Our Mission

Phylo explores the origins of contemporary philosophy by documenting relationships between individuals, institutions, and ideas of the past and present. By combining these data sources with user feedback and visual analytics, Phylo advances research, teaching, and policy decisions in the field. As a service to the philosophical community, Phylo also provides free information on professional opportunities and activities.

Our work is guided by these five principles:

  1. Defend open access People used to talk about the web being democratic and making information available to everyone. Now, more and more sites are locked down by subscription fees and other charges—especially scholarly tools. We aim to support the original promise of the internet as an open-access resource. That's why Phylo will stay free and open to all researchers.
  2. Explore context Many histories highlight big names and seminal works, but they only you half the story. To really tell the history of an idea, you need to know why it caught on while another died out, why this person working at this time with these people was able to come up with it and someone else wasn't. We think this need applies to everyone, not just historians. Phylo lets you explore context in ways that might make your research richer, even more accurate.
  3. Make the software do the work Think about the last time you searched some scholarly tool. How many tries did it take? Two? Three? Ten? Or maybe you just couldn't find the right keywords at all. A lot of current tools force users into the way they think. We believe there are better ways to interact with data. Phylo's visual approach is centered around networks and maps, timelines and places—everyday ideas we're all used to using. This puts the software to work in finding data, not you.
  4. Trust users Most research tools are controlled by a handful of people who decide what information belongs and where to get it. This guarantees information will grow slowly but accurately. We think there's a better way to expand and it starts with trusting users. We trust them, as experts in the field, to upload information on themselves and others. We also tell them the source for every piece of information in Phylo and trust them to judge for themselves how reliable that information is. This places responsibility back among the community of scholars.
  5. Start small, think big There's a tradeoff between a tool that's narrow and complete and a tool that's broad but gappy. The narrow tool does what it does really well, but it doesn't do very much. The broad tool does some really impressive things, but not all the time. We think there's a balance to strike here, and it starts with a core of relevant, verified data. It has to be immediately useful for a lot of research, but it doesn't have to be everything that's out there—after all, our users can help with that. This frees up our resources for the big picture: feeling out new kinds of data, finding flexible ways to represent it, discovering new uses for Phylo—in short, keeping the project alive and growing.