I'm trying to figure out a basic classification of philosophical beliefs or approaches.

For example, a philosopher can be "religious" (i.e. a deist or theist), an agnostic or a naturalist.

He or she can also be a realist or an idealist. Another option is empiricism vs. rationalism.

Under ethics, there's deontology vs consequentialism (e.g. utilitarianism).

Can anyone refer me to a general classification guide - text and/or diagram - that spells it out more thoroughly? I'm sure there are countless conflicts and subcategories and such a list might have limited use. But it could also help in figuring out some basic relationships.

There are plenty of Lists of Philosophies online, but I'd like to find something more concise, like a branching tree showing the relationships between various approaches, paradigms or whatever.

  • Jules Vuillemin, What are Philosophical Systems? Cambridge UP, 1986 ; it's a logical square with details and additions; see also his Nécessité ou Contingence. L’aporie de Diodore et les systèmes philosophiques, Paris, Minuit, 1984. An article (in French) about extending Vuillemin: Mélès B., * La classification cubique des systèmes philosophiques par J. Vuillemin*, Les Études philosophiques 2015/1 (n° 112), p.51 cairn.info/revue-les-etudes-philosophiques-2015-1-page-51.html – sand1 Nov 30 '19 at 17:42
  • Wow, I wish they'd convert books like these to epubs! – David Blomstrom Nov 30 '19 at 18:27
  • No as that is subject to a new classification and philosophy defines. – Eodnhoj7 Dec 1 '19 at 3:12
  • 1
    Are you saying philosophy's a moving target - it can't be mapped out because it's constantly changing? That makes some sense, but surely it doesn't change that fast. How long have realists been squaring off against idealists, theists against atheists? If a new chart/scheme has to be created every five years, so be it. How hard would that be? – David Blomstrom Dec 1 '19 at 4:07
  • The problem is that individual variation is so large that such charts are of little use. On specific issues loose labels like materialism/idealism/dualism, empiricism/rationalism, realism/nominalism/conceptualism or theism/atheism/agnosticism can be initially helpful, but not far beyond that. Vuillemin's classification is specific to his own structuralist historiography, and many of those he places would object to the placement, not to mention those who would reject his idea of "a priori classification" out of hand. – Conifold Dec 1 '19 at 7:06

Karl Jaspers in the introduction of his three volume work about The Greatest Philosophers presented some arguments about their grouping which he listed there:

Volume I
The Paradigmatic Individuals: Socrates. Buddha. Confucius. Jesus.
The Seminal Founders of Philosophical Thought: Plato. Augustine. Kant.
Metaphysicians coming from the origin: Anaximander. Heraclitus. Parmenides.–Plotinus.–Anselm. (Cusanus.)–Spinoza.–Laotse. Nagarjuna.

Volume II The Projective Metaphysicians
Piety Toward the World: Xenophanes. Empedocles. Democritus. Posidonius. Bruno.
Gnostic truth-dreamers: Origen. Böhme. Schelling.
Constructive heads: Hobbes. Leibniz. Fichte.

The Unsettlers : Probing Negators: Abelard. Descartes. Hume.
The Great Awakeners: Pascal. Lessing. Kierkegaard, Nietzsche.
The Edifices of the Creative Orderers: Aristotle. Aquinas. Hegel.

Volume III Philosophers
1. in poetry
: the Greek tragedians. Dante. Shakespeare. Goethe. Hölderlin. Dostoyevsky.
2. in research
: Natural sciences: Kepler. Galilei. Darwin. von Baer. Einstein.
Historians: Ranke. Burckhardt. Max Weber.
3. in political thought
: Machiavelli. More. Locke. Montesquieu. Burke. Tocqueville.
in political criticism as foundation of an uncritical utopia
: Rousseau. Marx.
4. in education and literary criticism
: Humanists: Cicero. Erasmus. Voltaire.
Education coming from its origin: Shaftesbury. Vico. Hamann. German idea of humanism: Herder. Schiller. Humboldt. Critics: Bacon. Bayle. Schopenhauer. Heine.
5. in wisdom of life
Transcendent shelteredness: Epictetus. Boethius.
Wisdom writers: Seneca. Chuang-Tse.
Calm without transcendence: Epicurus. Lucretius.
Skeptical independence: Montaigne.
6. in practice
Statesmen: Achenaton. Asoka. Marcus Aurelius. Frederic
the Great.Monks: St. Francis of Assisi.
Professionals: Hippocrates. Paracelsus.
7. in theology: Me-ti. Mencius.–St. Paul. Tertullian.–Malebranche. Berkeley.
8. in the teaching of philosophy: Proclus. Scotus Eriugena. Wolff. Erdmann.

Of course this is mostly a curiosity; no apparent logic but nevertheless 3 tiers and an idiosyncratic selection. In a similar vein Emmanuel Mounier for his Introduction aux Existentialismes produced a genetic tree with a no less curious selection of names (see here p.10). Anyway as philosophical examples such classifications are something really different from the taxonomies produced by various administrative offices.

  • Awesome! I can see why many people would consider such a project a waste of time or worse, but I think it could be a very helpful learning tool - and possibly even a research tool. – David Blomstrom Dec 3 '19 at 2:00

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