Attempts to define Western society have taken many forms, but none more unique than the Dictionary of Ethics, Theology, and Society
. This highly ambitious work seeks to illustrate "aspects of what might be called the `Western mind'" in more than 250 entries. That it succeeds admirably is due in the main to the editors' decision to have their contributors approach their topics with an interdisciplinary focus. As such, the dictionary is of benefit to scholars in many fields.
The editors, senior academics in the field of theology, have drawn on 155 U.K. and U.S. experts to write essays on topics as varied as Catholicism, Experimentation, Family, Noise, Peace, Same-Sex Relations, and Usury. The essays comprising the definitions are more reminiscent of an encyclopedia than a dictionary. They are signed, and the reader may refer to the biographical "Notes on the Contributors" section at the beginning of the book. Also included with each entry is a bibliography of sources the author either used or recommends for further study. Where applicable within the essay, there are cross-references to other topics.
In keeping with the overall theme of the book, the essays detail the history of the topic and its relevance to modern thought and practice. The volume opens with the essay Abortion, and this sets the tone for the other entries: "Abortion demonstrates perhaps better than any other moral issue the impossibility of segregating `personal' from `social' ethics, morality from law, or religious from secular moral argument."
If the work has one weakness, it is the lack of a specific entry on Judaism. The editors have noted the relevance of the Judeo-Christian traditions on the development of the Western mind. The dictionary devotes many entries to various denominations of Christianity and to newer religious movements. Judaism is cited in these entries but seems to deserve an individual section.
This work is worth its price tag for its value in discussing current issues in a balanced tone without emotion or political rhetoric. It is a timely publication for use during the current election campaigns. The dictionary also gives the researcher a tool that, by virtue of its interdisciplinary approach, is an ideal companion to narrower sources such as the Encyclopedia of Ethics (Garland, 1992) or the Dictionary of Theology (Crossroad, 1981).
This highly ambitious work seeks to illustrate 'aspects of what might be called the Western mind' in more than 250 entries. That it succeeds admirably is due in the main to the editors' decision to have their contributors approach their topics with an interdisciplinary focus. As such, the dictionary is of benefit to scholars in many fields.Booklist, 7/96
This work is worth the price tag for its value in discussing current issues in a balanced tone without emotion or political rhetoric.Booklist, 7/96
This volume could answer many practical questions about life today. Congregational libraries called upon for information will find this a useful reference book.. Church and Synagogue Library Association Newsletter, 9/96
Boldly breaking fresh ground this is an important new book. Touching on theology, philosophy, sociology, politics, government and economics it will appeal to a diverse community of readers.... Purchase is strongly recommended for academic institutions serving humanities and social science students. Major public reference collections will also want a copy..Library Review Vol 45, No. 4, 4/96
The articles attempt to present information in a balanced manner, however explosive the religious, social, or ethical issue or concept....Choice, November 1996