Friday, July 15, 2011

Philosophy Ideas Database

While it is by no means in depth, it does give very quick summaries and seems like it could be fun just browsing.  This would make some great bathroom reading.  

The big thought behind the project is that philosophy has became such a vast and specialised subject during the last hundred years that not even the most learned student can keep track of it. The obvious next step seems to be the production of a clear and comprehensive map of what has been achieved.PhilosophyIdeas is meant as a tiny contribution to that task, though it began as a tool for helping students to write essays.
The database is built on a thematic structure (designed by the compiler), with about a thousand sub-divisions. The structure can be downloaded for critical inspection. Each idea is assigned a number, and is then quoted in full or in somewhat compressed form. There is then a short 'gist' of the idea, intended to be concise and clear, and a tiny 'brief' form, used in the full index download. There may be a 'clarification' of unusual terms, and frequently a 'reaction' from the compiler (to stimulate active thinking). The reactions sometimes mention the index numbers of other related ideas. Finally each idea is uniquely assigned to one of the themes. Searching for ideas by theme is one of the main features of the site, and several themes can also be combined, for more complex topics.
Each idea has a text cited as the primary source, and often there is a secondary source. In addition, an actual book or journal is usually given, where a text can be found. Searches can be made for individual texts, and ideas from the text displayed thematically (try Plato's 'Republic', for example). The finder of an obscure idea is not necessarily credited, but equally this site does not expect to be cited for its discoveries.
Ideas are also grouped under 'philosopher', and searches are available for all the ideas of one philosopher, or for comparisons between two or three philosophers. Various other features (such as a glossary of Greek philosophical terms) are available for those willing to dig around.
It took twelve years to compile the first 10,000 ideas, and the project is constantly developing. Initially the intellectual rewards were slight, but databases get more interesting as they grow... 

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