[extropy-chat] Philosophical phylogeny

Anders Sandberg asa at nada.kth.se
Thu Oct 12 19:21:53 UTC 2006

The Avantguardian wrote:
> The philosophical
> phylogeny is rather interesting as well. Although I
> was surprised by a few branches that seemed to end
> prematurely. For example, Einstein and Kepler. Did
> they not influence any who came after them?

This is the problem with all such graphs - they are both finite, biased
and somewhat arbitrary. In this case I can put all the blame (and praise)
on Mike Love, who did the original dataset. In making such a graph one has
both to decide who gets to be in there and what links to leave out.
Personal expertise and biases will of course affect the graph greatly.

I have just finished a first draft graph based on the Wikipedia
philosopher pages; I'm going to post it soonish. The fun thing is to
compare the two graphs. I can preliminarily say that Love's graph is much
"tighter" than the Wikipedia one - he has fewer people, they are more
well-known and the links seem to be more restrictive. Wikipedia has many
more modern French philosophers and minor marxists, as well as a branch
leading over straight into libertarian politics/economy/philosophy. But it
seems to miss a lot of the renaissance and early thinkers. The clusters I
get are also slightly messier than in Love's graph, but I get many new
clusters that make sense like the Focault-Deluze gang and the Rothbard

Most likely I will refine the Wikipedia graph a bit by adding the
information in the pages that are not formatted with clear "influenced by"
boxes, although this will introduce me as an extra biasing factor. And I
think the graph will become better if we leave out unneccessary A->C links
if there are A->B->C links.

Examining the advisor-student graph together with this kind of influence
graph is another thing I hope to do. If we mark out the important thinkers
and their influence links, do they move close to the academic tree or
independent of it? If people just absorb research interests from advisors
the trees would be very similar, if they pick them up from an open pool of
debate they would be independent.

> This is of course nit-picking on my part as the
> concept of a philosophical phylogeny itself is very
> original and praiseworthy. :) I would be interested in
> something similar for the sciences and even religion.

Yes, me too. It is great fun to do and very educational. Having recently
moved into a philosophy department it is very useful for me to become
acquainted with who's who.

I will definitely try to make a transhumanist phylogeny in the near
future, no doubt earning myself endless trouble :-)

Anders Sandberg,
Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics
Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list