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November 06, 2008


Pete Mandik

Hi Dave,

A similar attempt at philosophical taxonomy is underway here:



Greg Frost-Arnold

Wow -- this should be a great resource. My 2 cents:

Under "Non-classical logics", you could include "free logics".

Under "Developmental Biology": there is a literature on reductionism specifically relating to developmental biology (you have a similar 'reduction in ecology' entry under "Ecology").


Will MindPapers eventually be subsumed into this?

This is a great idea; I've been waiting for something like this for a long time and especially since MindPapers was created.

John S. Wilkins

At the risk of sounding merely irritable, I wish to note that a taxonomy must be exclusive and founded on positive properties, not contraries. And I think that my namesake's experience in the 17th century about arbitrary structure to taxonomic trees ought to give some reason to pause. There are as many genera and species as there need to be, not what we impose for reasons of convenience. [In other words, Locke was wrong...]

Eddy Nahmias

Impressive! I think moral intuitions should be added to the moral psychology section and moral responsibility should be added to the free will section.

Gabriel Gottlieb

Under 19th Century German Philosophy I would think a category for German Romanticism, especially the work of Friedrich Schlegel and Novalis would be helpful. A number of important studies dedicated to these figures have appeared in recent years by leading scholars like Frederick Beiser, Terry Pinkard, and Manfred Frank. More and more papers are being published on them as well.

Andrei A. Buckareff

This is a great resource. One thought about philosophy of action. Mental action should also be placed under the philosophy of action.

Peter Vallentyne

A fantastic start. A few thoughts:

1. Value Theory-Normative Ethics-Ethical Theories-Deontological Moral Theories: This should probably include Natural Rights Theories, and not merely include them under Natural Law Theory.
2. I find it confusing (although not uncommon) to include Wellbeing (normally understood as prudential value, quality of life for the individual) as a species of moral value. I would list Prudence as field under Value Theory. This could include theories of wellbeing (prudential value), as well, perhaps, as theories of prudential obligation. [Personal identity would be relevant here.] (None of this is to deny that many theories of moral value, or moral permissibility, are grounded in prudential value. It’s just to deny the prudential value (wellbeing, on one standard understanding) is a kind of moral value.)
3. Under Political Philosophy … Justice, I find the listing to be very unsystematic. I would drop Original Position, Difference Principle, Global Justice (covered elsewhere), and Welfare, and have headings such as: Consequentialism, Contractarianism, Libertarianism, Desert, Equality, Priority, Sufficiency, Other. Rawlsian stuff would then occur under contractarianism and under egalitarianism.
4. Under Political Philosophy, … Rights, Property Rights, you could add Self-Ownership.
5. I wonder whether Philosophy of Science should be its own cluster or belong elsewhere (instead of being lumped with Logic and Math).

Andrew Jorgensen

Is it supposed to be a taxonomy of the profession or of the subject? The category 'History of Western Philosophy' seems like a different kind of category from the others. It's a kind of history whereas the others are kinds of philosophy (which is not to say something published in, say Kant Studien, is history not philosophy, just that if it is philosophy not history it really falls into a different category).

Carl Seaquist

Here’s a partial typology for Indian philosophy. It’s conservative, i.e., a lot of people in the field will dispute points of detail, for example the orthodox/heterodox divide or the separation of Nyaya from Vaisesika. But it should at least be transparent and understandable to everyone working in the field, which I take it is the main idea. I’ve added “other” categories in two cases, which I think is better than the alternative of omitting them entirely or having one “other” category at the end, but I know it may look odd. Also, I haven’t divided “modern” though it certainly should be divided at some point; I'm not sure there's much agreement on how to do this, so I haven't tried. Further subdivisions may be useful in various places, but this is a start and probably compete enough that most things should find a place somewhere in the typology.

Indian Philosophy
1) Protophilosophy
a) Vedic
b) Upanisadic
2) “Orthodox”/astika
a) Mimamsa
b) Samkhya
c) Nyaya
d) Vaisesika
e) Vedanta
f) Yoga
3) “Heterodox”/nastika
a) Buddhist
I) Theravada
II) Mahayana
III) Logic
b) Jain
c) Carvaka
d) Other
4) Theistic
a) Saivite
I) Saiva Siddhanta
II) Kashmiri Saivism
b) Vaisnavite
c) Other
5) Linguistic Philosophy
a) Vyakarana (Grammar)
b) Nirukta (Etymology)
6) Aesthetics
7) Political Philosophy
8) Modern

Note that I haven’t used diacriticals. I've added indications of outlining in case my indenting doesn’t appear properly.

A very detailed typology and bibliography is available online (an update to Karl Potter’s multivolume, published bibliography):


Under Philosophy of Religion: Religious Views you may want to include Religious Pluralism, Religious Inclusivism, and Religious Exclusivism. Obviously, you may be a pluralist Christian or an Exclusivist Buddhist, etc, but the debate between these types of views (particularly betweeen pluralists like Hick and others) are a part of the philosophy of religion.

Eric Rovie

If you were to put subheadings in Business Ethics as you do in Medical Ethics(that may be more specific than you need to get), you might include the following:

1. The value of 'work' and the work ethic
2. Trust between employers and employees
3. Social Responsibility of business
a. Stakeholder theories
b. Stockholder theories
4. Advertising and marketing
5. Salesmanship
6. Liability and risk
7. Whistleblowing
8. Role obligations and role responsibilities
9. Consumerism and the market
a. Consmuption
b. Limiting the market

Jussi Suikkanen

Wow. This looks great. I wonder if the 'Practical Reason' class would be more naturally under the metaethics umbrella than the philosophy of action umbrella.


An olympian proyect! and much needed because of the widening of philsophical scrutiny throughout history since early Aristotelian and Epicurean taxonomies.

But something cath me the eye. Not so many historians in continental philosophy would agree to put "Iberian philosophy" in the heading "other philosophy traditions" i think.


What about Process Philosophy (Charles Peirce, Alfred. N. Whitehead, Charles Hartshorne, Nicholas Rescher, and so on)?

Perhaps one could divide idealism into two big branches:
objective (e.g. Hegel, Kant, Hösle) and subjective (e.g. Berkeley) idealism.

Douglas Stalker

Alas, it seems to involve cross ranking and multiple principles of division. E.g. it classifies areas of philosophy, positions on problems in philosophy, methods in philosophy, and more. What would this look like as a tree diagram that adhered to the criteria for a good classification and division as per the textbooks on same? I fear that it would, then, be many tree diagrams, not just one. What is it supposed to be classifying? Areas of the discipline, problems of, issues in, methods in? It can't be all at once and still be intelligible.

Mike Jacovides

I bet you'll come to grief with your planned strategy for dealing with the history of philosophy, mostly because so many history of philosophy papers deal with more than one figure, but partly because some history papers deal with matters of live philosophical interest (or, if you prefer, some philosophy papers engage dead figures).

I would just scatter the history papers throughout the rest of the taxonomy. You can learn something by integrating these. You don't really get any benefit from keeping them separate. Let the division between living and dead philosophers occur at the level of sub-branches.

Anyway, no doubt you've thought of this, and this is one of those irrevocable things. If you do stick to the present plan, you or your minions will want to appeal to John Attig's wonderful Locke Bibliography, when you get around to putting structure on Locke.

It's a great project that you're undertaking.

Chike Jeffers

Very good project. An important field missing is African American Philosophy. This needs to be redressed by creating a field entry for Africana Philosophy, which can then be subdivided into - at least - African Philosophy, African American Philosophy, and Afro-Caribbean Philosophy.

African Philosophy includes topics such as:
Metaphilosophy (major subtopics: Ethnophilosophy, Anti-Ethnophilosophy, Orality/Literacy)
Sage Philosophy
Tradition and Modernity
Colonialism and Postcolonialism
Politics (major subtopics: Communitarianism, African Socialism, Democracy, Development, Human Rights)
Metaphysics (major subtopics: God, Cosmology, Time, Destiny)
Epistemology (major subtopic: Truth, Divination)
Culture (major subtopic: Universalism/Particularism)
Ancient Egyptian Philosophy (major subtopic: Ma'at)
Ethiopian Philosophy (major subtopic: Zera Yacob).

African American Philosophy includes such topics as:
Race (major subtopics: One-Drop Rule, Passing, Mixed Race, Eliminativism, Social Constructivism)
Racism (major subtopics: White Supremacy, Color Blindness)
Black Nationalism (major subtopics: Emigration, Garveyism, Black Power, Black Panthers, Cultural Nationalism, Afrocentrism)
Reparative Justice (major subtopics: Affirmative Action, Reparations)
Aesthetics (major subtopics: Harlem Renaissance, Black Arts Movement, Hip Hop)
Biomedical Ethics
Black Feminism (major subtopic: Intersectionality)
Black Conservatism
The Underclass
Frederick Douglass
W.E.B. Du Bois
Martin Luther King
Cornel West

Subdividing Afro-Caribbean Philosophy calls for more caution because, in the institutional sense, this is the newest and youngest. However, we can still single out important topics like Race, Creolization, Nationalism, Marxism, Rastafari, Music (major subtopics: Calypso, Bob Marley) and Historicism/Poeticism, as well as figures like CLR James, Frantz Fanon, Edouard Glissant, and Sylvia Wynter.

Aside from what can be classified under these three major headings, some topics are best categorized as "Africana" in general: Diaspora, Pan-Africanism, Negritude, Afrocentrism, the Black Atlantic and, many would argue, all the figures I listed under Afro-Caribbean Philosophy (especially Fanon) and others like Quobna Ottobah Cugoano and Edward Blyden.

Chike Jeffers

I need to make some additions to my overly selective list of figures under African American Philosophy, starting with Alain Locke (whom it made no sense whatsoever to omit). I would also, however, add David Walker, Martin Delany, Anna Julia Cooper, Booker T. Washington and Malcolm X.


Thanks, all. The various suggestions for added categories are all well-taken. A few responses:

Aaron: Eventually MindPapers might be subsumed into this, but in the short to medium run it will remain for various reasons.

John: OK, it's a pseudo-taxonomy, or maybe just a category scheme. We're not doing science here, just trying to come up with something useful and convenient.

Gabriel: Eventually we will probably subdivide historical periods into thematic categories (e.g. German Romanticism, Logical Empiricism), but this raises various tricky issues concerning what the categories should be, the way they may crosscut geographic and temporal categories, and so on. So we've decided to hold off on those for now. One possibility is that we'll eventually add some sort of crosslisting mechanism, whereby under every period and indeed under history, misc there is a subcategory for thematic categories under which relevant individuals will be crosslisted. In any case, any suggestions about the thematic categories should be are welcome.

Peter: Yes, political philosophy is embarrassingly incomplete and unsystematic for now. More feedback about how to subdivide it properly will be very useful. Good idea about prudential value -- well-being could at least be both there and under moral value. Science, logic, and mathematics are lumped together in a cluster to keep the top-level structure clean and manageable -- if we didn't do that sort of thing we'd probably end up with twenty clusters, and the clusters are very much a mechanism of convenience in any case.

Andrew: It's a taxonomy of the subject that is very much influenced by the way it is approached by the profession. Historical areas and figures are typically regarded as subject matters by the profession, and not having a historical cluster would make the whole system much less useful within the profession. Of course many, perhaps most historical papers might also be crosscategorized under non-historically-individuated subjects.

Carl: Many thanks for the proposed structure for Indian philosophy. I'm somewhat hesitant to include substructures for the "other traditions" at this point, before going through a whole lot of consultation, and likewise I'm hesitant to launch with substructure for just one or two of the traditions. But if we get enough feedback here we could perhaps include something. If not, proposals here will serve as a useful basis for the ongoing project.

Jussi: I'll crosslist Practical Reason under meta-ethics as well as the philosophy of action (I'd intended to do this already). I think philosophy of action needs to be the primary parent, as many issues in practical reason have nothing much to do with ethics. Moral reasoning is listed under meta-ethics, though, and is also crosslisted under practical reason! In practice the crosslisting will allow people to get to the subcategories via either category.

Anibal: Yes, selecting and individuating the "other traditions" is tricky. Of course it makes a difference which tradition one is starting from within: obviously the current tree starts from the perspective of analytic philosophy. I followed the Stanford Encyclopedia on Iberian and Latin American Philosophy. I suppose that another possibility would be including Iberian philosophy in the main historical group, and having a separate category just for Latin American philosophy. The cost there would be losing the continuity between Iberian and Latin American philosophy. A third possibility is keeping the current scheme but also crossclassifying many Iberian philosophers (especially the medievals, for whom this would be very natural) in the main history tree. I am a long way from my own expertise in these areas, though, so this is another place where feedback is especially useful.

Douglas: See above. It's a pragmatically driven classification -- the aim is to make a website more useful. A taxonomy driven by just one of the principles you mention would be much less useful for the purpose at hand, and having multiple taxonomies is unrealistic for now (eventually, perhaps there will be a way for people to come up with their own taxonomies).

Mike: See my response to Andrew, and especially the point about crosscategorizing papers. My expectation is that historical papers will indeed be included throughout the non-historical categories.

Chike: Yes, I wondered about how best to handle African-American philosophy. The suggestion of a category for Africana philosophy (or maybe "African and Africana Philosophy"?) makes sense, in conjunction with a fair amount of crossclassification under the philosophy of race. Thanks for the very useful suggested structure.

Chike Jeffers

Happy to help. Most definitely a lot of crossclassification between Af-Am phil and phil of race.

"African and Africana" would, in my view, be redundant because - although the institutional field of African phil is indeed older than the umbrella term - "Africana" is a term specifically intended to cover work from both Africa and its diaspora (see Lucius Outlaw's foundational essay "African, African American, Africana Philosophy" in The Philosophical Forum 24 1992-1993).

Carl Seaquist

Thanks for your reply. I do think your project is very helpful, and recognize the challenges you face in setting it up. But I'd like to pursue a couple of ideas further.

1) Regarding your "Other Philosophical Traditions" category: doesn't the decision to subdivide or not to subdivide depend on your sources of materials and how many papers end up in each category? If you're relying on journals that publish just analytic philosophy, then you may not have more than 100 papers on Indian philosophy for a very long time. If you cast a wider net, then you'll have to subdivide almost immediately.

2) I don't want to argue with your decision to focus on analytic philosophy. That's where my disciplinary training lies, in fact. But a significant trend in scholarship approaches Indian philosophy from an essentially analytic perspective (as exemplified by the work of BK Matilal and Jonardon Ganeri, for example) and would be of interest to analytic philosophers. Certainly your project is big enough without asking you to be as comprehensive as _Philosophers Index_, and I could see you deciding not to include non-Western philosophy at all. But once you begin, why not do it properly?

3) As far as database development goes: isn't it better to start with the whole structure? Isn't that why you suggest that "a whole lot of consultation" would be needed? Adding subcategories is easier than changing existing ones, but not much more. Also: if you do add subcategories later, that will potentially make for significant inconsistencies in how entries are categorized. My intuition is that it's better to get the pain of consultation and decision-making over with at the front end of the project. But then I'm not willing to take on projects this big, and what I'm suggesting might be easier said than done.

4) At a minimum, you might want to include Buddhist Philosophy in the "Other Philosophical Traditions" category, with cross-listings to Indian, Japanese, etc. where appropriate as you suggest to other readers. I'd also suggest splitting Indian and Tibetan philosophy into separate categories, since the bulk of scholarship on the former focuses on so-called "orthodox" systems, whereas the latter is mostly Buddhist. Or rather than "Tibetan," it might make more sense to call it "Inner Asian" as a means of catching anything that relates to, e.g., Manichaeism.

Irene Respinger

An obvious but small mistake in the taxonomy: Kierkegaard is Danish, not German. Neither can his philosophy be taken as in line with the main themes of German 19th philosophy.

Mike Jacovides


When you are looking to fill in the gaps in the Western history categories, are you looking for a grouping of figures who between them add up to five hundred or so articles (e.g. 'early 17th century British natural philosophy,' including Francis Bacon, Gilbert, Harvey, Digby, and Fludd)? There's a big 'biobibliographical' appendix at the end of the Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy that could be used for such purposes.

David Bourget

One point Dave mentioned which needs emphasizing is that our system allows massive cross-classification both of papers and categories: any paper or category can be in multiple categories. This allows us to cut the pie in many ways at once, and we hope that people will generally be able to find what they are looking for following their intuitive way of cutting the pie (along periods, figures, views, points of disagreement, etc). For this reason and others, we're more worried about missing important subdivisions and labels than having too many. It would be helpful if people could keep this in mind when examining the structure.

Alex Baia

Looks like a wonderful resource.

Under M&E->Metaphysics->Time, you could add the topic “Determinism, Fatalism, and the Open Future” (or something like that).

Under M&E->Metaphysics->Modality, you could add the subtopic “Actualism” to either the “Theories of Modality” topic or to the “Possible Worlds” topic (or both).

Bill Haines

If the point of the taxonomy were to inform anglophone departments on program design and departmental balance, then there wouldn’t be much reason to divide Chinese philosophy. But it seems the point is to organize an on-line index for intelligible access. And then I don’t see the reason for hierarchical organization.

Offhand it would seem to make much more sense to organize the large and small categories not by exact inclusion but rather by association. That is to say,
1. No category need meet the condition of entire inclusion within a larger category. Hence many natural categories that might otherwise be excluded from the scheme can be included, and no more philosophical agony over organization.
2. Papers are assigned to categories independently: that is, assigning a paper to a small category doesn’t automatically assign it to a chain of larger ones.
3. When you go to a category you see a list of associated categories, not a list of subcategories. The associated categories can be divided into three shortish lists: next level up, next level down, and horizontal.
4. All categories are available in searchable alphabetic lists.

Bill Haines

... Oh, but with association instead of inclusion one doesn't need the distinct "levels" supposed by my #3.

Paul Raymont

I think there's enough work being done on Herder to warrant adding him alongside Fichte, Kant, etc. in 17/18th Century German Philosophy. For 19th Century German Philosophy, should Dilthey be added? Should there be an area for interpretation/hermeneutics in the field of phil of action?

Re. Gabriel Gottlieb's comment (and djc's reply), I think that for German philosophy it makes more sense to group them mainly by schools first, something like: Leibniz-Wolff rationalism, Kant, absolute idealism (Fichte, Schelling, Hegel), Romanticism (Novalis, F. Schlegel, Schleiermacher), Hermeneutics (Herder, Schleiermacher, Dilthey), neo-Kantianism (with a cast of thousands).


Where would all that research on late 19th-century Argentinean critiques of Neo-Fichtian interpretations of second-wave Anarcho-Feminist Sikhism go?

Nick Zangwill


It's impressive. But I worry a bit about the *branching* structure presupposed by the taxonomy. Is philosophy really that systematic? Surely if one goes down one 'branch' doesn't one often find oneself in a surprising place? (I seem to remember Wittgenstein comparing philosophy to surveying a landscape from many different points of view.)
Relatedly, or perhaps to illustrate the worry, isn't epistemology part of value theory?
Possible missed historical figures.... Maimonidies, Al Farabi,

Good luck though,


Carl: Right now we're just trying to get together a draft for launch within a few weeks. A really systematic consultation process will be much easier for various reasons once the system is up and running (users will be directly engaged in categorizing papers, we'll have discussion mechanisms, etc). We're hesitant to prematurely fix structure for areas where we really lack expertise, based just on discussion with one or two informants. As you've noted yourself, these issues are very tricky. But it's only a matter of a few weeks vs. a few months. And given the way the system is set up, any coarse-grained categorization that is done in the early stages will itself be a useful starting point for finer-grained categorization later.

Irene: My Danish friends would be horrified! But in fact Kierkegaard is listed under "Misc" under 19th Century Philosophy. I'll change it to "19th Century Philosophy, Misc" to make this clearer.

Mike, Paul: Groups within the historical categories raise some of the tricky issues mentioned in my response to Gabriel, but we'll probably end up with them one way or another. We'll also almost certainly end up eventually listing many more individuals than we do at the moment. The source Mike mentions sounds very useful.

Bill, Nick: Again, there are lots of way to approach these taxonomies. We settled on a hierarchical structure in part because easy and quick access is important for our purposes: one can reach any subtopic by following a few levels down from the top. For an associative structure, this isn't nearly as straightforward (an alphabetical list would be enormous), and it also wouldn't fit various other aspects of our project. And crosslisting helps at least a bit with "surprises". In any case, this aspect of the structure is now hardcoded into the program and is settled, though we may also end up with other more flexible classificational mechanisms to supplement this.

Paul: We had Dilthey and Herder in earlier versions, but they ended up not meeting the numerical threshold for inclusion at this stage. I expect that the threshold will be lowered before too long. We'll think about how best to handle interpretation/hermeneutics. Obviously there will eventually at least be subcategories of continental philosophy here, but perhaps there's a case for something somewhere in the main M&E cluster too, beyond the present scattered categories involving interpretation.

Nick: Maimonides and Al Farabi aren't yet included because the current thought is they'll be included under Judaic and Arabic/Islamic Philosophy respectively, which haven't yet been subdivided. There may be a case for crossclassification in the main list in some cases, though.

Sarah: If there are enough papers like this, then we'll have to increase the maximum number of associated categories from three!

Chike Jeffers

You didn't find enough on Herder? This surprises me (and I know less about Dilthey but am surprised regarding him as well). Can you clarify: when you say 15-100 papers, are you saying books don't count? And are there any time limits on articles (or books if they are indeed included)? I didn't notice any limitations like these in MindPapers.

By the way, I would be interested in finding out from Sarah when the first wave of anarcho-feminist Sikhs were writing.


The threshold we've used so far is 40 or more articles with name in title in our database of 100,000+ online articles. Dilthey was reasonably close (31), Herder not close (15). We'll lower the threshold at some point, but the method seems less reliable as the threshold gets lower.

If we lowered it to 20, we'd let in Broad, McTaggart, Emerson, Croce, Vico, Dilthey, Camus, Boyle, Coleridge, Clarke, Maimonides, Scheler, Lesniewki, Durkheim, Hartshorne, Burke, Schlick, Lukacs, Cassirer, Thoreau, Engels, Hayek, Rahner, Neurath, Lotze, Boltzmann, Avicenna, Buber, Barth, Grice. That's excluding many duplicates and false positives (Johnson, Blood), people in neighboring areas who are listed arguably for nonphilosophical reasons (Gandhi, Weyl), people who appear because their name got attached to something (Montague, Timaueus), some recent analytic philosophers who are overrepresented due to recency effects (Chalmers, Gewirth), and some pre-Socratic and Hellenistic philosophers who I haven't been including so far because it seems odd to have them alone in groups, and because their groups represent them well (Epicurus, Pythagoras). It probably wouldn't be bad to let in the 30 or so on this list (though a number of these, especially the writers and poets, are borderline cases), but I suspect that by this point things are getting arbitrary.

I'm open to other criteria for inclusion. I looked around the web and elsewhere for definitive lists of philosophers (of a certain prominence) throughout history, but didn't find anything quite definitive enough of an appropriate size. Suggestions regarding alternative criteria and existing lists are welcome, though.


I think "New Foundations" deserves a place under "Set Theory as a Foundation", or possibly under "The Nature of Sets" (since New Foundations is incompatible with the iterative conception).

Chike Jeffers

OK. I guess 40+ search is a good way to get started, since there's nothing saying it can't be adjusted in future. Does the database include, at least, articles in books, if not books/book chapters?

Mikkel Gerken

Very, very cool, if daunting, project! The value of an extensive bibliography ordered by a philosopher’s (rather than a librarian’s) taxonomy should not be underestimated. I’ve repeatedly found MindPapers to be the best way to find my bearings in the literature. I’ve also found it extremely helpful to be able to send students to it (indeed a student notified by about the expansion).

I looked over the epistemology and mind sections (focusing on the former). It looks good but I did come up with twenty suggestions for the professors. Shots from the hip, really, but some of them might be useful.

1: I would add ‘Knowledge by Understanding’ as a source (and cross-list to ‘Understanding.’)

2: ‘Nature of Intuition’ seems at least as well placed under phil. of mind. More generally, placing ‘intuition’ and ‘reasoning’ in epistemology and ‘memory’ in mind seem a little arbitrary. Given that a choice has to be made, it is as good as any. But cross-listing will be crucial.

3: The category ‘Basing’ might be more informatively relabeled ‘The Basing Relation.’

4: Under justification, add a heading ‘Propositional and Doxastic Justification.’

5: It’d be good with a category ‘Presupposition’ somewhere under mind or epistemology. It could be placed under ‘Epistemological States and Properties.’ Perhaps better under ‘Belief’ in Mind right next to ‘Tacit and Dispositional Belief.’ (Btw. In my own view psychological presuppositions are non-attitudinal. But it’d still be useful to subsume under belief). Cross-list in any case.

6: ‘Epistemological States and Properties’ sounds a bit awkward.

7: Maybe add subsections to ‘Defeat.’ E.g. ‘Underminers and Undercutters,’ ‘Missed Clues’ etc.

8: Add ‘Epistemology of Perception’ (+sub-categories) to ‘Epistemology of Specific Domains.’ Or at least cross-list to the (nice) perception section in the mind section.

9: Expand ‘Principles of Knowledge’ to ‘Principles of Knowledge, Warrant and Justification.’ Then add a sub-category ‘Transmission Principles’ next to ‘Closure.’

10: Maybe subsume ‘Safety’ and ‘Sensitivity’ (etc.) under the genus ‘Modal Principles.’

11: Under ‘Varieties of Skepticism’ include a ‘Origins of Skepticism’ category that could harbor Pyrrhonian, Humean and Cartesian skepticism (etc.).

12: Under ‘Responses to Skepticism’ include a ‘Transcendental Replies to Skepticism’ category.

13: ‘Relevance Replies to Skepticism’ might be better labeled as ‘Relevant Alternative Replies to Skepticism’ (maybe not philosophically but in terms of user association/connotation).

14: I’d subsume ‘Formal Social Epistemology’ (+subcategories) under ‘Social Epistemology’ rather than under ‘Formal Epistemology.’ At any rate; cross-list!

15: Add ‘Epistemology of Free Speech’ and cross-list ‘Epistemological Relativism’ under ‘Social Epistemology.’

16: The ‘Reasoning’ section cries out loud for a subsection ‘Reasoning and Cognitive Science.’ Perhaps there should even be sub-sub-sections? E.g., ‘The Conjunction Fallacy,’ ‘Reasoning Heuristics’ etc.

17: I’d also add a subsection under ‘Reasoning’ labeled ‘Nature of Reasoning.’

18: ‘Reasoning’ again: Maybe some subsections under ‘Fallacies’? E.g., ‘Informal fallacies.’

19: Another good subsection under ‘Fallacies’: ‘Equivocation.’

20: Finally, while philosophy of sexuality is far from my areas of competence, I would think that a sub-category in the philosophy of sexuality would be called for. Specifically, a section for papers concerning the ethics of display of sexuality in the public sphere seems to be missing. If an inappropriate section heading is appropriate go for: ‘Sexuality and Public Affairs.’ (Sorry).

Thanks again. You’re doing us all a great favor!

Joe Campbell

Here is one subcategory that is problematic:

Agency and Responsibility
Doing and Allowing
Free Will and Responsibility*
Responsibility and Reactive Attitudes

Someone might think that (a) an agent is morally responsible if he has control over his actions, (b) control is not free will, for free will is not necessary for moral responsibility, and (b) moral responsibility has nothing to do with reactive attitudes. Where would such a theory go? Not that I know of anyone who has such a theory but it is possible.

On a related point, you should have a separate category for the Metaphysics of Moral Responsibility. I might do it like this (though this has problems, as well; and this is incomplete).

The Metaphysics of Moral Responsibility
Epistemic Conditions
Freedom Relevant Conditions
Free Will
Action Theory
Responsibility and Reactive Attitudes

Joe Campbell

My tabs did not come through! In the top list, which was cut and pasted from your website, the top line was the main heading and the others were subheadings. In the bottom list, the top line is the main heading with the following subheadings: Epistemic Conditions, Freedom Relevant Conditions, Action Theory, and Responsibility and Reactive Attitudes. Free Will and Control are subsubheadings under Freedom Relevant Conditions.

Just a quick thought!

J.C. Berendzen

I think Gabriel's point above needs to be reconsidered. Including something like "German Romanticism" under 19th Century would provide a place for work on thinkers not already listed, without making the list of names unnecessarily large. I think it would similarly be good to include things like "(Husserlian) Phenomenology" or "Frankfurt School" under 20th Century Continental. With these categories, there would be a place for, say, a paper on Max Horkheimer, without requiring a too long a list of figures who clearly (but maybe unfortunately!) do not receive as much attention as the thinkers you have rightly listed.

And I am not sure that the "tricky issues" you mention in response to Gabriel are actual problems in these cases. The categories I have listed are very common, so there shouldn't really be much question about picking them, and they fit easily into one historical slot. This is, I suppose, because they are not thematic categories so much as names of sets of thinkers. And I think that "German Romanticism" could easily operate in the same way. Of course there are grey areas at the margins of these categories, but I think they are generally clear enough to be useful in your structure.

J.C. Berendzen

I see that I missed the second page of comments, so my thoughts are slightly redundant, sorry--although I still think it is a worthwhile issue...

Robbie Williams

Hi Dave, really nice project,

I'm wondering whether the vagueness taxonomy could be usefully reshaped a bit. At present its presented like this:

*Theories of Vagueness*
Contextual Theories of Vagueness
Degree-Theoretic Theories of Vagueness
Epistemic Theories of Vagueness
Incoherentism about Vagueness
Nihilism about Vagueness
Many-Valued Logic
Theories of Vagueness, Misc

*Vagueness, Misc*
Higher-Order Vagueness
Vague Objects*
Vagueness in Ethics and the Law

It seems to me that it's useful conceptually to divide "theories of vagueness" into logico-semantic accounts vs. accounts of the source/nature of vagueness. So epistemicism is an account of the source/nature of vagueness (vagueness is a matter of lack of knowledge with a distinctive source) that's potentially separable from the particular semantics that most epistemicists favour (i.e. classical logic and semantics). Some people want to be epistemicists in the context of a degree theoretic semantics, for example.

This distinction also disambiguates usefully. "Supervaluationism" is on one reading a specific proposal on the logic/semantics of vagueness/indeterminacy (drawing on a resource also used for e.g. future contingents, empty names etc), while on another reading it's used pretty interchangeably with "semantic indecision theories of vagueness", which might not be supervaluational at all at the level of logic/semantics.

I also wonder if it's worth expanding the misc category a bit on the model of the present "vagueness in ethics and law" to include further first-order debates where indeterminacy or vagueness is prominent, e.g. personal identity, future contingents, mereological composition.

("Vague objects" is a treacherous category, I reckon. Some people think of this as a matter of theorizing about the undoubted vagueness that we find in connection to medium sized dry goods tables and bodies; as well as with mountains and clouds (e.g. that it can be vague what things count as their parts). Others think of it as some kind of special metaphysical claim: not just linguistic items but *objects* can be vague. Others again take "vague objects" to label issues of whether it can be vague whether an object exists, (de re) vague when an object is identical to another, etc. Those three different kinds of approach seem to me to be quite different enterprises, so I wonder whether it's worth disambiguating them).

A caveat to all this: I take it that the taxonomy will be most useful if it reflects the way people actually carve up the domain, rather than how one might wish that they carved it up. It might be that what follows too much reflects my take on the latter....

*Theories of Vagueness (logic)*
Degree-Theoretic logic/semantics for Vagueness
Intuitionistic logic/semantics for Vagueness
Many-Valued logic/semantics for vagueness
Classical logic/semantics for Vagueness
Supervaluational logic/semantics for vagueness

*Theories of Vagueness (general)*
Contextual Theories of Vagueness
Incoherentism about Vagueness
Epistemicism about Vagueness
Nihilism about Vagueness
Metaphysical theories of Vagueness.
Semantic-indecision theories of Vagueness

*Vagueness/Indeterminacy, Misc*
Vagueness in Ethics and the Law
Vagueness and personal identity
Indeterminacy and theory change
Indeterminacy and future contingents
Vague Objects
Vague identity
Vague existence
Vague composition
Higher-Order Vagueness

The ones in the misc category might well need to be cross-categorized. Notice that I've also added some more final categories (esp. Intuitionistic approaches, Metaphysical theories of vagueness, Semantic indecision theories of vagueness, and quite a few under misc). They might be considered independently of recategorizing.

all best

Nick Doty

David (Bourget): I think you're quite right in wanting to allow cutting the pie in many ways at once. If users are to find the particular paper they're looking for (or browse for similar papers), it certainly seems useful to be able to follow whatever path makes most sense to them to get there.

But in that case, I wonder why you aren't encoding these separate cuts of the pie as explicitly orthogonal. Why not have completely separate trees for philosophical topic and place in philosophical history (and, if necessary, philosophical method or whatever other different cuts you had in mind) and categorize each paper in each of the trees? Having one monolithic tree doesn't seem to get across the cross-classification capacity you have in mind.

You might look into a faceted classification system, though you should allow cross-classification even within a single category (a paper's philosophical topic might include both the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of action, for example).


Chike: We're including only material available online for now.

Mikkel: Thanks for the suggestions. Yes, categories like intuition and memory crosscut epistemology of mind, and it seemed best to crosslist rather than divide. That occasionally means that a subcategory will fall under a not quite optimal primary area, but that won't matter much in practice. Perception is a source rather than a domain, as we're understanding those things (a domain is a subject matter). Much of the material you suggest for "reasoning and cognitive science" will fall under the existing "rationality and cognitive science" -- we'll see whether we need a separate category, but in any case we can do some crosslisting. Yes, each of the subcategories of philosophy of gender, race, and sexuality need extensive subdivision. I'm not really competent to do that, but I'm hoping that someone reading this will have suggestions!

Joe: Each subdivided category will have a "Misc" subcategory -- I've just been a bit inconsistent about listing these in the draft. The paper on responsibility that you mentioned would most naturaly go in such a subcategory.

JC: We'll include thematic historical categories on launch iff this discussion produces a well-supported appropriate list for every historical period. I'm doubtful that this will happen, so we'll probably leave this for discussion after launch.

Robbie: Thanks for the interesting thoughts on vagueness. My sense is that while your division may carve things at somewhat more philosophically natural joints, the carving is perhaps a little more sophisticated than is needed for our purposes. Our policy has been to go with relatively obvious categories that people will grasp easily (and also to go with sociologically standard categories), even when these sometimes run like with unlike. "Theories of X" is often such a category, running together theories of different sorts. I think that this allows easier classification and access, especially for nonexperts, and the downside isn't very big. We'll add some of the suggested subcategories, though in other cases, it may make sense to wait and see which have enough entries to warrant one. (That also applies in a few other cases, e.g. Mikkel's suggested subdivisions of Fallacies.)

Nick: To some extent we do have separate trees, with the historical tree and the subject-matter trees. Beyond this, while discussions of wholly different taxonomical schemes are interesting, they're only of abstract relevance as this point, as the basic shape of the scheme isn't going to be changed. For present purposes we're mainly interested in ways of refining the current scheme with categories and groupings, rather than changing the basic method. Others are more than welcome to come up with their own schemes, though!

Becko Copenhaver


I second Mike Jacovides' approach to the taxonomy of the history of philosophy.

Under 18th Century British philosophers, I have some minor figures you might add if you are interested.

Under 19th Century philosophy and 20th Century philosophy I can supply you with very detailed lists of Italian philosophy (think Croce, Gentile, etc.). Let me know and I'll help out.

Alan White

You're undertaking a nearly overwhelming task but what you have so far is very imperssive!

One suggestion I would have would be to include somewhere around the free will listings a category for Theories of Freedom. I have in mind Pettit's book as well as some work I've done on the topic (unpublished but presented at UW-Madison in 2005 and avaliable on the internet). My brief justification for this as held separate from free will theories is that it is a broader metaphysical inquiry that I believe can have positive results in terms of a model or schema of freedom that is compatible with more specific theories of free will but even skepticism about free will as well.


great project. quick note: under "Metaphysics of Spacetime", is it useful to have "Absolute Space" (and Time?) besides "Substantivalism"?


under Greek/Hellenistic Phil, you might want to add Platonic Academy / Middle Platonism
under Philosophy of Religion, i would prefer "Divine Attributes" instead of "Gods and their Properties". among these, you might add: Uniqueness, Divine Providence [/Foreknowledge and human Free Will]
also under Phil of Rel, you could add:
Arguments against Theism (The Argument from Evil*, Religion and Scientific Naturalism, Misc)
Arguments for Theism (Miracles*, Arguments from Consciousness, Teleological Arguments, Wager Arguments)
Phil of Rel / Topics: Religious Diversity (Inclusivism, Exclusivism, Pluralism) [seconding a previous post], Divine Providence*, Religion and Scientific Naturalism*

general question: do you plan to further branch below important philosophers (Aristotle's Metaphysics, same guy's suchandsuch) or do you want put relevant papers under a combination of 2 or more categories (Aristotle plus some Metaphysics-category)? where do you put papers that discuss characteristics / extensions / developments of a certain epoch / philosophical movement?

David Bourget

Nick, Dave: the multiple tree approach would be cleaner and more systematic, but it would introduce a lot of redundancy in the structure. I think the best way to regiment the simultaneous use of different sorting schemes would be to distinguish between the corresponding types of category, e.g. distinguish between a view/claim category and a figure category. Then under a category like metaphysics of mind, for example, we could separate the sub-categories which classify by figure, view/claim, and property/state from each other:

Metaphysics of mind


Propositional attitudes
Phenomenal states

The same could be done at every level when appropriate. This could potentially make the structure easier to assimilate and navigate. The added structure would also enable a finer control of cross-classification. For instance, we could allow an item to be in n view cats, m figure cats, and l state/property/entity cats, where n, m, and l are independently specified.

Another virtue of this way of doing things is that it happens to be fairly easy with our current implementation. We only need to add a type property to our categories and use it for sorting when listing them.

That said, we need to think more thoroughly about whether the gains are worth the cost, and it's not entirely clear what category types should be distinguished. I'm also worried about categories which cross different types..



What a great project! Just one point : it seems to me, from a continental point of view, that phenomenology is more important than a simple subtopic. It's rather a field (or at least an area).

PS : sorry for my poor english.

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