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November 06, 2008



Alan: Thanks. I'll add "theories of freedom" under "Freedom and Liberty" in social/political philosophy and crosslink from free will.

CAS: Thanks for all the useful suggestions. We'll certainly eventually have subdivisions under major philosophers such as Aristotle. For more minor philosophers we may not subdivide, but we'll still crosslist where possible under relevant subject areas. General papers on epochs and movements will go under a relevant "misc" area under that period for now. Once we have more categories for thematic groups in history they may be able to go there.

EL: Yes, I'm thinking that phenomenology will be one of the major areas in the Continental Philosophy field once we subdivide it, and we can also include it as a major area under philosophy of mind. Any tips as to what the other major areas under continental philosophy should be: German Idealism, Existentialism, Phenomenology, Critical Theory, Structuralism and Poststructuralism , ...?

We still desperately need help on areas such as social/political philosophy, philosophy of gender/race/sexuality, philosophy of the social sciences, and general philosophy of science. All thoughts there are welcome.

D. Auerbach

I'm not sure how fine-grained you want it, but you could add bi-modal logics.
Also (Philosophical) Implications of metamathematical results seems a good entry


Congrats for this great effort!

But let me share my critical thoughts on the classification structure currently adopted.

For a researcher in philosophy (as opposed to a historian), content-wise (or non-hierarchical ) index will be more useful. ( An associative structure will certainly make the indexing productive and revolutionary.

The revolutionary part is that you can do away with two clusters -History of Western Philosophy, Other Philosophical Traditions- from the five basic clusters. Integration of different systems of knowledge is the result. To mention, in classifying a paper on meaning or cognition the place and time of the author need not get priority over the content of the paper. So there is no need to have independent African/American/Arabian/Chinese/Indian/Tibetan/and what you have, philosophy sections.
Anyway, we do not have African biology/American chemistry /Arabian cognitive science/Chinese physics /Indian microbiology /Tibetan mathematics and the like. By assigning regional tag we indicate that that system of knowledge is dead which it is not.

A content-based, associative structure will make the classification system very useful and rewarding for philosophers. For instance, some ancient, non-western traditions take perception and cognition vastly different from the stand of mainstream cognitive science of our time. A system that aims intelligible access to the knowledge base must provide a way of integrating bits of information like the one just mentioned. Traditional classifications do not facilitate this association of knowledge.

Felipe De Brigard

Hi Dave:
Great project. My two cents:
1. Since under "consciousness" you have "consciousness and attention" and "consciousness and emotions" it seems natural to include one for "consciousness and memory". I am thinking of pieces along the line of Tulving's.
2. I don't know it I missed it but it seems to me there is no entry for "philosophy of neuroscience" (I have in mind papers on neuroscientific evidence, methodologies, explanation in neuroscience, etc.).

Chike Jeffers

I hope this will be obvious to most, but Sumesh's suggestion that the History of Western Philosophy and Other Philosophical Traditions categories be removed flies in the face of the way professional philosophy is normally done.

People get Ph.Ds, departments offer jobs, conferences organize panels, scholars search through literature... all based on the idea that it is possible to specialize in things like ancient Greek philosophy, German idealism, American pragmatism, Chinese philosophy, etc. I wonder if Sumesh is also against categories for work on specific thinkers: Plato, Hegel, Dewey, Mencius, etc. This would be a further flight from the reality of how philosophy is practiced.

Sumesh believes these flights from reality necessary to the "integration of different systems of knowledge"... but, of course, this is already possible through the commitment to cross-classification. So nothing at all would be gained from giving into this needlessly anti-sociohistorical approach to philosophical research.

Matt Lister

On The Nature of Law and Legal Systems you now have the following:
Interpretivist Theories
Legal Positivism
Natural Law Theory
Legal Realism
Mixed Theories
Nature of Law, Misc

I might sub-divide Legal Positivism into Hard/Exclusive Positivism and Soft/Inclusive Positivism. (I don't think this is necessary, but it's a distinction many people make.) I'd also add "Critical/Marxist" theories as a category. They don't get a ton of coverage in analytic jurisprudence but they have influence (for good or ill) in the larger legal theory world.

On British 19th Century philosophy I'd add T.H. Green. I think he's at least as important as Bradley, both at the time and in his lasting influence.

Marcin Miłkowski

It's really impressive! :)

You could add some non-personal categories under 20th Century Analytic Philosophy, such as Vienna Circle and Lvov-Warsaw School - lots of philosophers of personal minor importance but still influential as a whole.

You also miss a category for natural kinds in general (not only in biology), I think it should go under Philosophy of Language and Philosophy of Science.

Jean Kazez


One suggestion--don't put "Animal Ethics" under "Environmental Ethics." It doesn't make sense at all in relation to pets, farm animals, and the like. It might not even make sense in relation to wild animals, since they might have independent moral status like human beings do. (And nobody thinks "human ethics" is a subdivision of environmental ethics.)

I would make "Animal Ethics" a separate area under "Applied Ethics" on the same level as "Environmental Ethics" and avoid having the taxonomy take a stand on substantive questions.

Eric Schayer

Hi Dave,

One other thought on the taxonomy. You have many entries in the taxonomy regarding set theory and its role at the foundation of mathematics. My understanding is that sets are no more fundamental than certain other theoretical objects. For example a function can be used to define a set in the sense of a set-membership function. F(a, S) = 1 if a is in S; 0 otherwise. Hence definitional interdependence, so characteristic of physics, is also characteristic of mathematics. Moreover, functions involve the concept of temporality. If f(a) = b, then a exists in some sense prior to the application of the function, whereas b exists only afterwards. The mapping of a to b can be depicted with the ordered pair (another fundamental object) , which involves a left and a right member -- hence its spatial aspect. So not only are functions and ordered pairs definable interdependently, but they also entail a temporal and a spatial aspect, respectively. Compare this with matter and energy, which are also definable interdependently and involve a spatial and temporal aspect, respectively. Energy can be defined or measured by its ability to impart acceleration to matter, while mass (matter's measurable property) can be defined or measured by its inertial tendency to resist acceleration by energy. Matter exists in space, while energy is expended in time.

It makes sense to prefer a mathematics that most closely parallels our physics, to facilitate unification of these two domains, which already have an almost mysteriously close relationship. This would also open the door to possible unification with consciousness, which also includes space and time of a phenomenal variety. This all ultimately relates to your idea of information as a possible common link between consciousness and physics, because information is very mathematical (cf., Shannon). It makes sense for a taxonomy to reflect the underlying relationships. If the foregoing can be cast in a tripartite Platonic framework, then Platonism might be repositioned at a higher level in the taxonomy. Then again, as you point out, the taxonomy serves only to make a website easier to use.

Yet another thing occurs to me. I notice two closely related categories listed next to each other: 1) Temporal consciousness and 2) Consciousness of agency. I have argued elsewhere that the volitional component of consciousness is inherently temporal, whereas passive consciousness is not. A "snapshot" can be take of passive consciousness, whereas this cannot be done with active because of its temporal extension. This is true also of matter, of which a snapshot can be taken, but not energy, because it, too, is extended in time. This all relates to the idea that matter:energy:space:time = awareness:volition:phenomenalSpace:phenomenalTime. Finally, the relationship thus implied between time and agency is related to that between "Time and change," also in the taxonomy.

When I act as an agent, say, in throwing a baseball, I effect change. Whether change is effected by an agent, i.e., volitionally or not, energy is expended. Our physics holds energy to be expended in time, much as matter is located in space. More specifically, energy expenditures of finite duration correspond to an interval in time. In the limit as the expenditure occurs over a shorter and shorter interval, it defines a point in time. Additionally, a sequence of energy expenditures are arranged in time. This all applies whether the energy expenditures (i.e., change) are the product of an agent's effort (i.e., volitional) or not. Indeed, it is precisely the obscurity of this distinction that gives rise to the question of free will. For example, in withdrawing one's hand reflexively from a hot stove, is this a change effected as an agent, or as a nonvolitional reflex?

Because volition is part of consciousness, it is probably more reasonable to say it occurs in phenomenal time, and their relationship is closely akin to that between energy and physical time. Volitional impulses are both extended and arranged in phenomenal time. Hence phenomenal and physical time are the conscious and physical sides, respectively, of time in the same sense that a volitional impulse and associated energy expenditures are the conscious and physical sides, respectively, of one action. The question of whether the will is free hinges no more on whether a volitional impulse exists somehow independently of associated energy expenditures than on whether the phenomenal time in which the impulse is exerted is separate from the physical time where associated energy expenditures occur.

This relates to perception. Whether the world is external depends no more on whether a physical star, for example, is separate from the conscious image of it as on whether the physical space around the star is separate from the phenomenal space around its image. In this respect, the problem of free will is highly parallel to that of external realism, and the two may warrant cross-listing, if not merging into a single category -- despite the extreme novelty of this viewpoint. This all relates to your observations about the inter-relatedness of philosophical problems, as well as the function of philosophy being to clarify as much as to answer the questions.

I am very hopeful of the opportunity provided by a philosophical taxonomy to clarify the various problems and especially their interrelationships.

Thanks for the opportunity to comment.




Whaa? Where's Philosophy of the Zombie? Er, Philosophy of the Possible Worlds of Zombie

You shoula stuck to that MBA, or UNIX programming, whatever, Fraudmers

Leslie Wolf

I recommend that 'Relations' receive a distinct entry either under 'Property' or as a sub-category below that of 'Property'. There are several reasons for this; I will mention two. First, there are certain philosophical problems that arise for relations and not for properties even if one conceives of properties and relations as belonging to a common category (i.e., universal, attribute, etc). Second, I think that there may be reason to deny that properties and relations really do belong to a common category, despite current orthodoxy in metaphysics and mathematics.

Leslie Wolf

A few more suggestions. I would organize the entries under time as follows:

Growing Block

Two views that would fall under 'Other' that have been endorsed or at least taken seriously are the Moving Spotlight View and Kit Fine's Fragmentalism, though I am not sure that separate entries are required for these. One view that would fall under 'Other' that I am not sure has been defended in print is the Shrinking Block.
I think that there should be a separate entry for 'Category Theory' under 'Ontology'. Also, it seems that there is no entry for the determinable-determinate distinction, which could have an entry under 'Property'. (I am less certain whether there need be an entry for 'Maximality' under 'Property', but I thought I would mention it anyways.) Also, I would recommend an entry for 'fictional objects' under 'Abstract Objects', and I would also recommend an entry somewhere for the concrete-abstract distinction, if there isn't one already. Finally, I think that there may be reason to include a separate entry for 'explanation' unde 'Interlevel Metaphysics'--it doesn't seem to me that explanation should be subsumed under either 'reduction' or 'supervenience.' Perhaps a separate entry for 'definition/analysis' would also be worthwhile.

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