The History of Philosophy Visualized in an Interactive Timeline

The con­nec­tions we make between var­i­ous philoso­phers and philo­soph­i­cal schools are often con­nec­tions that have already been made for us by teach­ers and schol­ars on our paths through high­er edu­ca­tion. Many of us who have tak­en a phi­los­o­phy class or two leave it at that, con­tent we’ve got the gist of things and that spe­cial­ists can parse the details per­fect­ly well with­out us. But there are those curi­ous peo­ple who con­tin­ue to read abstruse and dif­fi­cult phi­los­o­phy after their intro class­es are over, for the sheer, per­verse joy of it, or from a burn­ing desire to under­stand truth, beau­ty, jus­tice, or what­ev­er.

And then there are those who embark on a thor­ough self-guid­ed tour of West­ern philo­soph­i­cal his­to­ry, attempt­ing, with­out the aid of uni­ver­si­ty depart­ments and fad­dish inter­pre­tive schemes, to weave the dis­parate strains of thought togeth­er. One such auto­di­dact and aca­d­e­m­ic out­sider, design­er Deniz Cem Önduygu of Istan­bul, has com­bined an ency­clo­pe­dic mind with a tal­ent for rig­or­ous out­line orga­ni­za­tion to pro­duce an inter­ac­tive time­line of the his­to­ry of philo­soph­i­cal ideas. It is “a pure­ly per­son­al project,” he writes, “that I’m doing in my own time, with my lim­it­ed knowl­edge, for myself.”

Önduygu shares the project not to show off his learn­ing but, more humbly, to “get feed­back and to make it acces­si­ble to those who are inter­est­ed.” It may be pre­cious few peo­ple who have both the time and incli­na­tion to teach them­selves the his­to­ry of phi­los­o­phy, but if you are one of them, this incred­i­bly dense info­graph­ic is as good a place to start as any, and while it may appear intim­i­dat­ing at first glance, its menu in the upper right cor­ner allows users to zero in on spe­cif­ic thinkers and schools, and to con­fine them­selves to small­er, more man­age­able areas of the whole.

As for the time­line itself, “view­ers can zoom in and out,” notes Dai­ly Nous, “and see philoso­phers list­ed in chrono­log­i­cal order, with ideas they’re asso­ci­at­ed with list­ed beneath them. These ideas, in turn, are con­nect­ed by green lines to sim­i­lar or sup­port­ing ideas else­where on the time­line, and con­nect­ed by red lines to oppos­ing or refut­ing ideas else­where on the time­line. If you hov­er your mouse cur­sor over a sin­gle idea, all but it and its con­nect­ed ideas fade. You can then click on the idea to bring those con­nect­ed ideas clos­er for ease of view­ing.”

The design­er admits this is a “nev­er-end­ing work in progress” and main­ly a source for remind­ing him­self of the main argu­ments of the philoso­phers he’s sur­veyed. The major sources for his time­line are “Bryan Magee’s The Sto­ry of Phi­los­o­phy and Thomas Baldwin’s Con­tem­po­rary Phi­los­o­phy, along with oth­er works for spe­cif­ic philoso­phers and ideas.” But many of the con­nec­tions Önduygu draws in this exten­sive web of green and red are his own.

He explains his ratio­nale here, not­ing, “The lines here do not always depict a direct trans­fer between two peo­ple; I think of them as trac­ing the devel­op­ment of an idea through­out time with­in our col­lec­tive con­cep­tion.” Spend some more time with this impres­sive project at the His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy Sum­ma­rized & Visu­al­ized (the site works best in Chrome), and feel free to get in touch with its cre­ator with con­struc­tive crit­i­cism. He wel­comes feed­back and is open to oppos­ing ideas, as every life­long learn­er should be.

via Dai­ly Nous

Relat­ed Con­tent:

150+ Free Online Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es

The His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy Visu­al­ized

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

The His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy … With­out Any Gaps

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


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  • Dawitt Abraha says:

    Do you or do you not mean to refer to one aspect one chap­ter of philosophy;namely Euro­pean phi­los­o­phy or the phi­los­o­phy of Europe only (nar­row­ly speak­ing) when you title your piece as such?

  • Messer Schmidt says:

    Dawitt, that’s a real­ly bizarrely word­ed offer of coop­er­a­tion. Unless you don’t actu­al­ly want to do any­thing pro­duc­tive, just bitch and moan?

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