The Open Peer Review Project has started!

Several participants to the DR2 Conference agreed to publish some short versions of the conference talks in the form of working papers. 

With the aim of maximizing the quality of the discussion and the dissemination of our works, we propose to set up a process of Open Peer Review.

The working papers will be published as separate posts at regular intervals on a twin blog, which you can easily reach starting from the main blog (see button on the right). On the twin blog, readers will be allowed to comment in the margins of the posts.

The working papers will move to this main blog after the review, and a new working paper will undergo the same process.

A final publication will collect the working papers, the results of the Open Peer Review and maybe those discussions that should deserve to be reproduced. The publication venue will be a special issue of the Journal of Interdisciplinary History of Ideas.

We are happy to announce that the first working paper – Mark Alfano (Delft University of Technology and Australian Catholic University), A semantic-network approach to the history of philosophy, or, What does  Nietzsche talk about when he talks about emotion? – has now been published at this link on the Open Peer Review blog. You are all are invited to read and comment on it.

You can find the instructions for commenting on the Oper Peer Review blog’s homepage.


Have you ever read an article that makes claims like, “Plato often talks about W” or “Kant typically associates X and Y” or “In his early work, Nietzsche seldom engages with Z”? I have. When I read these claims, I want to ask simple-minded questions like, “How often?” and, “What do you mean, ‘typically’?” and, “How seldom is seldom?” If these sorts of claims have any evidential value, it should be possible to verify or falsify them. Or — to turn the conditional around — if it’s not possible to verify or falsify them, then these sorts of claims have no evidential value.

As preparation for my in-progress book on Nietzsche’s moral psychology, I’m developing a methodology for quantifying, mapping, and analyzing the concepts used in philosophical corpora. My hope is that this methodology will make it possible to answer the simple-minded questions mentioned above, and that answering these questions systematically will lead to new insights. Furthermore, if my approach is on the right track, it should be fairly easy to retool it for the study of corpora by other philosophers, as well as corpus comparisons between (groups of) philosophers. [… continues at this link]

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A grant for the DR2 group

Good news for the DR2 Research Group!

We are pleased to announce that the DR2 research group has been awarded a grant by Fondazione CRT for the project REPOSUM.

The project is based on a public-private partnership and, in particular, on the collaboration between the DR2 research group (Guido Bonino, the project coordinator, Enrico Pasini and Paolo Tripodi), two computer scientists of the University of Turin (Daniele Radicioni and Alessandro Mazzei) and Synapta SRL (directed by Federico Morando).

The present project mainly deals with the history of contemporary Anglo-American philosophy. Taking into account the metadata of more than 20,000 PhD dissertations in philosophy defended in the US in the last 40 years, we have analyzed the keywords occurring in the abstracts, as well as the geographical distribution and chronology of the theses. In particular, we have focused on the relationship between the subject of the theses and the future academic success of the PhD candidates. So far this work has been carried out by applying relatively unsophisticated procedures.

The development of this work, however, requires for the future the use of (at least partly) automated procedures, which are not available yet. By collaborating with Synapta, the DR2 group aims to create such tools. Of course, the creation of the digital tools does not start from scratch, as it is possible to integrate open source solutions, developed for other applications and other domains, and use Linked Open Data protocols. The tools will also be tested on a different corpus – consisting of Italian PhD theses in philosophy – provided by the Central National Library of Rome.

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Two job openings at the ILLC

Two job openings at the ILLC (Institute of Logic, Language and Computation) University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, in my VICI project on creating a computational history of ideas (2017-2021):
PhD student in History and Philosophy of Logic and Mathematics (Bolzano)

Postdoctoral researcher in History and Philosophy of Logic and Mathematics (Frege)

DEADLINE Sep 14, 2017

Great environment, great city, nice people.

Any help with spreading the ad is much appreciated!

Arianna Betti


Professor and Chair of Philosophy of Language, University of Amsterdam (ILLC) | VICI, ERC PoC & St Grantee | ex-De Jonge Akademie of the KNAW & Global Young Academy  | AcademiaNet
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DR2 Conference: a not too late report

As is well known, in the last twenty years Franco Moretti’s distant reading approach has provided a fresh under­standing of literature and its historical development. The first DR2 Conference, held at the University of Turin (Italy) on January 16-18 and organized by Guido Bonino, Enrico Pasini and Paolo Tripodi, was based on the conviction that it is now time to apply distant reading and other related techniques to the history of philosophy, the history of ideas and the history of scientific thought.
At the conference several scholars from different countries met together for the first time to discuss such topics.

Franco Moretti

Moretti (Stanford University, Literary Lab) participated to the conference by sending a paper on Patterns and Interpretation and by discussing it and answering questions via Skype.

Franco Moretti

Gino Roncaglia (University of Viterbo) talked about Two lessons from big data: what we have, and how to use it.

Gino Roncaglia

Peter de Bolla and John Regan (University of Cambridge, Concept Lab) gave a talk on  What distributional concept analysis tells us about the philosophical concept of ‘negative liberty’: a case study in the shadow of Quentin Skinner.

Peter de Bolla and John Regan

The second day of the conference Justin Smith (Paris Diderot University) talked about Distant reading and the geography of early modern philosophy.

Justin Smith

Arianna Betti (University of Amsterdam) presented a paper about Creating a computational history of ideas.

Arianna Betti

On the second day, in the morning, the conference was divided into two parallel sessions. In the Workshop on late analytic philosophy three contributions were presented and discussed:

Academic success in America: Wittgenstein and analytic philosophy by Guido Bonino and Paolo Tripodi (University of Turin) – discussant: Roberto Gronda (Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa)
Reading Wittgenstein between the texts by Marco Santoro (University of Bologna), together with Emanuela Riviera and Massimo Airoldi (University of Milan);
Logic as discipline and logic as an instrument: a distant reading approach by Guido Bonino, Paolo Maffezioli, and Paolo Tripodi (University of Turin).

The second parallel session was the LCA project technical workshop, coordinated by Roberto Palaia (Istituto per il Lessico Intellettuale Europeo, Rome), Enrico Pasini (University of Turin), and Anne-Lise Rey (Université Lille 1 – Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton), and dedicated to G.W. Leibniz’s correspondents and acquaintances. Intellectual networks, themes, individuals. Matteo Favaretti (University of Venice, Ca’ Foscari), Federico Morando (Synapta srl), Margherita Palumbo, Miguel Palomo (University of Sevilla), Federico Silvestri (University of Turin) participated to the workshop.

The conference went on with several other talks:

Mark Alfano (Delft University of Technology), A schooling in contempt: emotions and the pathos of distance.

Stefan Hessbrüggen-Walter, Frank Fischer (National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow), Grepping Aquinas: reading from the middle distance.

Eugenio Petrovich, Emiliano Tolusso (University of Milan) Exploring knowledge dynamics in the humanities. A science-mapping approach to the history of contemporary analytic philosophy and human geography.

Christoph Schmidt-Petri, Klemens Böhm, Michael Schefczyk, Martin Schäler, Jens Willkomm (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology), Catching concepts with Koselleck: how Google can help.

Mikko Tolonen, Ville Vaara, Hege Roivainen, Antti Kanner, Vili Läkteenmäki  (University of Helsinki) Eetu Mäkelä (Aalto University), Leo Lahti (University of Turku), Eighteenth-century British philosophy: a text- and data-mining workflow.

Barbara Grüning (University of Bologna), The uncertain canonization of a consecrated thinker: Hannah Arendt in Germany and in Italy.

Marek Debnár (Constantine the Philosopher University, Nitra) Philosophical and ethical terms in the Slovak National Corpus.


It seems to us that in the discussion three main general issues emerged as being of critical importance. The first concerns the peculiarity of philosophy as a subject matter for distant reading. In the study of literature, Moretti tries to recover the social that is implicit in individual works by investigating literary form. Forms, according to Moretti, are a privileged place where such a social aspect can be detected and somehow measured. Now the question is: is there something that plays an analogous role for the study of philosophy? Maybe the hidden premisses of arguments? But how is it possible to find out hidden premisses from a distant perspective?

The second issue on which many participants agreed is the crucial importance of corpora, for many different reasons. At this stage, in most cases people willing to apply distant reading techniques to philosophical texts need to build, rather than find, their own corpora. Building a corpus involves many practical problems (e.g., the recognition of non-standard texts by OCR, the heterogeneity of metadata coming from different sources, etc.) and requires a high degree of methodological awareness (for not only questions but often answers as well are implicit in the way in which a corpus is built). One of the most urgent tasks of the distant reading philosophical community in the next years will probably be that of collecting and organizing reliable textual corpora.

The third issue is the existence of a sort of divide between those scholars who primarily aim at finding answers to historical-philosophical questions, with the aid of whatever tools are available, even primitive and digitally unsophisticated ones, and on the other hand those who are more interested in developing more refined digital tools, sometimes with little attention for actual results in the historical-philosophical field. The progress of distant reading in the history of philosophy partly depends on a better mutual understanding of these two groups.


During the conference there was also time for moments of inspiration,


and relax.

The conference was hosted in the beautiful venue of the iQOS embassy at the Pingone house, via Porta Palatina 23/B Torino.

Casa del Pingone


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