Editors’ Choice: A Visualization of Influence in the History of Philosophy

“I don’t know a lot about philosophy,” says Grant Louis Oliveira, a data analyst and quantitative social sciences researcher with an undergraduate degree in political science. He continues:

I’d like to change that and more rigorously explore my ideas, but I find the world of philosophy a bit impenetrable, and I don’t think I’m the only one…So we need a map. What I imagined is something like a tree arranged down a timeline. More influential philosophers would be bigger nodes, and the size of the lines between the nodes would perhaps be variable by strength of influence. Of course strength of influence needs a metric, but we’ll get there. I know that Wikipedia pages for academics and thinkers tend to have a field for “Influenced by” and “Influenced”, and it struck me that we could use Wikipedia’s semantic companion dbpedia to build our little map.

And so that is what he did.

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