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85 of 93 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a good introduction, but be wary of the assumptions, January 3, 2005
This review is from: The Oxford Companion to Philosophy (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. In the opening paragraph of this entry philosophy is defined as "thinking about thinking," which is congruent with the way that Oxford philosophers had attempted to define it, despite a tradition of over 2,000 years in which understanding the nature of reality--in all of its variated and complex manifestations--was viewed as the central philosophical problem pursued by the pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Kant and the British Empiricists to Hegel, Heidegger, Nietzsche and Sartre, representing an unbroken tradition of thought to this day.
Being aware of the subjective nature of a text such as this illustrates the truism that all texts are inherently and necessarily products of the minds that create them, and even texts that purport to be merely informational and introductory carry within them certain prescribed notions and ways of presenting knowledge, which can have serious ramifications on the understanding of the information presented itself. Thus, with this work, as it is with all philosophical texts, one should not merely accept the statements presented within as objectively true or valid, but use them as fertile points of departure for critical thinking, meditation and further investigation; that is where the true value of this work lies.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 12, 2007 9:40:26 PM PDT
Epops says:
Nice review, but do you have a suggestion as to what other handy reference might be better?

epops

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 30, 2007 12:35:03 AM PDT
M. Rao says:
"Being aware of the subjective nature of a text such as this illustrates the truism that all texts are inherently and necessarily products of the minds that create them"

I agree with you. It is very difficult if impossible to create a "textbook" of Philosophy, but this is a good one. You just have to be aware of the context of the writers, just as you suggested

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 6, 2007 9:51:07 PM PDT
Mr Grieves08 says:
Thanks, personally I prefer the Cambridge Companion series, which are available for most of the major philosophers. Featuring a selection of interpretive essays in each edition, these texts provide a much more in-depth treatment of a given philosophers work and major concepts from a variety of different viewpoints. The drawback to it is that these essays tend to be more complex and demanding of the reader. For a general reference I prefer the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 6, 2007 10:18:52 PM PDT
mrgrieves08 says:
Indeed, the concern I have with this work is that reference books are often viewed as more objective or epistemologically neutral by their readers, which requires a level of philosophical candor that is often lacking in this work.

Posted on Jun 11, 2009 2:17:23 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 11, 2009 2:30:28 PM PDT
Carter says:
The political onus of your definition of philosophy--"a tradition of over 2,000 years in which understanding the nature of reality--in all of its variated and complex manifestations--was viewed as the central philosophical problem pursued by the pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Kant and the British Empiricists to Hegel, Heidegger, Nietzsche and Sartre, representing an unbroken tradition of thought to this day"--is why the framers wisely inserted a Bill oif Rights into the US Constitution. Rabelais, Burton, Milton, Swift and Hawthorne neatly put the lie to your definition. Philosophy is thinking about thinking.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 24, 2011 9:43:33 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 24, 2011 9:44:08 PM PDT
I take it that you have an issue with the reviewer's mention of potential bias in the work, which highlights his own potential bias against logical positivism. The reviewer also states, though, that all works - and statements by extension, I imagine - should be assessed within the framework one justifiably considers most valid, given the appropriate evidence. Thus, one reader will find this work extremely and possibly wholly valuable, and another will find it only mostly valuable. I apologize for being so metaphilosophical, but I fail to see why such a broad academic discipline as philosophy cannot accommodate both "thinking about thinking" and "thinking about the nature of reality" analyses.
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