The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy (Oxford Quick Reference)

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9780192831347: The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy (Oxford Quick Reference)
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The Gambler's Fallacy, the Dirty Hands Argument, Pascal's Wager, Buridan's Ass, Wittgenstein's Beetle in the Box--philosophical terms can be both intriguing and baffling. Now, eminent philosopher Simon Blackburn offers the most authoritative and up-to-date dictionary of philosophy available in a single volume, packed with helpful information for the novice and with astute observations for the expert. Ranging from Aristotle to Zen, the two thousand plus entries cover the entire span of philosophy, from the Vedas (written over three thousand years ago) to the most recent technical terminology, with ample coverage of important themes from Chinese, Indian, Islamic, and Jewish philosophy.
Here are all the terms one would expect to find in a comprehensive dictionary of philosophy--idealism and empiricism, ethics and aesthetics, Epicureanism and Stoicism, deism and pantheism, liberalism and conservatism, existentialism and logical positivism, and much more. Blackburn also defines many terms and concepts not normally found in such reference works, including entries for apathy, Elis (the Greek city which passed a law exempting all philosophers from taxation), laughter, and the meaning of life, and he includes relevant terms from disciplines such as mathematics, physics, biology, artificial intelligence, and linguistics. In addition, there are capsule biographies of nearly five hundred individuals, from the pre-Socratics, to such major figures as Aquinas, Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Hobbes, Hegel, Kant, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche, to such contemporary figures as Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Richard Rorty, Simone de Beauvoir, and Luce Irigaray. Many more women appear here than in other philosophical dictionaries, ranging from Lady Anne Finch Conway, a 17th-century Quaker philosopher and an influence on Leibniz, to Hypatia, an important 4th-century Neoplatonist and mathematician of Alexandria, who was tortured and murdered by Christian Monks at the behest of the patriarch Cyril. And Blackburn also includes figures such as Einstein, Darwin, and Aesop. Finally, Blackburn interjects much of his own personality and wit into these entries. For instance, writing on Francis Bacon, he observes that Bacon's "legal philosophy was one of absolute duty to the sovereign, which cannot have hindered his rise to the position of Lord Chancellor." And he begins his entry on apathy with "Although it is the particular enemy of teachers and sports coaches, apathy often gets a good philosophical press, especially in ethical systems that regard desire and worldly interest as low and unworthy."
A survey of philosophy through the eyes of one of its leading practitioners, The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy is both a handy reference and an intriguing book in which to browse. It is an essential volume for anyone interested in philosophy.

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About the Author:


Simon Blackburn is Edna J. Koury Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina. He was a fellow and tutor at Pembroke College, Oxford University, from 1969 to 1990. He is the author of Spreading the Word and Essays in Quasi-Realism, and from 1984 to 1990, he was editor of the journal Mind.

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In his preface to the first edition, reprinted here, the author states that his "own interests and assessments are not always disguised." This is true of the second edition as well, providing such delicious morsels as, in the entry on Jacques Derrida, "Derrida's work . . . is not easily assimilated by people used to normal expressions of thought." Nevertheless, the vast majority of entries are admirably objective. Blackburn's preference is for--and expertise lies in--the branch of the Western philosophical tradition culminating in academic Anglo-American philosophy.

Although the book jacket claims this to be a "vastly expanded second edition, with over 500 new entries," there is no indication in the new preface or elsewhere what these new entries are. The page count has not altered significantly from the first edition. More than 500 of the new edition's more than 3,000 entries are biographical, including non-Western thinkers such as Confucius and Kitaro Nishida and nonphilosophers such as Dante and Freud. Among the terms covered are Apathy, Capitalism, Environmental ethics, Hedonism, Hatha-yoga, Taoism, Ontology, Self-deception, Turing machine, Vedanta, Whig view of history, and Welfare. Entries range in length from a sentence (e.g., Formal implication, Free variable) to nearly two pages (e.g., Kant, Immanuel). There is extensive cross-referencing within and between the lucid entries. Concluding the volume are an appendix of logical symbols and a chronology of important philosophical and other cultural dates.

The second edition's jacket quotes the Times Literary Supplement on the first edition: "the most comprehensive dictionary of philosophy in English." This is no longer true and was perhaps untrue even in 1996. In the last 10 years, a variety of excellent -single-author and multiple-author one-volume philosophical dictionaries, encyclopedias, and "companions" have become available (not to mention far more extensive print and Internet references). Each offers entries and viewpoints not found in any of the others so it makes good sense to have more than one. The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy is an excellent choice for public and academic libraries. Craig Bunch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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