Mapping influence.

Drunks&Lamposts did it for the history of philosophy using an algorithm which picks out the ‘influenced’ box on Wikipedia, producing the following sprawling spider’s web:

Simon Raper explains:

Each philosopher is a node in the network and the lines between them (or edges in the terminology of graph theory) represents lines of influence. The node and text are sized according to the number of connections. The algorithm that visualises the graph also tends to put the better connected nodes in the centre of the diagram so we the most influential philosophers, in large text, clustered in the centre. It all seems about right with the major figures in the western philosophical tradition taking the centre stage.

If someone asked me for a quick answer on who the big dogs of philosophy were, I’d immediately give only four names: Plato, Aristotle, Hume and Kant. And, I guess, it’s fair to say Wittgenstein, despite my scarce knowledge of his work. There could be a case for Descartes and Rousseau as well, but certainly no others spring to mind.

So to me, the exaggerated positions of the post-Kantians (Schopenhauer, Heidegger, Hegel et al.) can probably be put down to the enthusiasm of their followers, ensuring an excessive Wiki-presence. I mean, seriously: Heidegger as big as Hume? Give me a break.

Also, everyone is ‘influenced’ by Plato. Hence his page saying ‘Influenced: Most of subsequent western philosophy‘. That should mean the main man has lines going to everyone that lived after him, his circle taking up half the map and positioned right in the centre. He did invent the damn subject, after all.


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