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The Oxford Companion to Philosophy Paperback – August 31, 1995


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Editor Honderich sees this book not only as a reference work, but as "something more amiable than that. It diverts. It suits a Sunday morning." The Oxford Companion to Philosophy is an authoritative, alphabetically arranged encyclopedia. Honderich has assembled a distinguished roster of 240 contributors, including Isaiah Berlin, Anthony Kenny, Michael Dummett, Alasdair MacIntyre, W. V. Quine, and John Searle. Contributors and affiliations are listed in the front matter. The 1,931 signed entries are directed toward general readers fascinated with philosophy as well as philosophy students and professional philosophers.

Among the lengthiest entries (2,000 words or more) are those on the great philosophers of the past (Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, etc.), on the dozen or so major branches of philosophy (epistemology, metaphysics, logic), and on the most prominent "national" philosophies (American, Indian, Japanese). Shorter biographies focus on others prominent in the field, including some 150 contemporary philosophers. Rounding out the book are hundreds of articles on philosophical terms and dozens on national philosophies of lesser impact on the Anglo-American tradition (Croatian, Spanish, Swedish). Short bibliographies follow most entries. Three appendixes cover logical symbols used in this book, "maps" or family trees of various branches of philosophy, and a chronological table of philosophy. The index directs readers to related entries. Portraits of several dozen major philosophers are grouped by period or culture (medieval, French, Eastern).

The diversity of contributors has resulted in a wide variety of interesting, idiosyncratic articles. The one on the late Paul Feyerabend, for instance, begins "Austrian-American philosopher of science who argues for the abolition of his subject." Feyerabend, author of the article on the history of the philosophy of science, was thus a far-from-unbiased viewer of his own discipline. It might be argued that the various biases in The Oxford Companion somehow balance out in a way that a single-author work like Simon Blackburn's Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy [RBB Ja 15 95) cannot. Blackburn has more (2,500) but generally much shorter entries. A more apt comparison might be the venerable multivolume Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Macmillan, 1967), edited by Paul Edwards (a contributor to the present work). It boasts much longer articles but is necessarily silent on the last quarter-century of philosophy. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy is highly recommended for academic, public, and high-school libraries.

Review


"A first-rate book that belongs in every philosophy collection."--Library Journal


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1040 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (August 31, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198661320
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198661320
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 2.1 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #842,663 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Good job, Oxford Press.
E. M. Dale
I have found Oxford's Companion to Philosophy to be the most useful one volume guide to Western philosophy.
Richard L. King
This is only an occasional fault; most authors are clear, concise, and very informative.
Carl Skutsch

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 65 people found the following review helpful By E. M. Dale on February 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a tremendously helpful work. The work is written from the point of view of analytic philosophy, and thus tend to give short shrift to some thinkers in the continental stream. Still, the "fathers" of continental thought (Kant through Hegel, into Nietzche and Heidegger) are well represented and their philosophical works are amply dicussed and fairly treated. Overall, the articles are all that one might want from a "companion to philosophy" (and much of it is actually good reading) I frequently pull the beast (1000+ pages paperback) down from the shelf; that is the best thing I can say about it. You will not regret owning this book, no matter your philosophical bent. If you are a student, I cannot imagine how you have made it this far without it, one-stop encyclopedia can be great resources. Good job, Oxford Press.
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85 of 93 people found the following review helpful By mrgrieves08 on January 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
Although I agree that there is much valuable information in this work, it should also be noted that this reference work is an artifact and an outgrowth of the context from which it arose. Specifically, this work is the product of the type of philosophical inquiry promulgated by those who contributed to it (see partial list of contributors above), and thus, many of the entries found in this work can be traced to the now receding tradition of Oxford philosophy that rested on the foundations of logical positivism and linguistic analysis. Consequently, definitions such as the one for "synthetic a priori judgments" traced back to Kant are treated from a perspective endemic to analytic philosophy in which the concept is treated as if it were put forth as a proposition when, in reality, Kant made no such appeal to propositional values in and of themselves, but was concerned with the nature of human knowledge and reality itself. Being cognizant of the analytic bent of this reference reveals that the source of the error cited lies in the fundamental misunderstanding of philosophers enamored by linguistic analysis who imposed this interpretation on the work of Kant to support their own (philosophers such as J.L Austin, Wittgenstein, Gilbert Ryle and Geoffrey Warnock) common point of view.
Another telling example of the inherent philosophical bias presented in this work can be found in the definition of philosophy itself.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Richard L. King on April 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
I have found Oxford's Companion to Philosophy to be the most useful one volume guide to Western philosophy. I own and use the Routledge Concise Encyclopedia, the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, and Macmillan's eight volume Encyclopedia of Philosophy. However, the Oxford Companion to Philosophy is the book I now turn to first when I have a question regarding Western philosophy. Simply put: outstanding.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Dave P on July 28, 1998
Format: Paperback
This volume is a must-own for any enthusiast of the humanities, and immensely helpful for philosophy students and instructors. The articles cover topics mostly in Western philosophy (though fair treatment is given to non-Western thought), and are clear enough for the general reader to understand. Longer articles cover major thinkers and schools, while shorter articles treat topics ranging from the arcane to the absurd. My one complaint is its bias toward the Anglo-American idiom of philosophy. Though European thought is covered sufficiently, there is an irritating tendency (depending on the contributor) to not take the Continent as seriously. But all in all, this is the best volume of its kind that I have come across.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Michigan Rifleman on March 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is the best single volume philosophy reference in the English language. Any serious student of philosophy would benefit in using it. It has plenty of in-depth articles on major philosophers and major philosophical ideas. In addition the text has some pleasant quirks: articles are written with a point of view, some topics are off the wall (but fun). Any comparison with the new Routledge Concise Encyclopedia of Philosophy leaves the Routledge in the dust. I own and use both, but I greatly prefer my Companion. The major fault of the Oxford Companion is the less than full treatment of non-Western phil. Overall a very scholarly text.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jim Allen on December 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
I purchased this to have on-hand as a reference for my self-directed study of philosophy and am I glad I did. It's a great resource for comprehensive information on most of the major schools, thoughts, and practictioners in the science.
As good as it is, there are some odd fluctuations in the quality of the individual essays; some are too obfuscatory for their own good (and for mine). Still, it is my #1 resource for additional information when I'm reading other philosophy books and I highly recommend this for the serious student of philosophy.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By C. Gardner on June 15, 2003
Format: Paperback
If there's one volume on philosophy to own, it is this one. Its entries on the canonical philosophers are in-depth and first-rate distillations. All the most famous thought experiments are summarized, and many of the more esoteric philosophical concepts explained. It is heavy on logical concepts; indeed, there's a decided Anglo-American Analytic bent.
Which leads to my one problem with it. One thing for which the volume can be criticized is the lack of strong representation of contemporary Continental (post-structuralist or deconstructionist) thought. When it does appear, it is sometimes given a dressing-down of sorts. Thinkers like Foucault, Derrida, Jameson, Deleuze, Chomsky, Irigaray, etc. are given short shrift--and I myself am rather partisan to the analytic-pragmatic tradition, but I see no reason to virtually ignore these very important developments in critical fields.
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