Reflections on the bibliography collections and classifications

Until today, for the history of the writing of the history of philosophy, there have been primarily two attempts in Europe. The first attempt is by Lucien Braun and its history extends until Hegel. The second is initiated by Giovanni Santinello and it reaches the end of the 19th Century, whereby Russia is also included at the end. Since the 1980s, Franz Martin Wimmer of the University of Wien has expanded on the research for the history of the writing of the history of philosophy in a global perspective. This project, the “Histories of Philosophy in Global Perspective”, is in this tradition and attempts to develop Wimmer’s approach further.

The central part of the project consists in bringing the history of the writing of the history of philosophy up to the 21st Century in a global perspective and to investigate selected examples. To enable and to provide a framework for such a research, a comprehensive bibliographical collection in different languages will be gathered. The bibliographical collection in one language alone raises considerable descriptive and methodical questions. The material we collect are based on the decision that not only the European history of philosophy should be covered, but also all books from other traditions – we do limit the collection to the books – that either contain the words “history of philosophy” in the title, or suggest in some salient way the history of “thought” that can be considered a history of philosophy. Such distinctions are the basis for the development of classifications for the various histories of philosophies in German, English, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Turkish, etc. Such distinctions are moreover critically assessed in each of the languages. No such distinctions or classifications are pre-given; every classification carries its own advantage and disadvantage with respect to the material that is so classified. These problems are addressed critically in “Reflections on the Classifications” at the outset of each of the languages in the website.

The collection of bibliographic data is publicly available on the homepage; all the results are updated on a regular basis. This procedure has advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage is that the extensive material on the diverse fields and in diverse languages is immediately accessible. A disadvantage might be that not all areas of a language are immediately visible and a claim to completeness can never be made. We are working to maximize the advantages while improving on the disadvantages.

About Our Approach:

The starting point of our research project is comprehensive research on published "histories of philosophy" in all languages and from all periods and regions of the world. We assume that each language forms its own discourse for the historiography of philosophy, which in turn is interwoven with other languages. For this reason, the basic classification is made on the basis of languages and not on national borders. For the sake of clarity, the material in the respective languages has been further arranged according to centuries, continents, religions or teachings, peoples/nations, epochs and areas or also gender (for the assignment of women philosophers' histories). One focus of the material is on the 20th and 21st centuries.

On Classification:

A new category is created as soon as there are at least three works that can be assigned to it. Decisive for the allocation are essentially the title of the work and (if possible) a look at the table of contents.

Some classifications do not result from the titles or tables of contents, but only from the contents of the works. This is especially true for those languages and philosophical traditions in which the history of philosophy was written under different conceptions than in European languages, but in which a clear philosophical-historical understanding is nevertheless evident. This process is explained separately in the individual languages.

To the Category “European/Western Philosophy”

In the same vein, the assignment to the category European/Western philosophy may not be on the basis of the title. In the European languages there are very few books with the adjective 'European' or 'Western' in the title, but the term 'occidental' is somewhat more common. It is only recently that some titles indicate that this is a history of European philosophy. However, a look at the table of contents shows that books with general titles such as the History of Philosophy, the General History of Philosophy, a Handbook or an Outline of Philosophy, usually deal exclusively with European history of philosophy. This is a particularly good way to recognize stereotypes and prejudices of (European) historiography of philosophy, such as the assumption that a very specific regional history of philosophy represents the development of philosophy in general. In order to make such problems visible, we introduced the category European/Western Philosophy in order to classify works that do not go beyond the western horizon. Thus, this category is an important part of our project: it refers to our interest to go beyond the Eurocentric tradition of philosophical historiography and to focus on the plurality as well as the intertwined histories of philosophies. Histories of philosophy that transcend the European-Western or further regional traditions of philosophy are collected separately in the section "Global History of Philosophy in Different Languages".

In non-European languages such as Chinese or Japanese, on the other hand, terms such as 'Western', 'European' or even 'foreign' philosophy are used to describe the history of philosophy in Europe and North America - in contrast to their own history of philosophy. These classifications are explained in more detail in the individual languages.

Epochal Classifications

We have decided to assign epochs to the respective regions or countries. In this way, we want to make it clear that the division into Antiquity - Middle Ages - Renaissance - Modernity is a European form of periodization that cannot be easily generalized. In any case, these classifications of epochs are not uncontroversial, even in the European context. On the other hand, consideration had to be made for other forms of periodization, such as we find in Chinese and Japanese, among others.

Research Prospect

The titles in the sections reveal different emphases and research interests in the historiography of philosophy in the different languages, which will need to be further investigated.

We are aware of the fact that even our basic divisions have so far followed a rather classical pattern (spatial-geographical, temporal and systematic); we are constantly reflecting upon this issue. For this reason, our approach has a transformative, process-like character. In doing so, we always try to track down the blind spots in our own approach and bring them into focus. Thus, some of the classifications have already undergone multiple changes. The project is open for new discoveries as well as for criticism, and it sees itself as a historically productive process, which by its very nature cannot be completed.


Reflections on the differentiations within each of the languages (work in progress)


Ancient Greek