and this project mainly is an organized collection of notes to myself, reminding the key arguments and letting me see how they developed, from a distance. I believe it can have this function for other people who have read some history of philosophy as well. (I also believe it can function as a teaser for people who aren’t familiar with the subject, making them feel curious about a philosopher or an idea and start reading about that.) So no, you shouldn’t expect to learn philosophy by just reading this.

I conceived this project in February 2012 while organizing my notes and started working on it in February 2014.

I thank my friend Eser Aygün, for writing the custom program, on my request, that automatizes to a great degree the transition between the spreadsheet that I fill in and the visual end-product for the static version.

I am also deeply thankful to Hüseyin Kuşçu who developed the interactive version that you see on the Browse page. We will be adding more functions and filtering methods in time.

— Deniz Cem Önduygu