Philosophy in Living Color

"Big ideas in simple shapes."

By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here

Philosophy can be heady. After all, it is made of thoughts and words rather than the material. How does one go about making the abstract actionable? For this reason, many are intimidated by philosophy, they can see no clear entry point — nothing to anchor them from floating away into an infinite expansion of puzzles within riddles.

Philographics is a project by Genis Carreras, a graphic designer with a love for philosophy. Just as Carreras's images bring clarity to previously invisible ideas, the need for a book like Philographics is clear. Carreras writes:

Philographics is conceived as a visual dictionary of philosophy, which depicts the world’s most important ‘isms’ using simple shapes and colour. The project merges the world of philosophy and graphic design, two areas that seem completely opposites: one is heavy and complex, the other eye-catchy and fast-consumed.


The book aims to be the starting point of deeper discussions about these theories, it’s a trigger of conversation to bring philosophy back to our daily lives. Thus, this book is not created to replace the more conventional philosophy books, but to work closely with them.

Visual and Literary Pairings

I have selected ten images that I found not only represented the most pertinent concepts for our time but also those I felt were the most visually interesting. They have been paired with quotes from some of the world's greatest thinkers. Let the visuals serve as food and the quotes as wine; an ideal pairing for digestion.


In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig writes:

How are you going to teach virtue if you teach the relativity of all ethical ideas? Virtue, if it implies anything at all, implies an ethical absolute. A person whose idea of what is proper varies from day to day can be admired for his broadmindedness, but not for his virtue.


In Ideology and Utopia, Karl Mannheim writes:

A modern theory of knowledge which takes account of the relational as distinct from the merely relative character of all historical knowledge must start with the assumption that there are spheres of thought in which it is impossible to conceive of absolute truth existing independently of the values and position of the subject and unrelated to the social context.


Animals have genes for altruism, and those genes have been selected in the evolution of many creatures because of the advantage they confer for the continuing survival of the species.


In Minima Moralia, Theodor W. Adorno writes:

The taboos that constitute a man’s intellectual stature, often sedimented experiences and unarticulated insights, always operate against inner impulses that he has learned to condemn, but which are so strong that only an unquestioning and unquestioned authority can hold them in check.


In our reasonings concerning matter of fact, there are all imaginable degrees of assurance, from the highest certainty to the lowest species of moral evidence. A wise man, therefore, proportions his belief to the evidence.


In On Immunity: An Inoculation, Eula Biss writes:

‘I know you’re on my side,’ an immunologist once remarked to me as we discussed the politics of vaccination. I did not agree with him, but only because I was uncomfortable with both sides, as I had seen them delineated. The debate over vaccination tends to be described with what the philosopher of science Donna Haraway would call ‘troubling dualisms.’ These dualisms pit science against nature, public against private, truth against imagination, self against other, thought against emotion, and man against woman.


In Wholeness and the Implicate Order, David Bohm writes:

If [man] thinks of the totality as constituted of independent fragments, then that is how his mind will tend to operate, but if he can include everything coherently and harmoniously in an overall whole that is undivided, unbroken, and without a border then his mind will tend to move in a similar way, and from this will flow an orderly action within the whole.


In Walden, Henry David Thoreau writes:

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.


In The Art of Life, Zygmunt Bauman writes:

Until now, neither the distinction between ‘worthy, since durable’ and ‘vain, since transient,’ nor the unbridgeable abyss separating the two, has disappeared for a moment from reflections on human happiness. Nonentity, the demeaning and humiliating insignificance of the individual bodily presence in the world by comparison with the unperturbed eternity of the world itself, has haunted philosophers (and non-philosophers, during their brief spells of falling into and staying in a philosophical mood) for more than two millennia. In the Middle Ages it was raised to the rank of the highest purpose and supreme concern of mortals, and deployed to promote spiritual values over the pleasures of the flesh — as well as to explain (and, hopefully argue away) the pain and misery of the brief earthly existence as a necessary and therefore welcome prelude to the endless bliss of the afterlife. It returned with the advent of the modern era in a new garb: that of the futility of individual interests and concerns, shown to be abominably short-lived, fleeting and vagrant when juxtaposed with the interests of ‘the social whole’ — the nation, the state, the cause.


In an interview that can be found in Stanley Kubrick: Interviews, Kubrick says:

The very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning. Children, of course, begin life with an untarnished sense of wonder, a capacity to experience total joy at something as simple as the greenness of a leaf; but as they grow older, the awareness of death and decay begins to impinge on their consciousness and subtly erode their joie de vivre, their idealism — and their assumption of immortality. As a child matures, he sees death and pain everywhere about him, and begins to lose faith in the ultimate goodness of man. But, if he’s reasonably strong — and lucky — he can emerge from this twilight of the soul into a rebirth of life’s elan. Both because of and in spite of his awareness of the meaninglessness of life, he can forge a fresh sense of purpose and affirmation. He may not recapture the same pure sense of wonder he was born with, but he can shape something far more enduring and sustaining. The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death — however mutable man may be able to make them — our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.

Philographics is an inspired work that must be owned — and experienced often.

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