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data visualisation, Web Scraping and APIs

Graphing the history of philosophy

A close up of ancient and medieval philosophy ending at Descartes and Leibniz

If you are interested in this data set you might like my latest post where I use it to make book recommendations.

This one came about because I was searching for a data set on horror films (don’t ask) and ended up with one describing the links between philosophers.

To cut a long story very short I’ve extracted the information in the influenced by section for every philosopher on Wikipedia and used it to construct a network which I’ve then visualised using gephi

It’s an easy process to repeat. It could be done for any area within Wikipedia where the information forms a network. I chose philosophy because firstly the influences section is very well maintained and secondly I know a little bit about it. At the bottom of this post I’ve described how I got there.

First I’ll show why I think it’s worked as a visualisation. Here’s the whole graph.

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 (both in and out). The algorithm that visualises the graph also tends to put the better connected nodes in the centre of the diagram so we see 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. (I need to also add the direction of influence with a arrow head – something I’ve not got round to yet.) A shortcoming however is that this evaluation only takes into account direct lines of influence. Indirect influence via another person in the network does not enter into it. This probably explains why Descartes is smaller than you’d think. It would also be better if the nodes were sized only by the number of outward connections although I think overall the differences would be slight. I’ll get round to that.

It gets more interesting when we use Gephi to identify communities (or modules) within the network. Roughly speaking it identifies groups of nodes which are more connected with each other than with nodes in other groups. Philosophy has many traditions and schools so a good test would be whether the algorithm picks them out.

It has been fairly successful. Below we can see the so called continental tradition picked out in green, stemming from Hegel and Nietzsche, leading into Heidegger and Sartre and ending in the isms of the twentieth century. It’s interesting that there is separate subgroup, in purple, influenced mainly by Schopenhauer (out of shot) and Freud.

The Continental Tradition

And this close up is of the analytical tradition emerging out of Frege, Russell and Wittgenstein. At the top and to the left you can see the British empirical school and the American pragmatists.

British Empiricism, American Pragmatism and the Analytical Tradition

It would be interesting to play with the number of groups picked out by the algorithm. It would hopefully identify sub groups within these overarching traditions.

The graph is probably most insightful when you zoom in close. Gephi produces a vector graphic output so if you’re interested you can download it here and explore it yourself.

Now for how you do it.

The first stop is dbpedia. This is a fantastic resource which stores structured information extracted from wikepdia in a database that accessible through the web. Among other things it stores all of the information you see in an infobox on a Wikipedia page. For example I was after the influenced and influenced by fields that you find on the infobox on the page for Plato.

The next step is to extract this information. For this we need two things: a SPARQL endpoint (try snorql), which is an online interface to submit our queries and little knowledge of SPARQL a specialist language for querying the semantic web. This is a big (and exciting) area that has to do with querying information that is structured in triples (subject-relationship-object). I assume it has its roots in predicate logic so the analytical philosophers would have been pleased. However the downside is that the language itself a lot more difficult to learn than say SQL and to complicate things still further you need to know the ontological structure of the resource you are querying. I probably wouldn’t have got anywhere at all were it not for a great blog post by Bob DuCharme which is a simple guide for getting the information out of wikipedia.

In the end the query I needed was very simple. You can test it by submitting it in snorql.

?p a <http://dbpedia.org/ontology/Philosopher > .
?p <http://dbpedia.org/ontology/influenced > ?influenced.

(Please note you’ll need to remove the spaces before the greater than signs in the code above before submitting. A quirk of wordpress which I haven’t got round yet.)

It then needed a bit of cleaning as the punctuation was coded for URLS. For this I used the following online URL decoder.

After a bit more simple manipulation in excel I had a finished csv file that consisted of three columns

Philosopher A
Philosopher B

Each row in the data set represented a line of influence from philosopher A to philosopher B. The weight column contained a dummy entry of 1 because in our graph we do not want any one link to matter more than any other.

Gephi is the tool I used to create the visualisation of the graph. It’s both fantastic and open source. You can download it and set it up in minutes. For a quick tutorial see this link. There are many settings you can use to change the way your graph looks. I used a combination of the force atlas and the fruchterman-reingold layout algorithms. I then scaled text and node size by node degree (number of connections) and suppressed all nodes with less than four connections (it was overwhelming otherwise). The partition tool is used to create the communities. Full instructions are in the tutorial. I also found this blog entry very useful as a guide.

I hope that helps anyone who is trying to do something similar. If anyone does has a data set on horror films tagged with keywords please let me know!

If you liked this post and would like to see more like it then please subscribe by email (see the link in the side bar ) or sign up to our RSS feed.


Update Griff at Griff’s graphs has used the instructions above to create a fantastic visualization of the influence network of everyone on Wikipedia. It’s well worth a look.

Creative Commons Licence
Graphing the history of philosophy by Simon Raper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at drunksandlampposts.files.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://drunks-and-lampposts.com/.


About Simon Raper

I am an RSS accredited statistician with over 15 years’ experience working in data mining and analytics and many more in coding and software development. My specialities include machine learning, time series forecasting, Bayesian modelling, market simulation and data visualisation. I am the founder of Coppelia an analytics startup that uses agile methods to bring machine learning and other cutting edge statistical techniques to businesses that are looking to extract value from their data. My current interests are in scalable machine learning (Mahout, spark, Hadoop), interactive visualisatons (D3 and similar) and applying the methods of agile software development to analytics. I have worked for Channel 4, Mindshare, News International, Credit Suisse and AOL. I am co-author with Mark Bulling of Drunks and Lampposts - a blog on computational statistics, machine learning, data visualisation, R, python and cloud computing. It has had over 310 K visits and appeared in the online editions of The New York Times and The New Yorker. I am a regular speaker at conferences and events.


257 thoughts on “Graphing the history of philosophy

  1. amazing graph! interesting to see how this algorithm gets the categorization fairly correct by merely extrapolating the influences.
    could you upload the vector image somewhere or drop me an email? that’d be great. thanks!

    Posted by Francisco | June 21, 2012, 10:46 am
    • Hi Francisco. Glad you like it. Unfortunately I haven’t found a way of uploading the svg to wordpress. If you put your email address in a follow up comment I’ll mail it to you (and I won’t approve the comment so no-one will see your email)


      Posted by simonraper | June 21, 2012, 11:02 am
      • Would love a copy of this as big as possible for printing and hangs in my philosophy classroom. The grouping is particularly fascinating and I would love to see what subsets can be picked out.

        Posted by Mitch Whitehead | June 21, 2012, 4:02 pm
      • Hi! Great work… I`d be glad if you could send me the svg too 🙂

        mail: xxxxxxx


        Posted by ShoBeazz | June 22, 2012, 5:31 pm
      • Would you mind sending me a copy of the svg?

        Posted by Cian | June 22, 2012, 8:31 pm
      • I’d love a copy of this please! I’m a philosopher at University of Birmingham.

        Posted by Al | June 22, 2012, 10:09 pm
      • Hi there,

        I study philosophy in Berlin. I’m very interested in the amazing picture you’ve made. Could you please also send it to me? Thank you very much!

        My email ist xxxxxxx

        Best Regards


        Posted by Chen | June 23, 2012, 8:54 pm
      • Hi Simon–Might I have one too? (For my office–my philosophy majors will love it. I can pay if that helps. ) If you can enlist the expertise of someone who’s good at computers and graphic displays I am certain you’ll have a very marketable item , given how rapidly network-representations are moving into our folk conceptions of everything. (Also on my office wall is a pre-algorithmic-era poster which portrays the networked links among major American jazz musicians.)
        Also, are you aware of Randall Collins’ book The Sociology of Philosophies? It’s a fascinating and ambitious, if incomplete, attempt to reconstruct some main evolving intellectual networks in various world philosophy traditions since ancient times. The programs you’re experimenting with now are in effect complements to Collins’ argument.
        Good luck with this project.

        Posted by Casey Haskins | June 27, 2012, 12:27 pm
      • Hi Casey,

        No problem. Will email it to you. There is also now a link on the blog that takes you to the SVG should anyone else need it. Love the idea that it will be on the wall!

        I also looked at musicians but at first glance at least the info on Wikipedia was not as complete. But it’s worth another look I agree.

        No I hadn’t seen that book but will take a look. Sounds very interesting.



        Posted by simonraper | June 27, 2012, 12:35 pm
      • If you could shoot me that as well, I’d really appreciate it 🙂


        Posted by Nicolas mattingley | July 2, 2012, 3:45 am
      • I’d LOVE to receive this graph in an email, Simon. Fascinating concept, you took the philosophers and made it into a visual! Ingenious and clever! (is that redundant?)

        Posted by John Gulino | July 2, 2012, 5:33 am
      • Could you email it to me too? Great graph! Tks

        Posted by Irina V | July 2, 2012, 2:47 pm
      • Simon, being a phil student, I’d love to have this graph too. Thanks so much!

        Posted by ywcg | July 12, 2012, 2:26 am
      • Dear Professor Raper,

        My name is David Schwartz, and I teach philosophy at Randolph College. I’m very intrigued by your visual depiction of philosophical influences. Might it be possible to get a copy of the file so that I can print it out? I’d love to put it up outside my office for students (and others) to peruse. It’s very engaging.

        Thanks very much!

        Posted by David Schwartz | July 17, 2012, 7:44 pm
      • Dear Simon,

        wonderful work!! I am so amazed that I would be thankfiul if you could send me theoriginal vector image file… can you make it available? I would love to print it out for my office.
        Thanks, Thomas

        Posted by Dr. Thomas Arzt | August 2, 2012, 12:50 pm
      • Hi Simon, really great graph, and I’ve seen dozens of it, I’m one of the founder of the french RTGI team who created Gephi in 2005. After that we created the company linkfluence that is doing social media monitoring & research and creating a lot of web maps (you can see public projects here : http://us.linkfluence.net/insights-2-0/atlas/ ). The last version of our “map player” was until begining of august at the exposition “Multiversités Créatives” in Centre Pompidou, Beaubourg.

        I’d love to have an access to the gdf file so we could test it and try to produce an interactive map with. Sounds possible ? Of course, we won’t publish anything without your agreement.


        Posted by Guilhem Fouetillou | August 27, 2012, 10:51 am
      • Hi Simon. I love you work. I’m traing to create an group of thinkers unwilling to be mentors of young people. More than that, we are preparing a new tipe of learning and teaching, to contribute for a sucess of young people. Can I use your graphic in my site. I put on an link to you work. Sorry for my English.

        Maria José Barbosa

        Posted by mariabarbosa | March 28, 2013, 3:27 pm
    • Amazing. But the designer in me found it really hard to read. So I made a version with much lighter lines of influence and text that pops. I also separated the text from the objects to make it easy for someone to further improve it.
      SVG and PDF versions:

      Posted by dirk piston | June 29, 2012, 7:37 pm
    • The commom denominator of all secular philosophy is summed up by the pre- Socratic philosopher Protagoras, ” Homo Mensura”, i.e. man is the measure. The idea behind the motto is that man is the measure of all things; mankind itself is the ultimate norm by which values are to be determined. Therefore man is the ultimate being and man is the ultimate authority, making the system, in technical terms “Anthropocentric”. This term is a simple compound word stemming from “anthropos” (“man”, or “mankind”) and “-centric” referring to a centrality of focus. One can immediately see the built in tension between this and other philosophical systems which are termed “Theocentric”, having the view that God is the Ultimate Being, and which would derive its values from the ultimate authority and character of God.

      “Man’s walled mind has no access to a ladder upon which he can, on his own strength, rise to knowledge of God.”
      —Abraham Heschel, God in Search of Man, p. 138

      The epithelium of modern secularism has erected a wall, a boundary of the present moment that has encircled the individual in a prison of the “now.” Twenty-First Century cosmopolitan man and woman live in a calendar prison as constricting and oppressive as the walls and bars that enclose the inmate of any maximum security prison. With each passing hour the reduction of life grows more pronounced and controlling. An ennui of spirit, soul and mind is the resultant consequence of time’s illusory nature. It may promise, but can never fulfill. For the meaning of time is not inherent within its continuum. The feeling of satisfaction that briefly caresses the soul is but a momentary delusion. “And all that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor. Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11). Having rejected any meaning or reality that might lie outside the constricted moment, man has become time’s prisoner. Within this enslavement time has inflicted man with a disease from which there is no antidote. Secularism is left without hope, living from microsecond to microsecond repressing time’s ultimate dominance, death. “Eater of all things lovely—Time! Upon whose watering lips the world poises a moment (futile, proud, a costly morsel of sweet tears) gesticulates and disappears.” (E. E. Cummings, Puella Mea, p. 20).

      “A person would have to suffer from otosclerosis-the most common cause of deafness-not to hear a familiar cry that life has become a meaningless, purposeless, obsurd, vile, intolerable. All around us we are assailed by voices full of self-pity, almost despair over the torment of having to be alive and to carry on in the world as it is today.” (Mortimer Adler, article “Concerning God, Modern Man and Religion” from the Adler Archive).

      We are witnessing the threnody of a dead philosophy. Secularism, with all its permutations; pragmatism, empiricism, atheism, humanism, are all in a decompositional state. No answer but one can be given to the centuries’ old question that lays bare the philosophies of man, “For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26). Nothing profits a man, only loss, eternal loss. May the sound we hear be the regenerative voice that pierces through the detritus of a dying age and liberates us to breath the breathe of eternity. May we be awakened from the stupor of a deadening somnambulance. “A sense of contact with the ultimate dawns upon most people when their self-reliance is swept away by violent misery.” (Abraham Heschel, The Philosophy of Judaism, p. 422).

      Posted by Lawrence Hilliard | June 30, 2012, 3:04 am
      • Modern secularism is in fact a variant of Christianity and shares its basic beliefs, and has little to do with Protagoras.

        Posted by Iuppiter maximus optimusque | July 9, 2012, 6:47 pm
  2. Astounding! Would love to have a vector image of it too, if you don’t mind.

    Posted by Christopher Akiki (@christopher) | June 21, 2012, 1:02 pm
  3. Dear Simon,

    I’d be very grateful if you’d send the file to the following address (which is my own): xxxxxxxxxx
    Thank you very much in advance – and great work!

    – Alex

    ps: The fact the Weininger shows up at the fringe of the analytic tradition is funny; must be Wittgenstein’s eclectic and weird taste. 😉

    Posted by Alexander Fick | June 22, 2012, 11:25 am
  4. I feel bad asking but I’d love a copy of the vector file as well.

    If you send it to me I’ll endeavor to find a public space to post it and then I’ll list the URL here, is it a deal? Or would you rather restrict distribution?

    Posted by Steve Rothman | June 22, 2012, 1:02 pm
  5. Love a copy to print up for my brother the philo prof!
    Cheers, Jennifer

    Posted by Jennifer Clarke | June 22, 2012, 1:34 pm
  6. Really astonishing! Could you send me the vector image? Thank you.

    Posted by eratostene98 | June 22, 2012, 5:37 pm
  7. Hi Simon. I´m a researcher from southern Brasil. Just like Francisco, Mitch and Christopher, I would be very thankful if I could have a copy of the original vector image file… can you make it available?

    Posted by Juliano | June 22, 2012, 7:51 pm
  8. Reblogged this on hopeful monsters' gaze and commented:
    History of philosophy-network

    Posted by eratostene98 | June 23, 2012, 11:27 am
  9. Can we put that on a t-shirt? Nice.

    Posted by Alexis Morcrette | June 23, 2012, 8:41 pm
  10. Really amazing work! I was wondering if you could send the svg image to xxxxxxxx. Thank you very much!

    Posted by Justin | June 23, 2012, 10:58 pm
  11. Funny but problematic. “A shortcoming however is that this evaluation only takes into account direct lines of influence.” No. The shortcoming is the reversal of the sequence of influence. The more influential philosopher is the latter one who redefines the former one. See: Michael Baxandall. Patterns of intention: on the historical explanation of pictures. Yale University Press, 1985. Or, [英]M•巴克森德尔.意图的模式.曹意强,严军,严善錞.杭州:中国美术学院出版社,1997. 69-74.

    Posted by MENG Tong | June 24, 2012, 3:10 am
  12. Very interesting work !
    Could I publish a French version of this post on http://www.pegasusdata.com , a blog of Swiss researchers in digital humanities? I will of course link to your article and blog.

    Posted by Martin Grandjean | June 25, 2012, 9:21 am
  13. Hello. We are starting up a web page for teachers of philosophy in sweden, and would like to show the fantastic work you’ve done! Can you send the svg image to *********? Thank you veeery much!


    Posted by Eric Gustafsson | June 25, 2012, 2:47 pm
  14. That is brilliant work. I would love for you to send the svg my way too if that’s OK. Thanks.

    Posted by Cameron Need | June 25, 2012, 4:03 pm
  15. You should turn this into a poster. This would look wonderful on a lot of walls.

    Posted by Nick | June 25, 2012, 4:32 pm
  16. Ciao Simon, nice work!
    Would you mind sending me a copy of the svg? Thanks.

    Posted by Octaviano Aurelio | June 26, 2012, 7:33 am
  17. Nice work! I conducted a research with some points in common: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1204.3799v1
    Thanks for sharing your results :))

    Posted by elaragon | June 26, 2012, 7:58 am
  18. I too would love a copy of the svg – -************ – this is fantastic. I also look forward to its permanent hosting link.

    Posted by John Haydn Gurmin | June 26, 2012, 3:04 pm
  19. Great work. I’m really curious about what it would look like admitting a sort of “transitivity”, namely if Hume is influenced by Aristotle, and Aristotle by Plato, then Hume by Plato etc.

    Posted by Tiehcheng | June 27, 2012, 4:40 am
  20. Reblogged this on Reason & Existenz and commented:
    Western & Northern leaning but cool graphic.

    Posted by karljaspers23 | June 27, 2012, 2:41 pm
  21. I want to know about the “data set on horror films”

    Posted by zombielaw | June 27, 2012, 7:34 pm
  22. How about adding tapered edges? A study (http://www.lri.fr/~isenberg/publications/papers/Holten_2011_AEP.pdf) found them to be easier to parse than arrows. Graphviz recently added them (http://www.graphviz.org/News.php).

    Posted by Ian | June 27, 2012, 10:32 pm
  23. I’m glad my 2007 blog post was helpful; if you think that SPARQL is difficult, you might find my O’Reilly book “Learning SPARQL” to be of some more help.

    And, if you want to use SPARQL find data on horror movies in DBpedia, you can find a start here: http://semanticweb.com/some-semantic-treats-for-a-happy-halloween_b24330

    Posted by Bob DuCharme (@bobdc) | June 27, 2012, 11:22 pm
  24. You should sell posters of these graphs, pretty sure you’d be able to turn a profit. I’d buy one, anyway.

    Posted by Ian | June 28, 2012, 12:11 am
  25. Hi, Great work! I just wanted to check – does the code you provide actually work upon copy and past into SPARQL? I get the following error:

    Virtuoso 37000 Error SP030: SPARQL compiler, line 16: syntax error at ‘<' before 'http:' SPARQL query: define sql:big-data-const 0 #output-format:application/sparql-results+json define input:default-graph-uri PREFIX owl: PREFIX xsd: PREFIX rdfs: PREFIX rdf: PREFIX foaf: PREFIX dc: PREFIX : PREFIX dbpedia2: PREFIX dbpedia: PREFIX skos: SELECT * WHERE { ?p a . ?p ?influenced. }

    Posted by Gdizzle | June 28, 2012, 3:55 am
    • Thanks for pointing that out. I’d accidentally put a space between philosopher and the > sign. Fixed it now and it works.

      Posted by simonraper | June 28, 2012, 6:53 am
      • Thanks for your help. I wanted to pull out the doctoral advisors of say all mathematicians. It seems like a carbon copy almost.
        SELECT *
        WHERE {
        ?p a
        ?p ?doctoralAdvisor.

        Doesn’t seem to work.

        Any ideas?

        Posted by Brendan | June 28, 2012, 7:33 am
  26. Thank you for creating and sharing the inspiring graphic. Please snd the svg file. I will post it in the rooms where I meet with patients to stimulate and encourage them to examine their personal philosphies. Hopefully, this will help motivate them to adopt a therapeutic lifestyle. We’ll see.
    Ralph Scallion, MD, EE cardiologist

    Posted by Ralph Scallion | June 28, 2012, 5:10 am
  27. This is fantastic, thanks very much for the post. I’m going to try something similar for Psychology.

    Posted by David Jones | June 28, 2012, 6:42 am
  28. Reblogged this on Foucault News and commented:
    If you have a look at the third graph here labelled ‘the continental tradition’ you can see Foucault’s ‘sphere of influence’ (at least according to the data entered here)

    Posted by Clare O'Farrell | June 28, 2012, 6:45 am
  29. Thanks for sharing. This is so cool! I was just in the process of creating a timeline of philosophers for an Intro to Philosophy course that I teach, now we can also display the connections for class. Thanks again.

    Posted by Kelly Fitzsimmons Burton | June 28, 2012, 6:19 pm
  30. Fantastic work! Could someone in this community do something the same for the history (ies) of science? Which would/could be huge, so how about history of the physical sciences (chemistry, physics, astronomy, geology, etc)?

    And Simon, I would very much like a copy of the file to print and post, thank you!

    Linda Khandro (earth/space science college instructor)

    Posted by Linda Khandro | June 28, 2012, 6:41 pm
  31. Loved it. I would like a copy too, please. Can you send it to

    Posted by Yamini Ayyagari | June 28, 2012, 7:19 pm
  32. Wonderful work! Is it possible to print?

    Posted by kerem ozan | June 28, 2012, 10:21 pm
  33. Love this graph – I only wish there was a search feature. It took me awhile to find Meher Baba, and I still don’t see Gurdjieff or Ouspensky (maybe they didn’t make the cut)

    Posted by Glen Clark | June 29, 2012, 1:13 am
  34. A few, hopefully, friendly criticisms and suggestions:

    1. You have a bunch of nodes in the graph that are not philosophers by any stretch of the imagination (because they are schools or movements or groups): Scholasticism, Pre-Socratic Philosophy, Neoplatonism, Frankfurt School, Vienna Circle, Western Philosophy, and the Bible. These should be eliminated from your graph.

    2. Some of the nodes in the graph are only marginally philosophers or would be controversial to count as philosophers. For example, Shakespeare, Newton, Darwin, Goethe, Rothbard, Geisler, Zacharias, Rand, and de Tocqueville (just to name a few).

    3. Some of the philosophers in your graph are over-valued because they influenced people who are probably not best thought of as philosophers. Nietzsche is the one that jumps out at me the most in this respect.

    4. Some of the philosophers in your graph are under-valued because they influenced too many people for the Wiki to include them all. That seems to be what happened with Descartes. If you look at his Wiki, under “Influenced,” you find: “Most philosophers after including:” and then a small (very strange) list.

    5. Some of the philosophers in your graph must be there in virtue of the Wikis of other philosophers, since they don’t actually have an “Influenced” / “Influenced by” section. Charles Peirce is one such example.

    6. It would be very useful for the reader to know how the size of each node relates to the influence of the node. If you gave a key in the corner of the graph like maps sometimes have for city size, that would be very nice.

    7. It would be nice if the line sizes matched the node size that the line was going to. That way, one could easily evaluate whether some philosopher had an influence on very important philosophers or only on very minor philosophers.

    As an aside, I would love to play around with this stuff, but I have no idea how to pull the data from Wikipedia. Would you mind sharing your data or better yet, teaching me how to get my own?

    Posted by Jonathan Livengood | June 29, 2012, 1:46 am
    • One further comment (also friendly – this is a wonderful graph): it seems like the data you’ve picked up doesn’t quite match what’s actually there on Wikipedia. I happened to glance at G.E.M. Anscombe on the graph, and noticed that she wasn’t connected to Wittgenstein, which struck me as odd, since he was her teacher and she was his most notable translator. Looking at Anscombe’s Wikipedia page, I saw that Wittgenstein WAS listed as an influence on her, as well as a number of other influences (in both directions) not represented on the graph. Not sure how this came about, but thought it was worth noting.

      Posted by Mark | July 2, 2012, 2:03 pm
      • Hi Mark,

        I also noticed some discrepancies between the data I pulled and wikipedia. I don’t know how often dbpedia is refreshed from wikipedia but perhaps that is the reason. Also as you point out the influenced /influenced by data is not always consistent. To get round that I pulled in both the influenced and the influence by data, inverted the second and then deduped to get a fuller data set. One last point is that in order to make the graphic readable at all I suppressed any nodes with three or less connections (otherwise it was crazily big) so if you are looking for someone and can’t find them that may be the reason why.



        Posted by simonraper | July 2, 2012, 2:46 pm
    • Thanks for your analysis.
      Nice idea. But doesn’t reveal much.
      I think what happened to Descartes is also happened to Plato. Plato is footnotes ….

      Posted by dcsvelan | July 5, 2012, 7:51 am
    • Yes, perhaps the most obvious oddity (upon only a quick glance) is Rothbard, who comes out as one of the most influential philosophers ever…..and I have never heard of him (and I am a senior professor of Philosophy). This is not a problem with the graph, it is a problem with Wiki!

      Posted by eric lewis | July 9, 2012, 5:54 pm
  35. Aloha, Simon. I just showed this to my husband (saw via Metafilter) and we both think you should turn this wonderful work into a poster and sell it.
    We would love to buy one and hang it on the wall to ponder.
    And inspire further reading.
    Warmest wishes from Maui.
    Mary and Chet Zoll

    Posted by mary zoll | June 29, 2012, 3:12 am
  36. This is really awesome, although it’s too bad there isn’t a better source for the data than the caprice of whatever someone decided to put in the “influenced by” box on Wikipedia.

    Posted by Eric | June 29, 2012, 4:22 am
  37. Hi!

    Very interesting. I’d like to try something which would disentangle the network a bit (see: http://insights.exploreyourdata.com/2012/03/23/the-quest-for-structure-in-networks/). Would it be possible for you to send me the network data you used? If so, my contact details are on my website. Thx a lot!

    Posted by Clement Levallois | June 29, 2012, 7:26 am
  38. hello Simon,

    it looks like there is a Wiki for posting datasets, at: https://wiki.gephi.org/index.php?title=Datasets

    i think it would be interesting to both philosophers and Gephi aficionados to work with the dataset.


    Posted by delbert | June 29, 2012, 2:44 pm
  39. Simon – I’d sure like to have a copy of the image as well, if you have time amidst all the other requests. Great work, and thanks for sharing it. Stimulates a number of different streams of thought!

    Kerby – kerby@newcograin.com

    Posted by Kerby | June 29, 2012, 6:43 pm
  40. A lovely graph. I’d appreciate a copy for my office. Of course, I’ll be happy to pay for the graph and the expense of sending it. I can send relevant information from my email address, if you contact me at it.

    Posted by Greg Hutchinson | June 30, 2012, 2:04 am
  41. Amazing work and a great result. As some users above have noted, I would love a search feature in that or even better a way of picking a philosopher (node) and the graphic to focus on that. I am talking about some interaction in the graphic. I have seen it done but i do not know if it would be possible to do here, one would probably have to export the data to a different programme.
    on a closing note, I would also appreciate greatly if I could have the graphic on a larger scale so that I can find my favourite philosophers and see how they fair. I also find this graph very helpful as a visual guide for further reading, like the bibliography at the back of a book, only here you can take whichever path you like straight from the original sources.
    Great work man!!!!

    Posted by John Sfinias | June 30, 2012, 6:16 am
    • Hi John

      Thanks. With regard to your last point you should be able to download the svg by clicking on the link in the post. If that doesn’t work let me know and i’ll mail it to you. Also if you use something like inkscape (freeware) to edit the svg you should be able to search it too. But we are working in something more interactive.



      Posted by simonraper | June 30, 2012, 6:39 am
  42. Reblogged this on History for Today.

    Posted by particularkev | July 1, 2012, 5:52 am
  43. Hello Simon,

    How funny! This was actually my mini project that was planned for today. I didn’t discover yours before actually being done making a Wikipedia scraper. I would have certainly be much faster with dbpedia.

    I had exactly the same idea, except that I also took interest in the “influenced by” criteria. It seems that more than 95% of those links are not going both way, so it gives a different weight to many philosophers, but it does not change the main results.

    To cotinue with the idea, I am also working on the little webapp, that will let people add and edit philosophers. The graph view will be done in the browser through sigma.js.


    Posted by Félix Delval | July 1, 2012, 3:15 pm
  44. Illustrates the points made here http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/03/philosophys-western-bias/ pretty neatly.

    Posted by Jonah | July 1, 2012, 4:36 pm
  45. Simon, Very cool work. Can you email me a copy of the image as well? I’m at xxxxxxxxxx. I’ve played with Gephi a little myself and have done similar things on a smaller scale using the Personal Brain software (i.e. pulling in parent-child relationships in Excel, manipulating the data with Matlab, and then importing into the Brain. For instance I’ve made a map of who reblogged what from whom in Tumblr. I never thought about using Wiki as a source of data. That is very cool and I’m going to check out the dbpedia.

    Posted by CircleArt | July 1, 2012, 4:38 pm
  46. I just spent about 15 minutes looking for John Rawls, arguably the most influential political philosopher of the 20th century, and could not find him. An oversight? Or am I missing him?

    Posted by Curt Ries | July 1, 2012, 8:54 pm
  47. Hi, You’ve inspired me to make my own graphs. I made a website with a few of my first attempts. http://griffsgraphs.wordpress.com

    One question though, if you have a file with two columns to be imported as a csv file into Gephi like:

    FirstName1 Last Name1, FirstName2 LastName2

    It makes one node for every name unfortunately. The only work around is to put a hyphen in the name:
    FirstName1-Last Name1, FirstName2-LastName2

    I’ve tried deleting all of the data in the data laboratory then importing the csv file again but this only creates the nodes and doesn’t connect any of them.

    If you did make it like you said,

    Philosopher A
    Philosopher B,

    How did it create ones like Karl Marx because mine creates two nodes? Any help anyone!? Thanks.

    Posted by Griff | July 2, 2012, 7:32 am
  48. Amazing! Could you upload the vector image somewhere or drop me an email? That’d be great. thanks!

    Patrick Lemieux, Quebec, Canada.

    Posted by patrickPatrickl_ | July 2, 2012, 1:31 pm
  49. Please, please, could I have one as well? I know this must be a pain for you but what you have created is amazing and I would love to show it to my students. I teach philosophy (cultural studies etc) at the University of British Columbia in Canada! Many thanks, mercedes

    Posted by Mercedes F. Duran | July 2, 2012, 3:03 pm
  50. This is very impres ! I’m like this !!!

    Posted by Zilvinas A. | July 2, 2012, 3:48 pm
  51. Derrida???

    Posted by Vince | July 2, 2012, 5:31 pm
  52. Reblogged this on infinity on repeat and commented:

    Posted by kkmeow | July 2, 2012, 6:39 pm
  53. Interesting work. It might a great idea to use the info you substracted from wikipedia to check against the datasets offered by the indiana philosophy ontology project. https://inpho.cogs.indiana.edu/docs/ The api offers some nice data options ( e.g. also influenced by, influences, ..) based the stanford encyclopedia on philosophy.

    Posted by Frank Benneker | July 2, 2012, 7:07 pm
  54. This is fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing both the visualisation and how to repeat the process. I can see I’ll be spending many hours of fun and learning exploring this

    Posted by markbraggins | July 3, 2012, 6:29 am
  55. This is completely crazy 🙂

    a good game for someone who knows of philosophy as much as I know of physics

    Posted by Dario | July 3, 2012, 8:49 am
  56. Absolutely amazing! Linked on Sprawler!


    Posted by Fredrik Asplund | July 3, 2012, 10:47 am
  57. Hello,

    Brilliant work!!!

    Can I please have the vector image as well?? Would really appreciate that.

    Thank you very much in advance

    Posted by Foti Paliogiorgos (@Foti_Pal) | July 3, 2012, 11:46 am
  58. Thanks for sharing this. We have done something similar using influence connections from Freebase and emphasizing directionality of influences as well as similarity among philosophers. Check it out http://mariandoerk.de/edgemaps/demo

    Posted by Marian | July 3, 2012, 2:10 pm
  59. Amazing! Can someone please tell me where Saul Kripke is located? I’ve been staring at the Quine/Davidson area for a while.

    Posted by Ashok | July 3, 2012, 5:59 pm
  60. Amazing! Can someone please tell me where Saul Kripke is located? I’ve been staring at the Frege/Davidson section for a while!

    Posted by tvastar | July 3, 2012, 6:01 pm
    • Hi there,

      Ive looked into this as he’s not the only notable figure missing. The influenced section in wikipedia is populated ok but there seems to be a problem with the transfer of this info into dbpedia. I’ll raise it with them and hopefully we’ll get a refresh.


      Posted by simonraper | July 3, 2012, 9:41 pm
  61. Wow, that’s what I was seeking for, what a information! existing here at this website, thanks admin of this website.

    Posted by Browse THIS Site | July 3, 2012, 9:15 pm
  62. Hi! Great work… I`d be glad if you could send me the svg too
    my mail is thx !!!!

    Posted by hromadka michal | July 3, 2012, 9:36 pm
  63. DIRK PISTON: hi ..on dropbox you have only V2 i need V4..pls fix it thx

    Posted by hromadka michal | July 3, 2012, 9:57 pm
  64. most awesome graph of every time

    Posted by davide | July 4, 2012, 7:15 pm
  65. Reblogged this on Gerardprieto's Blog and commented:
    Historia de la Filosofia (gràfic)

    Posted by gerardprieto | July 5, 2012, 5:23 am
  66. Thanks for this. In spite of all of the criticisms, this is really just fun to look at and argue about.

    That being said, besides Augustine and Descartes, I also would have expected Hobbes, Rousseau, and Origen to have larger footprints.

    Posted by Bryce Walker | July 5, 2012, 3:53 pm
  67. Wooow! It’s fantastic! I want a copy for my office too. Can you send me the file you’ve been sending to the others, please? Thank you so much from Colombia. 😀

    Posted by Tatiana | July 5, 2012, 11:58 pm
    • Hi! Mind-blowing graphic.
      Taking the opportunity to ask, also from South America (Brazil), a file to get a big copy as well, to print and pin. I’m a philosophy undergraduated preparing for graduation studies.

      Posted by Fabio | July 26, 2012, 10:54 pm
  68. Fascinating graph, well done!

    Posted by thegodlessutopian | July 6, 2012, 1:09 am
  69. If this were about ‘influence’ on the world, one would think two circles would be massive, but don’t even show up. The first would be Adam Smith, who set the tone for the Capitalist world for the past several hundred years, and Ayn Rand, who has sold more books since the 1940s, and is more well known, than just about any combination of philosophers listed in this graph. (We’ll throw Thomas Hobbes and Milton Friedman in for good measure.)

    Now if this list is just how philosophers have influenced each other, and not how philosophers have influenced the rest of humanity for the past 5000 years, then this would perhaps make a little (very little) sense. Seems to be a pattern of some sort. Wonder what it could be? Maybe I missed the names. I’ll break out my magnifying glass.

    Posted by Kevin Haskell | July 6, 2012, 2:00 am
    • Ayn Rand has no influence outside of the United States.

      Posted by Iuppiter maximus optimusque | July 9, 2012, 6:49 pm
      • Spare me. Her book has now been published around the world in dozens of languages and sales are climbing. Her influence came first in the United States because that is where it was first put into mass publication. Secondly, to say that a philosophy ‘only influenced’ the nation that is central to the world’s culture, economy, and power structure with the wave of the hand as if that didn’t matter is simply jaw-dropping.

        Posted by Kevin Haskell | July 12, 2012, 7:15 am
  70. Reblogged this on Our Man in Earth.

    Posted by egographia000 | July 6, 2012, 2:22 am
  71. no line between zizek and lacan?

    Posted by ujifa09833l2 | July 6, 2012, 6:15 am
  72. What seems to be missing in this, otherwise wonderful, graph is philosophy from asian countries… like Buddhist Philosophy. This goes way back and has a lot of interesting and influencial philosophers/schools of thought.

    Posted by Stefan | July 6, 2012, 7:31 am
  73. so basically you guys took something as abstract as philosophy and influences and turned it to something quantifiable. i don’t see a reason really

    Posted by jama | July 6, 2012, 3:16 pm
  74. I’d love to have a wall print of this in my room. I hate to bother, but can I get the SVG file as well? If so, please send it to

    Thanks for this amazing graph!

    Posted by Aleks | July 7, 2012, 3:49 am
  75. Excellent, but could you please explain your colour scheme? Green = ?, Blue = ?, …
    I can guess but I’d rather the definitive key.
    Thank you.

    Posted by Don | July 7, 2012, 6:29 am
  76. I would love the svg of this, if there’s a link on the blog I can’t seem to find it (blind). I have a public e-mail address in my gravatar profile.

    Posted by Kavi | July 8, 2012, 3:08 pm
  77. Very excellent work. HOWEVER, and that really is a big “however” because 98% of the world’s population is either nuts or doesn’t give a damn about “what the hell does it all mean?” It means nothing because philosophy resides only in the mind of the philosopher. The rest of us labor quite hard to understand what the philosopher is saying even when he says it as plainly as he can (Ref: Heidegger). So it is all lost on those few who understand it and are so brilliant that they committ hari-kari on their own bodies because they do understand it and can not face it. Signed; one of Kierkegaards every-day-men.

    Posted by Waldo "Wally" Tomosky | July 8, 2012, 8:38 pm
  78. Is there somewhere I could get the dataset you used (i.e. the csv file?) I’d like to do some Network Analysis on it, but it’d be nice not to reproduce it myself.

    Posted by Brad Spahn | July 9, 2012, 3:57 pm
  79. Can you post the raw data file you used?

    Posted by bcommand | July 9, 2012, 3:58 pm
  80. Datasets for horror: could you use imdb.com?

    Start from their horror genre search: http://www.imdb.com/search/title?genres=horror&title_type=feature&sort=moviemeter,asc

    Get the titleid, and check it’s plot keywords (for example, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1611224/keywords )

    I don’t know how easy it will be to navigate imdb’s website with these semantic tools, and you’ll probably have to pay for “pro” access to not trip their bot-detector. But I think they have the data you want.

    Posted by Dale | July 9, 2012, 11:41 pm
  81. I’m also perplexed by why Rawls wouldn’t be on here.

    Posted by Jen | July 10, 2012, 5:23 pm
  82. Reblogged this on Philosophical Bread and commented:
    A very interesting graph of the influence that certain philosophers had on others.

    Posted by Adam Sweilem | July 11, 2012, 5:15 pm
  83. I have trying to figure out how to use SPARQL to give me a list of psychologists and their doctoral advisors but I have having trouble. This is what I have so far:

    SELECT *
    WHERE {
    ?p a
    ?p ?field.
    ?p ?doctoralAdvisor .

    I tried using Psychologist in place of Scientist (where Philosopher was in the example) and it comes up with nothing. Right now it is giving me all scientists rather than just psychologists. How would I specify that I only want to find the doctoral advisors of psychologists?
    Any help would be appreciated.

    Posted by Alex | July 12, 2012, 7:58 pm
    • Hi Alex did you check out Bob’s blog post (referenced in mine)? Should help. If not let me know.

      Posted by simonraper | July 14, 2012, 12:27 pm
      • Bob’s blog post was helpful but now I am coming across a different problem.

        When I enter:

        SELECT *
        WHERE {
        ? subject
        ?subject ?doctoralAdvisor.

        (Hopefully the coding appears now unlike my last post)

        I get only one subject’s doctoral advisor. I am not sure what I am doing wrong.

        Posted by Alex | July 16, 2012, 10:22 pm
  84. It might be useful to compare some of these findings with those coming of out of Colin Allen’s Indiana Philosophy Ontology (InPhO).

    Posted by Keith Douglas | July 16, 2012, 9:48 pm
  85. Can anyone tell me what the different colours in the diagram mean?

    Posted by Don | July 16, 2012, 11:05 pm
  86. Why isn’t Socrates on there next to Plato and Aristotle?

    Posted by Matthew Hutson | July 17, 2012, 4:12 am
  87. I have created a similar csv file. But how do you import it into the graphing software?

    Posted by Sayan | July 18, 2012, 12:55 am
  88. hey there and thank you in your info ? I have certainly picked up something new from right here. I did then again experience several technical issues the usage of this website, as I skilled to reload the web site a lot of instances prior to I could get it to load correctly. I have been thinking about in case your hosting is OK? No longer that I’m complaining, however sluggish loading cases times will often affect your placement in google and could injury your high quality rating if ads and marketing with Adwords. Anyway I am including this RSS to my email and can look out for a lot extra of your respective interesting content. Make sure you update this again very soon..

    Posted by Matt @ David Gandy Diet | July 27, 2012, 3:16 pm
  89. This is fantastic and I see it as a very useful educational tool that could continually be expanded. Kudos.

    Posted by T.Collins Logan | August 21, 2012, 2:11 pm
  90. oh that is such a cool graph

    Posted by M. Rodriguez | September 5, 2012, 7:19 pm
  91. How would you do this with Facebook or Google Plus?

    Posted by Andrew Smith | September 6, 2012, 6:27 am
  92. Dear Simon,

    The data is mainly from the English-written bios, isn’t it?
    If that is the case, I think it could be useful to mix the data you already have with wikipedia’s databases in other important languages in the philosophical tradition, such as German and French. Maybe this could help grasp the influence of some philosphers that other commentors have been missing and give us an idea of the overall influence of the philosophers already included in the graph. Similarly, to make it more encompassing, you could also see if it is possibly to include the database sources of wikipedia in Chinese, Hindi, etc., to therefore assess more sharply the weight of non-Western traditions in the overall picture.
    I got the idea from one of the graphs of another commentator, inspired by yours’; his’ is a graph on soccer that overemphasizes the influence of British players vis-a-vis Italians, Spaniards, Germans, and, more strikingly, all Latin American soccer players (surprise, only the ones playing in GB are well represented). I feared something similar might be happening with your graph, though obviously in a smaller scale.

    Best regards,

    Posted by Alfonso Salgado | September 9, 2012, 1:14 am
  93. Hi, yes this article is in fact good and I have learned
    lot of things from it regarding blogging. thanks.

    Posted by this link | September 9, 2012, 6:12 am
  94. Hi there, You’ve done an incredible job. I’ll certainly digg it and for my part suggest to my friends. I am sure they will be benefited from this site.

    Posted by bookmark submission | September 9, 2012, 2:26 pm
  95. This is amazing! I hope you update with the directed graph version and organize it not by centrality but by time: influencers being placed to the right of the influencie. That would be a great resource to go along with books like Russell’s History of Western Philosophy.

    Posted by Artem Kaznatcheev | September 14, 2012, 4:40 pm
  96. Hi, very interesting to me

    Im study Philosophy in Indonesia, Could you please send it to me?

    My email ist xxxxxxx

    Thank u very much
    Best Regards

    Andreas Anex

    Posted by Andreas Anex | October 4, 2012, 5:47 am
  97. When someone writes an post he/she maintains the plan of a user in his/her brain that how a user can be aware of it.
    Thus that’s why this piece of writing is outstdanding. Thanks!

    Posted by Immigration Lawyer in Tottenham | October 24, 2012, 12:23 am
  98. Great visualization! I found it pretty interesting that there are only 3 philosophers whose thoughts were completely unrelated to any others in Roerich, Starostin, and Baba. I hadn’t heard of either of them (I confess that I don’t really study a lot of philosophy), but I am very interested in checking out their works.

    Posted by Brian | February 25, 2013, 5:46 pm
  99. This is amazing! I hope you update with the directed graph version and organize it not by centrality but by time: influencers being placed to the right of the influence. That would be a great resource to go along with books like Russell’s History of Western Philosophy.

    Posted by Top Free Web Hosting | March 4, 2013, 9:47 am
  100. Hello Simon,
    Thank you so much for this amazing work. Can I have a copy via email? email: waqarya@gmail.com

    Posted by waqar | May 15, 2013, 1:06 am
  101. Hi~it’s a brilliant work,would you mind send this picture to my email(my major is philosophy,this may help me a lot,could I print it?)~Thank u! My email adress is:543865727@qq.com

    Posted by charlene | July 16, 2013, 7:52 am
  102. Reblogged this on Senselogi© and commented:
    a web of #philosophynetwork… ‎#Leibniz #Kant ‎#Heidegger #Nietzsche #Hegel #Levinas #Deleuze #Marx #Derrida and #Foucault.

    Posted by Cengiz Erdem | July 26, 2013, 3:48 am
  103. Is Alfred Jarry on here? I see James Joyce, & Beckett, Deleuze, Baudrillard, & many others who were influenced by his philosophy.

    Posted by Earl Rose | August 16, 2013, 12:46 am
  104. Beautiful graph! Could make the available GEFX file of the graph?

    Posted by GustavoRPS | August 23, 2013, 3:32 am
  105. Reblogged this on Light for the Body, Mind, Soul and commented:
    Where statistics meets philosophy

    Posted by spearvahn | August 23, 2013, 10:56 am
  106. Figure doesn’t contains one of the greatest philosophers and psychologists of twentieth century: B. F. Skinner.

    Posted by Giovanni Gaeta | October 29, 2013, 12:54 am
  107. Hello Simon. I came across your post through a mention in class, since I’m currently doing Philosophy studies. Congratulations for this fantastic and useful job. Also, this post and its respective ‘infographic’ are already archived in my notes for future study references. Greetings from Brazil

    Posted by cema immb לאכימ דלא | November 3, 2013, 7:05 pm
  108. Republicou isso em : CARTAS SIDERAIS | SIDEREAL LETTERSe comentado:
    Add your thoughts here… (optional)

    Posted by cema immb לאכימ דלא | November 3, 2013, 7:06 pm
  109. i’d love to see where ayn rand ends up within a few decades. perhaps we should start some kind of betting pool so people will put their money where their mouths are. 😀

    Posted by The Ultimate Philosopher | November 6, 2013, 3:57 pm
  110. Hi Simon, I have moved my site to a new place. Could you update the Griff’s Graphs link please. The new link is here: http://brendangriffen.com/blog/gow-influential-thinkers/ Thanks!

    Posted by Griff | December 15, 2014, 11:54 pm


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