transmigration     forms

The Egyptian-Orphic concerns with the afterlife and Pythagoras’s mysticism led to a curious “wheel-of-fate” image representing reincarnation, a telos of the soul towards “the one”, and a commitment to a particular ascetic way of life. Socrates-Plato further differentiated the concept by separating soul from body and allowing the former to persist beyond corporeal existence for a time before returning (transmigrating and being later bound) to a body. In my conception (left), the soul is enlarged during life on earth via a way of living. In Plato’s world, this may be done by acquiring knowledge (“Ideas”) which are not from sensory impressions (that are distortions/illusions) but come from without (the mind/insight). This can be told in his “parable of the cave” but I render this by simply juxtaposing an ideal triangle (straight lines) to a perceived triangle (curves) (right).   


Plato’s utopia or ideal society was influenced by Lycurgus’s Sparta but can be broken down into 3 class systems (guardians, soldiers, commoners) with distinct virtues (wisdom, courage, temperance). I summarize each of them as follows: Wisdom is penetrating thought and insight. Courage is a firm center surrounded by uncertainty. Temperance is the rejection of extremes. 

forms and matter    essence

Plato’s protege, Aristotle tried to clean up (remove) much of the former’s mysticism out of his concepts. Our impression of things are now derived from how “form” shapes “matter” in a teleological manner (left: circle into triangle). The incompleteness of ideas have been concretized into the notion of “essence” or the observed qualities that a thing must possess to be classified as such (right: 3 sides make a triangle).


Aristotle’s politics were more practical than that of Plato’s Republic as he had enough sense to recognize power dynamics inherent in the tension between body (material) and soul (ideals). Here I signify the relations in terms of where power is concentrated (central v.s. egalitarian) and the form of the relation (material v.s. ethics).


Last, we have Aristotle’s syllogistic logic which I summarize in terms of venn-diagrams. See the concept map for more elaboration.





Fertility cults have always existed in agricultural cultures but the cult of Bacchus (later Orphism) had a little extra help in their celebrations; these guys symbolized intoxication into a literal experience of a divine union with the god of revelries (left). The Orphics, who were preoccupied with the afterlife (Egyptian influence) knew of this and nearly went in the completely opposite direction (enantiodromia), asserting that a pure (ascetic) life in Earth would bring one’s soul closer to Bacchus in death. This is arguably the source of the the Greek tension between passion and intellect. Pre-Socratic intellect raised the geometry of the Babylonians into form of scientism and tried to explain the material existence of being (right: irreducible elements); natural science had its roots in the concept of cosmic justice (Anaxmander) which explained how the elements were always kept in check.

flux and stasis

Abstracting from observed motion gave way to two schools of thought. Things were always in a state of flux and were always in a process of becoming something else (left). The harmony of opposites (e.g. point and line) produces say a circle. On the other hand, the things we state always refer to a pre-existing thing that have constant meaning and thus eternal (linguistic fallacy). Thus, our conceptions have always “existed” and nothing changes at all (right). Surely these propositions can’t later be synthesized (hint. Plato).


In the meantime, guys like Pythagoras lifted Orphic mysticism to new heights by fusing it with intellect. True knowledge, as spurned by revelation/intuition & deduction (see the elegant proof drawn above), divorced itself from the pragmatics and was embodied in the field that we now call Geometry. This form of “knowledge from without” will have large repercussions on Philosophy, ethics, and mathematics for the next two millennia.


Introducing Philosophy Maps

Philosophy, as a field of study from a modern lens, is the evolution of thought that has shaped how history is both recorded, interpreted, and organized. While thoughts are largely linguistic in their formulation and communication, many mental imagery and associations from symbols & graphic art to concept & mind maps are omitted. Perhaps these omissions are due to a cognitive bias of the individuals who partake in this field inquiry. Another possibility is that mere perception is inadequate to capture the various nuances of argument. Regardless, it may be useful for myself and others that thought be structured in a visual-intuitive manner for both future retention and understanding.

I will begin with Bertrand Russel’s The History of Philosophy as I find his work comprehensive in scope and well-organized into chronological schools of thoughts. For each reading, I’ll be producing concept maps (Xmind) and drawing any visual imagery that stirs the imagination.

Introducing Philosophy Maps