Digital Maps of Spinoza’s Ethics

John Bagby, a PhD student in philosophy at Boston College, has created multiple visualizations of the argumentative structure of Spinoza’s Ethics and put them online for the philosophical community.

The visualizations allow readers to see and explore how different parts of the text are related to one another, in different ways. Here’s what the “grid by part” graph looks like as a whole:

You can click on one of the nodes, each representing a passage in the text, and see its connections with other passages:

The website includes a key the node numbers:

Which you can consult as you zoom in:

If you don’t care for the grids, there are other visualizations. Here’s a view of the “circle by part” format:

There’s even a “3D” version of the map which you can spin around and fly through. I found that one a bit unwieldy, but perhaps others more familiar with such visualizations will find it helpful.

The project was led by Mr. Bagby, supervised by associate professor of philosophy Jean-Luc Solère, with engineering by Calvin Morooney and Ben Shippee. It was funded by a couple of internal technology grants at Boston College.

It joins some similar works in the digital humanities, including, for example, a digitization of the “geometry” of Spinoza’s Ethicssome maps of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, a visualization of influence in the history of philosophy, a semantic network of the history of philosophy, and an explorable chart of philosophy based on PhilPapers’s taxonomy.

(via Greta Turnbull)

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Carson Grubaugh
5 years ago

In 2005 I mapped the first chapter of the Ethics onto a Cartesian plane, two letters at a time, connecting each point as I went with lines that alternated between cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. A totally useless process, of course, but I was chasing an idea about semantic destruction through syntactic transmutation , not doing digital humanities work.

Anyway, seeing this article brought back good memories, put a smile on my face, and the work being done by Mr. Bagby looks fantastic! I always loved the architectural nature of Spinoza and am so excited to be able to SEE it now. Bravo, sir!