A Short, Visual, Introduction to (Academic) “PHILOSOPHY”

The word “philosophy” comes from the Greek: Philo + sophia = LOVE OF WISDOM.

Oh yeah? Not these days. These days, academic philosophers compartmentalize. Yep! Gotta be one thing or another. So here goes.

Hmmm. Which label do I slap on myself? Kind of a mix . . . of skepticism (what’s real?), relativism (it’s all real), holism (it’s all connected); definitely not authoritarianism (except for this authoritarian tone), absolutism (kinda the same thing), empiricism (five outer senses way too limited in what they can “pick up”), determinism (how silly, how limited, to think that time (and causality) are confined to linear chains), positivism (reminds me of empiricism, except that it pretends to also leap from “sense data” to supposedly scientific (scientificist, scientificick!) theories via that perpendicular line); hmmmm . . . what’s left? Oh yeah, solipsism! I’m definitely a solipsist. Aren’t you? Oops. Can’t say that. I don’t even know if you exist. Okay, then I’m a stoic. I give up. Might as well. What’s left? Oh yeah, humanism. But that’s so nice and mushy and wishy-washy! I’m all for clear, hard, precise ideas that come from representations of “truth” (oops, “truthiness”) via “facts” (nope, factoids) that I link together via logic in my “mind.” Mind? Whose mind? It’s all one!

This list is just not believable. Oops, I mean “credible.” A word that came of age, along with “spin,” on tell-lie-vision.

A Visual Dictionary of Philosophy: Major Schools of Thought in Minimalist Geometric Graphics

April 4, 2014



A charming exercise in metaphorical thinking and symbolic representation.

Rodin believed that his art was about removing the stone not part of the sculpture to reveal the essence of his artistic vision. Perhaps this is what Catalan-born, London-based graphic designer Genis Carreras implicitly intended in chiseling away the proverbial philosopher’s stone to sculpt its minimalist essence. Many moons ago, I discovered with great delight Carreras’s series of geometric graphics explaining major movements in philosophyand now, with the help of Kickstarter, the project has come to new life in book form. Philographics: Big Ideas in Simple Shapes (public library | IndieBound) is a vibrant visual dictionary of philosophy, enlisting the telegraphic powers of design in distilling the essential principles of 95 schools of thought into visual metaphors and symbolic representation.

SkepticismTrue knowledge or certainty in a particular area is impossible. Skeptics have an attitude of doubt or a disposition of incredulity either in general or toward a particular object.

The skeptics (in the colloquial sense of the word, although its roots are, fittingly, philosophical) should remember that rather than an exercise in reckless reductionism seeking to dumb down some of humanity’s most complex ideas, the project is instead a playful and thoughtful celebration of symbolic and metaphorical thinking — that distinctly human faculty that is the hallmark of our imagination. Perhaps most importantly, these minimalist graphics are designed to tickle our curiosity and spark deeper interest in influential theories of human nature and human purpose that those of us not formally trained in philosophy may not have previously been inspired to explore.

Carreras writes:

The visuals [are] open to different interpretations, allowing the reader to draw their path to connect the idea behind each theory with its form. This plurality reflects all the different theories to see and understand the world that are compiled [in] this book.

The book aims to be the starting point of deeper discussion about these theories; it’s a trigger of conversation to bring philosophy back to our daily lives.

RelativismPoints of view have no absolute truth or validity, having only relative, subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration. Principles and ethics are regarded as applicable in only limited context.
AbsolutismAn absolute truth is always correct under any condition. An entity’s ability to discern these things is irrelevant to that state of truth. Universal facts can be discovered. It is opposed to relativism, which claims that there is not an unique truth.
StoicismThe principle that emotional and physical self-control leads to inner peace and strength, allowing one to live a happier life.
PositivismThe only authentic knowledge is that which is based on sense, experience and positive verification. Scientific method is the best process for uncovering the processes by which both physical and human events occur.
EmpiricismKnowledge arises from evidence gathered via sense experience. Empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence, especially sensory perception, in the formation of ideas, over the notion of innate ideas or tradition.
HumanismHuman beings can lead happy and functional lives, and are capable of being ethical and moral without religion or dogma. Life stance emphasized the unique responsibility facing humanity and the ethical consequences of human decisions.
HolismThe properties of a given system cannot be determined or explained by its parts alone. Instead, the system as a whole determines in an important way how the parts behave.
AuthoritarianismSubmission to authority and opposed to individualism and democracy. An authoritarian government is one in which political power is concentrated in a leader who possesses exclusive, unaccountable, and arbitrary power.
DeterminismEvents within a given paradigm are bound by causality in such a way that any state of an object or event is determined by prior states. Every type of event, including human cognition (behavior, decision, and action) is causally determined by previous events.
SolipsismKnowledge of anything outside one’s own specific mind is unjustified. The external world and other minds cannot be known and might not exist.
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3 Responses to A Short, Visual, Introduction to (Academic) “PHILOSOPHY”

  1. Wendy Lochner says:

    Oops! Forgot all the continental schools (postmodernism, structuralism, etc.), not to mention the various Asian schools…

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