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A Dictionary of Philosophical Quotations Paperback – August 8, 1994

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Editorial Reviews


"Everybody should have a copy." Auberon Waugh, The Sunday Telegraph

"The spread of philosophers is huge - more than 330 jostle in the book ... I cannot think of any figure who is missing from this roll-call ... this is not really a book of quotations as we know it but something far more mighty." Literary Review

"The most surprising philosophers do come across. One gets a fair impression of Derrida, and the quotations from Adorno present a whole philosophy in brief digestible form." Times Literary Supplement

From the Back Cover

This dictionary is the first to anatomize the philosophical tradition and to show the thoughts, paradoxes, errors and breakthroughs that underlie human speculation. Organized alphabetically by philosopher, and comprehensively indexed by thought and concept, it enables readers to discover who said what, and what was said by whom. More than three hundred philosophers are represented, from Aristotle to Zeno, among them Aquinas, De Beauvoir, Einstein and Sartre, and the quotations range from short, cryptic phrases to lengthy statements.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (August 8, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0631194789
  • ISBN-13: 978-0631194781
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #952,699 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
In the course of competitive debate, there arises a need for quotations to support one's point of view. Reading the actual books and excerpting them takes far more time than is available, so summaries become necessary. This leaves one two options: quote dictionaries or 'beginner's guides.' the latter include few actual quotations, just the voice of some omniscient narrator stating his opinion. quote dictionaries have a diffeent failing: they are full of 'literary merit' and 'popular idiom', but they contain relatively few quotations of actual substance. this book is the answer. it is so well edited that i could follow the philosophers entire train of thought in his own words without parentheticals. it even includes an excellent index and is very modestly priced for a book of this magnitude. if you've ever had the desire to understand all the philosophers, great and obscure, in their own words, then reference them handily, this is the book for you.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Steven H Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on September 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
The idea to "compile a dictionary of philosophical quotations" originally came from famed analytic philosopher A.J. Ayer (e.g., Language, Truth and Logic), and he spent several months soliciting contributions from his philosophical colleagues (28 "major contributors" and 24 "other contributors"; weighted in favor of English analytic philosophers, which explains a certain "slant" in the selections, that other reviewers have noted) prior to his death in 1989. His literary executors obtained the services of writer Jane O'Grady to complete the project, and she did a fine job.

The selections are arranged alphabetically by author's last name (or ONLY name, as in "Epicurus"), and generally include all quotations from a single book in sequence, before moving on to another book. Book title, section, page number, and in some cases translator citations are given, so that one can look up the quote for oneself (a notable deficiency in most "Famous Quotes" collections).

This is not a "perfect" collection; some well-known quotations are omitted (e.g., Santayana's quote from Reason in Common Sense: The Life of Reason Volume 1 (v. 1), "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"); some worthy philosophers are virtually omitted (philosopher of science Imre Lakatos is limited to a single quotation), while some "questionable" figures are included (Gurdjieff and Ouspensky get a page each); and one can certainly question the relative amount of space given to some philosophers vis-à-vis others (e.g.
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Format: Paperback
Ever wondered what the main thoughts of many (or most) of western philosophy's brightest stars were? If you are thinking "yes!" - this might be the reference tool for you. A. J. Ayer was the brain behind this, but didn't start working on the book until very late in his life. Consequently he passed away before it was done, and the other editor, Jane O'Grady took over where he left off.

The premise is very simple. This dictionary provides insight into the major viewpoints, arguments, and beliefs of western philosophy's major and minor thinkers. It takes their most memorable quotes, or for example, filters out their major viewpoints on ontology, epistemology, etc. in a succinct way, so that the reader can get a glimpse into the heart of each person in a very minimal manner.

The book is structured alphabetically and more prominent thinkers obviously get greater space devoted to their thought. So, while some may disagree as to the spaces devoted to some, imho it's a pretty fair balance for the most part. I think if you're interested in studying philosophy this might be a good tool to have to get an insight into the western philosophical tradition. Though if you've never studied philosophy before, you might want to have a philosophy dictionary to understand the terms and arguments, as these are primary citations. If you're fluent with many or most of the people in the book it's likely a handy reference too to have.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By T. Kuch on March 9, 2014
Format: Paperback
Without any special comment by the editor, the philosopher (what?!) Michael Frayn is duly included in alphabetical order, just before Gottlob Frege. What this is, is Frayn's brilliant send-up of Wittgenstein's unique prose style. Here's a sample: "694. Someone says, with every sign of bewilderment (wrinkled forehead, widened eyes, an anxious set to the mouth): 'I do not know there is fog on the road unless it is accompanied by an illuminated sign saying "fog".'" -- and so on. The whole book is excellent, but the other entries are considerably more serious.
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By Peter B. on June 13, 2015
Format: Paperback
Many of the quotations are obscure,and frankly not very interesting. A random paragraph out of Kant or Mill isn't necessarily interesting. Some of the quotations made me scratch my head as to why they're in the book. What's so special about them? Nothing that I can see. I was expecting better.
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