From Library Journal
Containing a third more entries than the earlier two-volume edition (1992), this work again covers moral philosophy as practiced primarily by Anglo-American philosophers but also discusses topics outside that tradition. It ranges over meta-ethics (e.g., objectivism, relativism, prescriptivism, rights, etc.), descriptive morality (e.g., a multiauthored 60,000-word historical survey of Western ethics, an account of Buddhist ethics, a sketch of the moral advice given by Marcus Aurelius), and conceptual analysis of morally significant concepts (e.g., free will, abortion, loyalty, etc.). Individual entries, which include updated bibliographies, range from about 550 to about 13,000 words, most being between 1000 and 4000 words. Both the subject index and the citation index contain many more useful references than found in the first edition. Articles on conceptual matters are of three types: the author's report of what various philosophers have said, his own analysis of the issues, and a mixture of those two types. The reports are consistently accurate (insofar as this reviewer is conversant in a given subject), but the quality of the analyses varies considerably. Though they are on the whole good, some entries are unlikely to help any reader understand the subject. There are imbalances too, e.g., about 1500 words on Felix Adler but only about 800 on R.M. Hare and 550 on C.I. Lewis. Neither Stuart Hampshire nor Nicholas Rescher gets an entry, whereas Ludwig Wittgenstein gets about 2000 words, seemingly because he was extremely important otherwise rather than because he said anything that influenced Anglo-American moral philosophy. Large libraries without the first edition of this work should buy the second, but libraries that have the first edition would do better to supplement it with the Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics (LJ 1/98. 4 vols.). Robert Hoffman, York Coll., CUNY
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Since the publication of the first edition of this work, in 1992, the number of general and specialized reference works in philosophy has significantly increased. Examples include two general works--Salem's three-volume Ethics (1994) and the Encyclopedia of Ethics (Facts On File, 1999), which serves as a basic introduction to the subject--and the more specialized four-volume Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics (Academic, 1998). Scholars, university students, and readers with a serious interest in ethical theory will be pleased to find that this second edition of the Encyclopedia of Ethics distinguishes itself in aim and coverage from these other works.
The coverage of ethical theory as pursued among English-speaking philosophers remains the scope of this set. Entries are listed in word-by-word alphabetical order. A list of entries gives a convenient overview of headwords and see references. A subject index provides a guide to subjects discussed in the text of the entries, including persons; and a citation index provides an author-by-author listing of writers, and some editors, cited in the bibliographies of all 581 entries.
In their introduction, the editors note that the second edition has been both revised and expanded by more than 30 percent. They also claim that almost all of the 435 entries from the first edition have been retained but that many have been substantially revised; "where appropriate and possible," bibliographies have also been updated. In this new edition more than 300 specialists are responsible for 581 signed entries, 150 of which are new. A list of contributors and editors provides brief biographical information about these individuals.
Although entries are consistently highly accessible and readable, a careful comparison of entries across editions reveals two principal shortcomings. First, revisions are not always "substantial"--even when substantial revision may have been warranted. The article Abortion is an example. Second, most bibliographies have not been updated. The bibliography accompanying the entry Academic freedom, for example, includes only one reference published in the 1980s and none from the 1990s. Likewise, the bibliography accompanying the entry Ethics in government has no references published in the 1990s. On the other hand, the entry on genocide has been updated to include mention of Bosnia and Rwanda, and the accompanying bibliography lists several resources published in the 1990s. The real value of this edition lies in the 150 new entries, among them Cheating, Gay ethics, Genetic engineering, Islamic ethics, Multiculturalism, Political correctness, and Racism, concepts of, to name just a few.
Is this encyclopedia an essential purchase? Yes, despite the shortcomings noted, especially for large public and academic libraries. Libraries that own the first edition will want to replace it with the second. RBB
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