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