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Philosophical Connections

Compiled by Anthony Harrison-Barbet

 


HOW TO USE THE PROFILES

 

Philosophical Connections contains 'Profiles' of 126 Western philosophers from Thales to the present-day listed in order of date of birth. Each Profile contains:

- a short biographical introduction

- standardized reference scheme (where appropriate)

- survey of the subject's thought

- critical summary

- further reading

- key points and a list of "Connections"

Each survey is divided into numbered sections[1], [2], and so on. Within each section key concepts, themes, or arguments are highlighted and followed by identification letters[a], [b], [c], ... , which direct you to the lists provided at the end of the Profile to enable you to identify the connections that may be made between various philosophers. Note that when there is more than one key section in a survey, the letters [a], [b], and so on denote different concepts, themes, or arguments in each section. Thus, for example, in Heraclitus 1 [a] relates to change and conflict, while 3 [a] concerns logos as universal law. It is also important to note that in some instances an identification letter in the text may have multiple references in the Connections list. In such cases the letter is repeated so as to facilitate the several hyperlinks, for example (as in the Profile for Parmenides), 1 [d] [d].

There are four kinds of connections:

1. Where it is supposed that a philosopher has expressed a similar idea or argument to that of another thinker and that there is evidence of a positive influence, the reference appears in green print: for example, [1a].

2. Where it is believed that the influence of one philosopher on another has been generally negative — that the latter has tended explicitly or implicitly to reject the ideas or arguments of his predecessor, the reference appears in red: [1a].

3. In some cases a given philosopher may be regarded as having followed a predecessor's concept or approach but has modified it substantially. This is indicated by red on green background: [1a].

In all the above cases an arrow [] indicates an influence. Thus '→Heraclitus' represents an influence on Heraclitus, while 'Heraclitus→' indicates an influence by Heraclitus on the thought of another. In some cases there is evidence that two philosophers may have influenced each other (negatively or positively). This is shown by a double arrow: for example, '→Russell→'.

4. If no particular connection is discernible between the uses of a particular concept or thesis by the relevant philosophers (or where there is uncertainty as to whether there is any direct or indirect influence) and yet it is felt that your attention should be drawn to an interesting and relevant similarity or contrast, references appear in pink, for example, [1a], and with no arrow.

The two following examples will help you to understand how the system works.

Example A

In the list of connections relevant to Parmenides you will find these entries:

[1a d] Thinking and existing; Being as real unchangeable unity — the 'One'

   Heraclitus

Zeno

Anaxagoras

   .......... [others]

[1a c i]

[1b 2a]

[1a b]

 

 

[1c] Being eternal — no reason for its coming into existence at particular time

Anaxagoras

   ..........

[1a]

 

[1d] Change, motion, time illusory    Heraclitus

Anaxagoras

   ..........

[1a]

[1a]

Correspondingly, in Heraclitus's Profile you will find these entries:

[1a] Change, conflict real and essential in cosmos

   ..........

Parmenides

 

[1a d]

 

[1c] Real multiplicity and unity; underlying principle

   ..........

Parmenides

 

[1a]

 

[1i] Plurality of 'stuffs', 'elements' Parmenides [1a]

And in Zeno's this one:

[1b 2a] One and many; change and permanence; space, time, and motion illusory

   ..........

   Parmenides

 

[1a d]

And Anaxagoras's includes these:

[1a] Being eternal and indestructible; change and plurality real    Parmenides

   ..........

[1a 1c 1d]

 

[1b]. Infinite plurality of ultimate 'stuffs', 'elements' consituting Being; rearrangements account for change

   ..........

   Parmenides

 

[1a]

These entries indicate (1) that Parmenides developed a view of change and unity in opposition to that held by Heraclitus; (2) that Zeno's views on Being, change, and unity were similar to and influenced by those of Parmenides; and (3) that Anaxagoras was influenced by Parmenides (i) positively in his view concerning the origin of Being, (ii) negatively in his account of the reality of change, while (iii) in his account of Being he developed a view that in some respects retains the Parmenidean emphasis on unity and yet posits that the world consists of a plurality of things — the manifestation of becoming from Being. (Anaxagoras's thesis here arguably represents a development of Empedocles's philosophy in relation to Parmenides. You can check this for yourself from the Profiles.)

 

Example B

We can consider the similarity between Parmenides and Leibniz in their respective appeals to what the latter called 'the principle of sufficient reason' n though there does not seem to be any evidence of a direct influence. Thus in Parmenides' profile we have:

[1c] Being eternal — no reason for its coming into existence at particular time

   ..........

   Leibniz

 

[1c 2c 4c]

Corresponding references are to be found in Leibniz's Profile.

You should note also that references are occasionally made to concepts mentioned in Critical Summaries. These are listed as, for example, [CS a].

 

HOW TO USE THE HYPERLINKS

(1) Click on a philosopher's name in the alphabetical list to be taken to that Profile. (Alternatively you can use the contents page.) (2) If you want to find and follow a connection, use the the hyperlinks associated with each connection reference, for example, [2][a]. This will bring you to the relevant connection reference in the list of Connections. (In the case of shorter Profiles you may find it as convenient to scroll down to the list). (3) Click on a philosopher's name corresponding to the connection, and you will be taken to the list of Connections in his Profile. From there you can click on any blue reference number in the left-hand column (again, for example, [2a], ) to be taken to the section [that is, 1, 2, 3, and so on] which contains the relevant information, where you can locate the connection you are interested in. Some references of the type '[see sec. 3]', for example, are also linked to the relevant sections. Note that a reference, e.g., [5a], may occur more than once in a Connections list, so you will need to look through the list to ensure you have the one you are interested in. (Where there are multiple references such as [2] [a][a] each letter will have its own separate hyperlink.)

It should be emphasized that not all the classifications are rigid; there is often some degree of overlap. Moreover, identification of a supposed connection in a particular respect between two thinkers should not be taken to imply complete word for word agreement; one must always allow for different nuances or degrees of interpretation, and for the problems posed by different languages. The supposed 'influences' of one thinker on another may also often be manifestations of a common Zeitgeist. Connections should therefore be understood in broader rather than narrower terms. Moreover, in many instances only a general identification of similarities between concepts and arguments employed by different philosophers has been attempted. More precise comparisons are not easily achievable in a work of this scope, and for a fuller understanding of a philosopher's views on a particular concept or theme you will need to study the original texts as well as some of the commentaries listed in the Reading sections. (These sections are linked directly to the Bibliography, where you will find fuller details of primary sources.) Have a look also at the introductory books listed in the Introductions to the several periods of Western philosophy — Greek, Mediaeval, and so on.

Do not rely on highlighted references alone, as many contain a number of connected points: you should always check the information in the body of the text, and also read around or beyond markers for completeness and understanding in the wider context of the paragraph or sections in which they are located.

The Profiles are listed in chronological order, but you may find it interesting and helpful to start by reading the short introduction to 'Post-Modernism' and the Profiles on Derrida and Rorty. Both philosophers are in a sense iconoclasts and are seriously critical of the whole western philosophical tradition. You can come back to these again in the light of your studies of other philosophers' Profiles and examine the claims of Derrida and Rorty with a more critical eye!