Google’s Ngram Viewer Will Settle All of Your Philosophy Pissing Contests

Settling academic pissing matches is one of the most pressing matters of our day. After all, are you on Team Edward Chomsky or Team Zizek?

We’ve looked into this sort of dispute before by utilizing Google auto-complete. Another technique, which measures author citations, declared Marx to be the most influential scholar of all time.

Google’s Ngram viewer is different all together. It displays the frequency of a word or phrase as a percentage of all equivalent “ngrams.” So, searching for a bi-gram (consisting of two words, e.g., Karl Marx) will return the frequency of that bi-gram in relation to all bi-grams in Google’s database of books.  Google’s Ngram viewer maps these trends over time, so you can find historical usage of terms and phrases.

Of course, we decided to use Google Ngram to decide when and how philosophers came to be more popular than others. Here’s what we learned.

Do you have any interesting Ngram finds? Post them in the comments.

1989 was the exact year Foucault became more popular than Sartre in English, it would take him another year to surpass Heidegger

This occurred five years after Foucault’s death and 3 years after the English publication of the third volume of The History of Sexuality.

  • David Sarokin

    There should be more comments here…this is interesting stuff. I used Google’s Ngram viewer and an ngram database called COCA (corpus of contemporary American English) to figure out the most popular phrases in the English language. Or at least, the most popular according to an analysis of 4-grams and 5-grams. The second most popular phrase in American English is “at the same time”. Can you guess what most popular phrase is? The answer is in this article, “What is the Most Common Phrase in the English Language?”
    http://quezi.com/19775

  • Michael Jablonski

    When did heidegger ever de-nazify???????

  • Davinci

    This is very interesting! an how to tutorials?