‘Basics’ Filter for the Uninitiated

In recent years, I’ve become aware of the fact that my continuous efforts to create more and more inclusive summaries for each thinker have resulted in large collections of sentences that could look intimidating to the uninitiated. Empathizing with people who are beginning to grow interest in the history of philosophy, I came up with the idea (during a mid-sleep awakening) of creating a Basics filter in the menu that highlights 1–3 select prominent ideas from each philosopher, to serve as quick overviews.

Considering the nature of this project (summarizing hundreds of pages into a few dozen sentences for each thinker), what this new filter amounts to is a summary of a summary – Plato would hate it – but I believe it can have a unique function for people who are not familiar with these names and who want to do cursory scans to get some rough first ideas about each philosopher.

I chose the sentences according to how central they are in that thinker’s system and how well-known they are in public consciousness – these two criteria may coincide, but there were many cases where one or the other has dominated my choice. Obviously there is not one correct way to do these selections, just as there is not one correct way to summarize a philosopher’s work in the first place; every such effort includes some element of subjectivity and contingency, but I’m confident my selections make sense and serve their purpose of offering an extremely minimal presentation of each philosopher’s world. It doesn’t really matter whether they’re “the right ones” because in the end, these selections are meant to function as teasers/baits to get people interested in a philosopher and turn the Basics filter off to read the other sentences – and their connections, and then the primary texts, hopefully.

(Note: I’m not claiming that engagement in philosophy should be philosopher-based but it sure is one of the methods, and an efficient one for many people. For what it’s worth, I think this project is neutral in that regard: you can choose to explore it as idea-based or philosopher-based. I find both of them useful, and mostly employ a combination of them.)

Below are some more examples of what the Basics filter does.



I’m happy to have gotten positive feedback from some of my friends and I hope more people will benefit from this feature. Enjoy.