•  For one theme, list themes alphabetically, or explore the structure

•  For one philosopher, alphabetical or chronological list

•  For one text, alphabetical by author or chronological

•  To combine themes     •   To combine philosophers     •   To combine texts

•  For one idea, if you know the number, insert it here:


Beginners in philosophy should buy a dictionary of philosophy, then follow whatever looks interesting, without panicking if something is not understood. Try 'For one theme' to get an overview. From the philosophers, start with Plato (especially his 'Republic') and Descartes (especially his 'Meditations'). If you download 'all the ideas in brief form' from the 'download indexes' section, you can inspect all 10,000+ ideas (no need to print it - just save the pdf and browse it in Acrobat). Again, don't panic at the vast number; just pursue ones that look intriguing. You could also download the 'theme structure' index, to get a full picture of the subject, and decide what looks interesting.

New visitors who know some philosophy should try the three main approaches to the ideas, by picking a single theme, then picking a single philosopher, then picking a single text. Each approach will offer further choices about how to select or order the ideas. Be sure to expand the basic ideas, to see the full information that is available. Once the basic ways of accessing the ideas are understood, move on to the 'combine themes', 'combine philosophers' and 'combine texts' features. If you have a fairly wide knowledge of the subject, then downloading the 'theme structure' index should prove interesting and provocative. If you are fairly expert in some field, your help would be appreciated in pointing out key ideas or quotations which are missing.

You can save complex queries by setting Bookmark/Favourite for them. If you have a particular interest, examine the thematic structure to note all the themes that are relevant. Then construct a combination of those themes in the 'Combine Themes' option, display the ideas, and then set it as one of your Bookmarks/Favourites in your personal browser.

Text searches can be achieved through the browser. Display the area of philosophy you wish to search (e.g. all the ideas of one philosopher, such as Plato). Expand the ideas, to get the full text on the page. Then do Ctrl-F to bring up the Find Text box. Thus if you typed 'joints' into the box and searched, you would find Plato's famous remark about 'cutting nature at the joints'.

The accuracy of the full quotation cannot, I'm afraid, be fully relied on for academic purposes, because big ideas have often been shoe-horned into the 255 character space of the database's idea field. Shorter ideas are usually quoted exactly, and great effort has been made to give an accurate representation of each idea. Alas, you must return to the books if you want to be a real scholar. The website offers a shortcut to the important ideas.

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Ideas compiled by Dr Peter Gibson Implemented by Martin Berry
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