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representing philosophy

Can We Represent Philosophy?

Imagine a canvas where the essence of philosophy comes to life through color and form. Here, we explore 12 of the most influential philosophical currents, each associated with three colors that embody their unique spirit and brief descriptions with key figures. These colors offer a visual representation of ideas that have shaped human understanding across centuries.


The view that knowledge arises from sensory experience and evidence.

Key Figures: Locke, Berkeley, Hume

Colors: Green (symbolizing nature and observation), Brown (representing groundedness and practicality), Yellow (denoting enlightenment and discovery).


A philosophical movement emphasizing individual freedom, choice, and subjective experience.

Key Figures: Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, Camus

Colors: Dark Blue (symbolizing the depths of human experience), Black (representing angst and the void), Red (denoting passion and the intensity of individual experience).


The doctrine that reality is fundamentally mental or immaterial.

Key Figures: Plato, Berkeley, Hegel

Colors: Purple (representing imagination and higher reality), Gold (symbolizing value and perfection), Light Blue (denoting contemplation and thoughtfulness).


A socio-political and economic theory advocating for a classless society and the abolition of private property.

Key Figures: Marx, Engels

Colors: Red (symbolizing revolution and change), Black (representing the struggle and historical materialism), Yellow (denoting hope and the vision of a classless society).


The belief that only physical matter exists and that all phenomena can be explained by material interactions.

Key Figures: Democritus, Epicurus, Marx

Colors: Brown (representing the physical and tangible world), Grey (symbolizing neutrality and matter), Green (denoting nature and the material basis of life).


The belief that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value.

Key Figures: Nietzsche

Colors: Black (representing the void and nothingness), Grey (symbolizing ambiguity and uncertainty), Dark Purple (denoting introspection and existential crisis).


The study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person perspective.

Key Figures: Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty

Colors: Light Blue (representing clarity of thought and introspection), White (symbolizing purity, openness, and the exploration of consciousness), Silver (denoting subtlety, reflection, and the intricate layers of subjective experience).


A broad movement skeptical of grand narratives and ideologies, emphasizing relativism and the fragmented nature of reality.

Key Figures: Lyotard, Baudrillard, Foucault

Colors: Pink (symbolizing the playful and subversive nature), Purple (representing complexity and multiplicity), Turquoise (denoting diversity and skepticism of grand narratives).


A critique of structuralism, emphasizing the instability of meaning and the fluidity of concepts.

Key Figures: Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze

Colors: Purple (representing complexity, depth, and the subversion of traditional structures), Black (symbolizing the critique and deconstruction of established norms and truths), Gold (denoting the exploration of diverse perspectives and the richness of multiple interpretations).


A philosophical tradition that assesses the truth of beliefs based on their practical consequences and utility.

Key Figures: Peirce, James, Dewey

Colors: Orange (symbolizing practicality and action), Green (representing growth and practical outcomes), Blue (denoting reason and clear thinking).


The belief that reason and logical analysis are the primary sources of knowledge and truth.

Key Figures: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz

Colors: Blue (representing logic and clarity), White (symbolizing purity of thought and truth), Silver (denoting precision and intellectual rigor).


An intellectual movement analyzing human culture and psychology through underlying structures, such as language and social systems.

Key Figures: Saussure, Levi-Strauss, Barthes

Colors: Grey (symbolizing structure and systems), Black (representing foundational elements and depth), Red (denoting the underlying forces and passion within structures).

Text by ChatGPT (GPT-4o), asked to “briefly explain 12 of the main philosophical currents,” and to “associate them with colors that could characterize them if we try to represent them.”

Images generated by Proteus (v0.2), with the prompt “a modern abstract painting representing XXX,” XXX being the name of each philosophical current.

These digital paintings can be collected as NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain (“pensive patterns“, collection of 60 unique NFTs)


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