The Map of Philosophy: See All of the Disciplines, Areas & Subdivisions of Philosophy Mapped in a Comprehensive Video

In the intro­duc­tion to his sweep­ing His­to­ry of West­ern Phi­los­o­phy, Bertrand Rus­sell wastes no time get­ting to a def­i­n­i­tion of his sub­ject. “The con­cep­tions of life and the world which we call ‘philo­soph­i­cal,’” he writes in the first sen­tence, “are a prod­uct of two fac­tors: one, inher­it­ed reli­gious and eth­i­cal con­cep­tions; the oth­er, the sort of inves­ti­ga­tion which may be called ‘sci­en­tif­ic,’ using the word in its broad­est sense. … Phi­los­o­phy, as I shall under­stand the word, is some­thing inter­me­di­ate between the­ol­o­gy and sci­ence.” (Rus­sell makes a sim­i­lar argu­ment, in slight­ly dif­fer­ent terms, in the essay “Mys­ti­cism and Log­ic.”)

Although this dis­tinc­tion between broad­ly “the­o­log­i­cal” and broad­ly “sci­en­tif­ic” think­ing may not map direct­ly onto the mod­ern schism between “Con­ti­nen­tal” and “Ana­lyt­ic” phi­los­o­phy, a com­par­i­son still seems high­ly rel­e­vant. Though some con­ti­nen­tal thinkers may not wish to admit it, their cat­e­gories and modes of reasoning—or intu­it­ing, reflect­ing, spec­u­lat­ing, etc.—derive from the­o­log­i­cal thought denud­ed of its spe­cif­ic reli­gious con­tent or beliefs. Or as philoso­pher Thomas R. Wells writes at his blog The Philosopher’s Beard, the con­ti­nen­tal pro­ceeds from a “direct con­cern with the human con­di­tion, its ambi­tion, its reflex­iv­i­ty, its con­cern with the media as well as the mes­sage.”

The ana­lyt­ic, on the oth­er hand, strives for “uni­ver­sal scope, clar­i­ty and pub­lic account­abil­i­ty…. It tries to sys­tem­atize knowl­edge” and approx­i­mate sci­en­tif­ic meth­ods of inquiry (which also once mixed freely with the the­o­log­i­cal). Both approach­es can move too close to the poles Rus­sell identifies—can move too far away, that is, from phi­los­o­phy and toward the obscure and pure­ly mys­ti­cal or the inhu­mane­ly, unre­flec­tive­ly ratio­nal. Per­haps one way of think­ing about the his­to­ry of phi­los­o­phy is as a dance between this play of oppo­sites, with each approach offer­ing a cor­rec­tive to the other’s excess­es, some­times with­in the same thinker’s body of work.

But before apply­ing such abstrac­tions, we should con­sid­er the ways phi­los­o­phy devel­oped as a dis­ci­pline dis­tinct from the hard sci­ences and theology—and from art, psy­chol­o­gy, anthro­pol­o­gy, physics, math­e­mat­ics, lin­guis­tics, eco­nom­ics, etc. “Once upon a time,” notes the video at the top—a com­pre­hen­sive “map of phi­los­o­phy” made by— “Phi­los­o­phy was any­thing you can study. Every­thing in the realm of study was a type of phi­los­o­phy.” The break­ing off of oth­er fields into their own domains hap­pened over the course of sev­er­al hun­dred years. Nonethe­less, “phi­los­o­phy still had its fin­gers in all of those oth­er pies.”

One can think philo­soph­i­cal­ly about anything—philosophy can “put dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines on the same play­ing field to talk to each oth­er.” It is, the video’s intro­duc­tion declares, “the glue that holds all of acad­e­mia togeth­er” (hence, the top aca­d­e­m­ic degree, the Ph.D., or “doc­tor of phi­los­o­phy”). For rea­sons of his own train­ing, the video’s cre­ator, who sim­ply goes by the pseu­do­nym “Carneades,” leans more heav­i­ly on the ana­lyt­ic side of things, neglect­ing or only light­ly touch­ing on much of the con­ti­nen­tal thought that flour­ished in the wake of Hei­deg­ger, Hegel, Niet­zsche, Kierkegaard, Sartre, and oth­ers. (Fur­ther up, you can see a video focused on one spe­cif­ic school of moral philosophy—Consequentialism. See more such videos at the YouTube chan­nel.)

Carneades admits his bias­es and blind spots and wel­comes cor­rec­tions from those bet­ter versed in oth­er tra­di­tions. To his cred­it, he includes Native Amer­i­can, African, Latin Amer­i­can, Afro-Caribbean, Poly­ne­sian, Japan­ese, Islam­ic, Tibetan, and many oth­er glob­al philo­soph­i­cal tra­di­tions in his exten­sive map—traditions that are usu­al­ly com­plete­ly ignored or deemed “unphilo­soph­i­cal” in oth­er such sur­veys. His sen­si­tiv­i­ty to glob­al thought may have some­thing to do with the fact that he is not based in a West­ern aca­d­e­m­ic depart­ment, but in West Africa, where he does human­i­tar­i­an work.

See a com­plete table of con­tents, with links to spe­cif­ic sec­tions, for the lengthy “Map of Phi­los­o­phy” just below, and an image of the full map just above (pur­chase a hard copy here). Carneades’ inten­tion to bring “these ideas back to the mod­ern ago­ra from the Ivory Tow­er” is a noble one. If you agree, and find these videos infor­ma­tive and intel­lec­tu­al­ly stim­u­lat­ing, you can donate to or become a patron of his efforts at the Patre­on page.

Table of Con­tents:

00:00 Intro­duc­tion
01:44 Log­ic and Philo­soph­i­cal Meth­ods
02:14 For­mal Clas­si­cal Log­ic
04:55 Non-Clas­si­cal Log­ic
06:35 Infor­mal Log­ic
08:00 Philo­soph­i­cal Meth­ods
10:20 The His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy
13:30 Philo­soph­i­cal Tra­di­tions Around the World
20:55 Aes­thet­ics
22:35 Polit­i­cal Phi­los­o­phy
23:34 Social Phi­los­o­phy
25:00 Moral The­o­ry & Ethics
28:08 Epis­te­mol­o­gy
30:34 Meta­physics
34:13 Phi­los­o­phy of Sci­ence
37:35 Phi­los­o­phy of Reli­gion
40:17 Phi­los­o­phy of Lan­guage
41:58 Phi­los­o­phy of Mind
43:49 Phi­los­o­phy of Action
44:57 Full Map

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Online Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es

The His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy … With­out Any Gaps

350 Ani­mat­ed Videos That Will Teach You Phi­los­o­phy, from Ancient to Post-Mod­ern

Emi­nent Philoso­phers Name the 43 Most Impor­tant Phi­los­o­phy Books Writ­ten Between 1950–2000: Wittgen­stein, Fou­cault, Rawls & More

A His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy in 81 Video Lec­tures: From Ancient Greece to Mod­ern Times

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (4)
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  • noel says:

    I don’t hear Bertrand Rus­sell at all. Far from it.
    All I can hear is this idi­ot­ic clown bab­bling on and on !

  • Some Dude says:

    Nobody claimed the video was of Bertrand Rus­sell. has over 400 free videos on YouTube break­ing down com­pli­cat­ed philo­soph­i­cal con­cepts for lay­men.

    The insult “idi­ot­ic clown” is pret­ty rich com­ing from some­one who lacks basic read­ing com­pre­hen­sion.

  • Lee says:

    Uma respos­ta bem inteligente.

  • some other dude says:

    Aren’t we all clowns, philo­soph­i­cal­ly speak­ing? ;-)
    I like this com­ment-sec­tion: It allows trolls to artic­u­late and reacts in calm lan­guage. ty.

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