The Open Syllabus Project (OSP) provides a novel empirical basis for understanding the dialogue between philosophical, religious, and scientific fields, based on analysis of the frequency with which works are taught. The OSP works by extracting citations, dates, locations and other information from a (growing) collection of over 1 million syllabi and by making that data available for analysis via online tools (http://explorer.opensyllabusproject.org/).
We are moving to focus on philosophical, religious, and scientific traditions because of some of the findings and challenges associated with our first round of work. The project provides a clear view of the importance of the western philosophical canon to a wide range of fields, to an extent that arguably belies concerns about the decline of teaching of the philosophical core. In contrast, most religious and scientific literature is absent from our dataset—in the first instance because we have difficulty identifying works without named authors (such as the Bible and the Talmud) and in the second because we have not yet integrated bibliographic catalogs that map scientific research. Both problems are solvable. Both will open up new lines of inquiry.
This proposal describes the next round of work on the OSP, focused on building the capabilities necessary to making it a powerful tool for understanding contact and influence between scientific, religious, and philosophical traditions as they are expressed through teaching. With improved tools and data, we will be able to provide a variety of ways of mapping and visualizing these intersections (for an example: http://explorer.opensyllabusproject.org/graph). Ultimately, we expect deeper insights to come from other researchers who can bring greater area expertise to bear. We are building a platform that can both satisfy lay interest in these questions and support that deeper inquiry into the progress of human knowledge.