The History of Philosophy Visualized

Simon Rap­er at Drunks & Lamp­posts has com­posed a data visu­al­iza­tion of the rela­tions of influ­ence among philoso­phers. This was put togeth­er to demon­strate Rap­er’s data extrac­tion algo­rithm; he col­lect­ed the con­tents of all the “influ­enced by” fields on Wikipedia, dis­play­ing each philoso­pher as a node con­nect­ed to all oth­er philoso­phers that he or she influ­enced. The more con­nec­tions, the big­ger the node. The result is visu­al­ly fas­ci­nat­ing and an inter­est­ing touch­stone for phi­los­o­phy fans.

Who was more impor­tant, Edmund Husserl or Jean-Paul Sartre? Well, you may not have heard of Husserl, but the size of his node is a bit big­ger than Sartre’s, so accord­ing to the graph, he’s had more of an influ­ence on the pro­fes­sion. The fact that Husser­l’s hey­day was thir­ty years ear­li­er than Sartre’s may explain that fact, but as Mark De Sil­va at the New York Times Opin­ion­ater points out, it’s also unclear how well these “influ­enced by” rela­tions in Wikipedia cor­re­late with real influ­ences in the his­to­ry of phi­los­o­phy. Rap­er’s graph seems to pro­vide an excel­lent start for pon­der­ing the ques­tion. More graphs by his­tor­i­cal peri­od can be found here.

Mark Lin­sen­may­er appears on The Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life Phi­los­o­phy Pod­cast, offer­ing live­ly, in-depth intro­duc­tions to Husserl, Sartre, and many oth­er fig­ures in phi­los­o­phy.

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Comments (7)
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  • dario says:

    Yes, total­ly reli­able!

    I knew that Che Gue­vara was a philoso­pher

    That Saus­sure and Piaget had much less influ­ence than, say, Der­ri­da

    That the entire sto­icism had a very small influ­ence on west­ern thought

    That Mur­ray Roth­bard was slight­ly more impor­tant than Thomas Aquinas


    This only tells how use­less the “influ­enced by” tag is, if com­plied by non-pro­fes­sion­als

  • Jeremy Singer says:

    Where is Albert Ein­stein (Rel­a­tiv­i­ty the­o­ry)? Where is Isaac New­ton? (laws of motion). Where is Claude Shan­non (Infor­ma­tion the­o­ry)? Where is Tur­ing (the­o­ry of com­pu­ta­tion)?
    These three caused rev­o­lu­tions of thought that changed the 20th cen­tu­ry and beyond.

  • Marian Dörk says:

    This is very relat­ed to a visu­al­iza­tion project in which we visu­al­ized influ­ences and sim­i­lar­i­ties among philoso­phers, painters and musi­cians. We used sim­i­lar­i­ty in inter­est (or time) as implic­it rela­tions and direct­ed influ­ence con­nec­tions as explic­it rela­tions. We decid­ed against show­ing all the links all the time in favor of dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing between incom­ing and out­go­ing influ­ences. Check it out:

  • Kerem says:

    This is prob­a­bly more rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the areas of inter­est or knowl­edge of the Wiki edi­tors than of real­i­ty.

  • Dawitt Abraha says:



    To begin with;I appre­ci­ate the rather relaxed; enlight­ened ;sone­times orig­i­nal and light-heart­ed con­tent approach­es here.
    Euro­pean con­tri­bu­tions to the study of phi­los­o­phy is immense.And the world is grate­ful for the archival and cur­rent con­tem­po­rary largesse of Europe in this .

    I would like to sug­gest that you reti­tle your name to” Trea­tis­es of Euro­pean Phi­los­o­phy”
    You seem to have appro­pri­at­ed the word phi­los­o­phy as to be of and ema­nat­ing from only your parochial lim­it­ed world where only 10% of human­i­ty resides.

    Let us do our­selves ;our next gen­er­a­tion by widen­ing the scope of .
    Include with­in the hori­zons of ohi­los­o­phy non-Euro­pean con­tri­bu­tions from Africa;from Asia;from The Amer­i­c­as etc.

    Phi­los­o­phy cones nat­u­ral­ly to all of human­i­ty (and may be also to ani­mals) whether it gets pub­lished and “reecognized“or not or whether it is record­ed in this or that milieu or for­mat.


    It is pover­ty in the pur­suit of the study of philosoohy any­where in the wirld when we focus only on pri­mar­i­ly men;focus on the bougeois upper mid­dle class ;on only avail­able pub­lished mate­r­i­al .
    Pover­ty here can be eas­i­ly git­ten rid of by widen­ing the scope of the pur­suit of tthe study of phi­los­o­phy.


  • dawitt abraha says:

    Pls ignore some typos above

  • Pierre Chan You says:

    I just learn the site of Open Cul­ture and hope to find any valid expla­na­tion on the sig­nif­i­cant regres­sion of the West­ern phi­los­o­phy influ­ence to a sta­tus sim­i­lar to the latin tongue i.e.
    near a dead cul­ture regard­ing the enlight­en­ment and safe­guard of our mankind.
    Worst nowa­days West­ern phi­los­o­phy has turned out to be a joke as most West­erns reli­gions have become. And this is very sad to the mankind.

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