All roads lead to philosophy, on Wikipedia

Jeffrey Winter tests a hunch about links leading to philosophy on Wikipedia:

There was an idea floating around that continuously following the first link of any Wikipedia article will eventually lead to "Philosophy." This sounded like a reasonable assertion, one that makes a certain amount of sense in retrospect: any description of something will typically use more general terms. Following that idea will eventually lead… somewhere.

Winter's curiosity led to this simple mashup. Type in some terms in the search bar and see where those topics lead to. Lo and behold, they all reach philosophy somehow. The above was my own search for economy, poop, science, Forrest Gump, hamburger, and Chicago. Philosophy: the Kevin Bacon of Wikipedia.

[Xefer | Thanks, Nigel]

49 Comments

  • The more interesting observation may be that all roads to philosophy pass through mathematics (at least all the words I’ve tried – even “Sarah Palin” for some strange reason).

    • I was interested in what comes after Philosophy. As it turns out it is a endless loop between Philosophy, reason and rationality. I have not yet found a page which does not eventually lead to this loop.

      • something has changed in wikipedia in the last week. modern philosophy no longer leads to philosophy as shown in the diagram above. Instead, it links to western europe which, in turn, leads to a second endless loop between low context culture and high context culture.

    • paper towels doesn’t lead to math then philosophy

  • John Lucas June 8, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Backpack doesn’t…

  • Jeremy Miles June 8, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    12 links from Jeremy Clarkson to Philosophy.

  • This is the second form of this I have seen. The first has been floating around the internet for a while and it’s that you can get to the World War 2 article by any other article.

    In fact I would hazard a guess that you can reach any article (a) from any other article (b) inside Wikipedia.

    • Guido Thys June 9, 2011 at 12:02 am

      I agree. The essence of interconnectedness is that everything leads to everything else.
      If a search for “poop” leads to “philosophy”, then the reverse is also true.
      I suspect that any search eventually also leads to “poop”. But it would go too far to formulate the metaphysical conclusion that anything in the universe that is not founded on philosophy, is founded on poop.

      • ::If a search for “poop” leads to “philosophy”, then the reverse is also true.::

        Not quite – links work one direction: forward, and you will not always be able to link directly back to the page you came from.

        For example – Coca-cola links directly to Carbonation, but Carbonation doesn’t link to Coca-cola.

        However, it’s likely that if you strategically click through the links on a page, you can link virtually any 2 items on Wikipedia (and it’s pretty fun to race against a friend to see who can link 2 items first!).

  • Spice Girls, Paint & Spatula lead to Philosophy – but all of these continue on to ‘Reason’.
    “All Roads Lead To Reason” is much better. ;)

    Although – ‘Fraggle Rock’ defies you all.

  • again, xkcd got there first, alt text on:

    http://xkcd.com/903/

  • I think the point of the Kevin Bacon game is the constraint of 6 degrees. Otherwise, as in this case, you can follow any number of links so you’re really just saying that Wikipedia articles form a (huge) connected component of which Philosophy is (necessarily) a member. I think a more interesting search would be to figure out whether there are disconnected components.

    • It’s not just any link though. It’s the first link in each article. Otherwise, yeah, it wouldn’t be as meaningful.

    • Try telecommunications, as found on the linked site. Does anyone know of any more cycles?

  • So… it looks great and you can play around with it for hours. But does it really work? Take “telecommunications” for instance. The last page in the chain, the one that is supposed to link to philosophy is Title 13 of the United States Code – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Title_13_of_the_United_States_Code – the first link of which leads to United States Census. Which as far as I know is not a synonym of Philosophy. It seems that the script “connects” every page to Philosophy even if there is no connection. Or am I missing something here?

    • Winter points out in his post that there are still some bugs, and he uses telecommunications as an example. He says those are rare. It seems to work for other queries I’ve tried though – such as poop :).

      • Well, among the examples you mentioned only “economy” actually lead to philosophy, when I tried the script. The way it’s displayed it looks like all pages lead there, but if you actually click the link of the closest part of the chain you see that it simply isn’t so. On the other hand, I seem to get different paths that you got (for example, when I tried “hamburger”, the last page in the chain was about RJ Rummel)…

  • Robert M. Pirsig in his book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance wrote that everything in life is a single part of philosopy. Economy? is a small part of philosopy, Religion? just a small part of philosophy… Science? Depends on your philosopy! And so on… :)

  • So it’s not true. As mentioned by Jeffrey there are loops in the system. Take Physics and Natural Science for example. The first link in each is the other, which Jeffrey has coded to avoid.

  • Philosophy > Rational Argument (Reason) > Rationality > Philosophy

  • Fascinating! I love seeing online apps like this. Some really unexpected links between subjects, though. Searching for Peter Frampton gives:

    Peter Frampton > England > Country > Geographic > Geography > Earth > Planet > Orbit > Physics > Natural Science > Naturalism (philosophy) > Philosophy

  • Transport!!!!!!!! USE TRANSPORT!!!!!!!!

  • Starting with Paris Hilton got me stuck in a property and magnitude loop.

  • Ashtray doesn’t work.

  • NOT EVERYTHING! wet tshirt contest ends up in a male-gender loop (dont question)

  • Fraggle Rock >Spirituality>Reality>Philosophy. Bam!

  • Ashtray>Spain>Roman Catholicism>Western Civilization>Philosophy. Suck it!

  • Last one,
    Transport>Technology>Greek>Philosophy. BooYa!

  • An interesting component I found was to see how many links were required to get to philosophy. For instance shrimp toast requires 29 clicks. I’m sure this has implications for the meaning of life.

  • I’ve checked, and only pages that have red links first don’t lead to Philosophy. Scary.

  • Interestingly, it’s now broken for one of the examples (at least for the moment). I get: Academia -> Community -> Living -> Life -> Physical body -> Physics -> Natural science -> Branch_(academia) -> Academia, since community now goes to living, not to interacting.

    I suppose some people would say that cycling back on itself is an accurate representation of Academia.

  • Truth and Fact are endless loops with each other as well.

  • i have been at this since yesterday when i first heard about being able to do it, and absolutely nothing i have tried makes it to philosophy. I have even sat here and gone through what others have posted, and if you follow the rules (click the first word that is not italic or in parenthesis), there are places where people have clicked the 2nd or 3rd word listed that meets those requirements, not the 1st. And with Gary’s comment, everything I do ends up looping between Truth and Fact

  • Oddly enough, “Courtney Love” is a black hole.

  • thejonsays is doing it wrong… you don’t have to pick any link but the first… though dog and grey wolf loop

  • jdelaVerriere September 15, 2011 at 10:37 am

    America>CocaCola>cancer(Of the Brain) I have a one cell brain and its the best I can produce !!!!

  • diego rosende is a paradox and does not reach philosophy

  • Actually it does…

  • if it’s not working for you, the problem is you’re doing it wrong. remember to click on the FIRST, UN-ITALICISED, OUT-OF-PARENTHESIS, hyperlink. hope it helps. :D

  • What the guy above me said. EVERY topic links to philosophy and then ends in an endless loop there if you follow those rules. As far as I have been able to tell there is no other chain like this.

  • new year doesn’t!!!