- 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: 22 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #224,456 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Oxford Companion to Philosophy Paperback – August 31, 1995
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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.
"A first-rate book that belongs in every philosophy collection."--Library Journal
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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.