The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy (Oxford Quick Reference)

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9780199541430: The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy (Oxford Quick Reference)

The Gambler's Fallacy, the Dirty Hands Argument, Pascal's Wager--philosophical terms can be both intriguing and baffling. Now, eminent philosopher Simon Blackburn offers the most authoritative and up-to-date dictionary of philosophy available in a single volume. Ranging from Aristotle to Zen, the two thousand plus entries cover the entire span of philosophy, from the Vedas (written over three thousand years ago) to the most recent technical terminology, with ample coverage of important themes from Chinese, Indian, Islamic, and Jewish philosophy. Here are all the terms one would expect to find in a comprehensive dictionary of philosophy--idealism and empiricism, ethics and aesthetics, Epicureanism and Stoicism, existentialism and logical positivism, and much more. Blackburn also defines many concepts not normally found in such reference works, including entries for apathy, laughter, and the meaning of life, and he includes relevant terms from disciplines such as mathematics, physics, biology, artificial intelligence, and linguistics. In addition, there are capsule biographies of nearly five hundred individuals, from the pre-Socratics to such contemporary figures as Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Richard Rorty, and Simone de Beauvoir.

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About the Author:


Simon Blackburn is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. He was a Fellow and Tutor at Pembroke College, Oxford from 1969 to 1990. Best-selling author of Being Good: A Short Introduction to Ethics, and Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy, he also edited the journal Mind from 1984 to 1990.

From Booklist:

Blackburn designed The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy "as a playground for browsers and a resource for anyone interested in general intellectual movements, as well as a simple work of reference." He was editor of the journal Mind from 1984 through 1990 and is currently a distinguished professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina. He is author of Essays in Quasi-Realism (1993) and Spreading the Word: Groundings in the Philosophy of Language (1984). Blackburn operates in the Anglo-American analytic philosophical tradition, as opposed to the existentialist or phenomenological traditions of Europe.

The work is a distinctly personal one, though Blackburn's assessments of philosophical positions and discussions are objective and expository in tone. For example, of Immanuel Kant, he states, "his place as the greatest philosopher of the last 300 years is well assured.. . . [w]hilst his confidence in the a priori and the structure of his idealism have been widely rejected, it is not too much to say that all modern epistemology, metaphysics, and even ethics, is implicitly affected by the architecture he created."

The nearly 3,000 entries cover a wide variety of topics. Biographical entries include Aquinas, Russell, Isaiah Berlin, Michel Foucault, Darwin, and Keynes. While philosophers such as Plato and Nietzsche receive a page or more of treatment, those included for a peripheral contribution to philosophy, such as Keynes or Einstein, receive about half a column. Other entries run from a few lines to a page in length. Topics range back to the beginnings of Western and Eastern philosophy and across fields to discuss philosophical insights or approaches to economics, love, dreams, biology, and so forth. Yet the bulk of the dictionary consists of concise, focused definitions of terms used by analytic philosophers and philosophy students: falsifiability, protocol statements, liar paradox, subjectivism/objectivism, and prisoners' dilemma. Blackburn writes in an interesting and easy-to-follow style. He has made liberal use of cross-references (marked by asterisks within the text) and see and see also references at the end of entries. Some entries include bits of symbolic logic; a two-page appendix defines most of the symbols used.

This book is the most recent dictionary of philosophy. Dagobert Runes edited numerous editions of his Dictionary of Philosophy between 1942 and 1984 (Littlefield). Antony Flew's Dictionary of Philosophy came out in 1979 and 1984 (St. Martin's). Peter Angeles wrote his Dictionary of Philosophy in 1981; a revised edition was published in 1992 as The HarperCollins Dictionary of Philosophy. The Oxford Dictionary is uniquely broad in its coverage. It is accessible to the general reader, while at the same time being useful for the scholar or student. It is recommended for all academic and public libraries.

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Blackburn, Simon
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