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The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy 2nd Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521637220
ISBN-10: 0521637228
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Editorial Reviews


"The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy is very comprehensive, thoroughly up-to-date, and probably the best short reference book in English on philosophy." Richard Rorty, University of Virginia

"The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy is a superb reference work that will help philosophers and non-philosophers alike to understand major figures and ideas in the history of philosophy. Superbly cross-referenced and meticulously edited it will also provide students and teachers with leads to follow, and guides for further reading and research." Edward Said, Columbia University

"Elegantly-written and thoughtfully compiled, the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy is an essential reference work for any humanist's library. An accessible digest of even the most complex ideas central to the Western philosophical tradition, the Dictionary is a remarkably useful introduction to the history of ideas and to the thinkers who have been so passionate about these ideas." Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

"The first edition of this comprehensive yet concise dictionary quickly established itself as one of the preeminent reference sources in the field. The second edition is significantly larger, including 400 new entries, many on non-Western and non-European philosophy. A noteworthy change from the first edition is the inclusion of some 50 entries on living philosophers, and much attention has been paid to rapidly developing fields such as bioethics and political philosophy. Many of the existing entries have been expanded (e.g., the entry "postmodern" is some 50 percent longer than in the previous edition). A collaborative work of truly international scope, the dictionary is both indispensable both for the range of subjects covered and for the lucidity of the writing." J. R. Luttrell, Princeton University

"Written with authority and comprehensiveness, The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy belongs in every philosophy reference collection." Reference Book Review

"It is sure to be a mainstay reference work for years to come. Highly recommended." The Readers Review

"Concise and readable but comprehensive in coverage..." S. P. Foster, Choice

"This is easily the best one-volume reference tool on philosophy that I have seen...I found articles on topics that I knew nothing about very helpful, succinct and clear; on those I am familiar with, the treatment was invariably excellent." Australasian Journal of Philosophy

"All in all, The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy is a remarkable achievement....it will prove to be extremely useful to teachers and students of philosophy." Ethics

"This is a must-buy volume, a standard reference work on which scholars will be relying for decades." Steve W. Lemke, The Theological Educator

Book Description

Widely acclaimed as the most authoritative and accessible one-volume dictionary available in English (and now with translations into Chinese, Korean, Russian, Italian, and Spanish underway) this second edition offers an even richer, more comprehensive, and more up-to-date survey of ideas and thinkers written by an international team of 436 contributors. This second edition includes the most comprehensive entries on major philosophers, 400 new entries including over 50 on preeminent contemporary philosophers, extensive coverage of rapidly developing fields such as the philosophy of mind and applied ethics, more entries on non-Western philosophy than any comparable volume, and increased coverage of Continental philosophy.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1039 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (September 28, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521637228
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521637220
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 2 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #242,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
By getting the second edition of the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy I believe to have achieved the best dictionary of this kind. But when I say "the best" I mean "the best there is" and not "the best there could be", since, apart from the enormous and useful information offered by this work, which is in no way comparable with others of the same kind that I have read or consulted, there are certain lacks that bothered me. In my opinion, there are three critics that can be opposed to the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. The first one is the preponderance of the information concerning modern Philosophy and Logic, which is not justified by the importance of the concepts or authors involved. For example, the article concerning the theory of "possible worlds" (which has really been given enough importance only in the last half of the XXth century) is longer than the article concerning Zeno's paradoxes. Also, minor philosophers and logicians of the XXth century are presented in distinct articles, while the presocratics (Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Zeno of Elea, Anaxagoras etc.) are all presented in one article and some of them didn't even get their name mentioned. The second critic is similar to the first one, but it concerns a certain part of non-modern Philosophy: the scholastic (medieval) one. The schools, authors, works and concepts of this age are presented partially or aren't presented at all.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
This is the best of the philosophy "dictionaries". Far from a bias toward the East or against the Continent, the CDP has one fairly obvious selection critieria. Anybody still alive doesn't get in. There is no Derrida, but there is also no Putnam, no Davidson, no Searle, no Rorty, no Habermas, and so on. Each of these philosophers are discussed in articles about particular ideas. They just don't have biographical entries. The only serious quarrel I have concerns the use of the word "dictionary". Many basic philosophical terms are omitted and the articles, though coherent, balanced and readable, are of encyclopedic length. Looks more like a small encyclopedia of philosophy to me.
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Format: Paperback
This is not a reference work for beginners. The "definitions" are densely written, by scholars too used to reading some dense writing themselves. It's quite possible this is a useful resource for those with at least moderate exposure to the field--as evidenced by the other reader reviews. But I would warn those looking for quick overviews and accessible summaries of difficult concepts to eschew this one. I'm an amateur, and I didn't find this helpful.
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Format: Paperback
Maybe it's just me, but I think that over the last 30 years there's been a dramatic improvement in the quality of short reference works in philosophy since I first studied it way back then. I had several of the classic one-volume books in the past, including some that are out of print now, such as Dagobert Runes's brief Dictionary of Philosophy (which wasn't exactly a "classic," but anyway, it was an enjoyable brief exposition nevertheless), but I think the ones that are available now are much better.

This book is certainly an example of that trend, considered by some to be the best in the field, and for good reason. The current edition sports a team of 440 contributors, with 400 new entries, including 50 on important contemporary philosophers. It also claims to have more entries on non- Western and non-European philosophy than an other comparable volume, including Arabic, Islamic, Japanese, Jewish, Korean, Latin American, and even African. I can't vouchsafe all of those claims, but certainly the coverage of Arabic and Islamic subjects is much more extensive than was the case in such reference works in the past. Another thing I liked is the coverage of modern logicians such as Quine and also philosophers of science, which was my main area of interest, is especially strong.

The entries range in length from a brief paragraph to an entire column (the pages are printed in two-column format), to several pages for important philosophers or key ideas in the history of philosophy. This book will appeal mostly to serious students and professionals seeking a brief refresher or discussion of whatever topic they're looking for, but the writing is often livelier than one might expect for a philosophy tome.
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Format: Paperback
The second edition of THE CAMBRIDGE DICTIONARY OF PHILOSOPHY corrects many of the deficiencies of the first edition, but many remain. Especially troublesome are lapses of historical awareness. For example, the entry ABDUCTION (which is available on this website) does not mention that the term was introduced into philosophy by the noted American logician C.S. Peirce (1839-1914}. Peirce used it in senses related to, but other than, that assigned to it by the entry. Another example occurs at the TYPE-TOKEN entry, which describes another contribution by Peirce. Here, thankfully, Peirce is given credit , but for something that he did not do and in fact for something that was done centuries earlier, perhaps before Socrates, namely distinguishing between a category and one of its members. Another troubling type of deficiency is a surprising lack of comprehensiveness. For example, the entry MATHEMATICAL ANALYSIS, after adequately describing this basic field of pure mathematics and mentioning its application to geometry known as "analytic geometry", fails to mention its other main mathematical application, its application to number theory known as "analytic number theory". Perhaps there will be a third edition in which these and other glaring shortcomings can be addressed. It must be said, however, in all fairness, that this is by far the best work of its kind known to this reviewer. It has been criticized for its "dense writing", which is like criticizing a watchdog for its ferocious-sounding bark.
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