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Philosophy: Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

Search for Topics in Print and Online Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

Reference Universe is a research tool that provides a single search across more than 43,000 specialized subject encyclopedias and scholarly compendia.  The database contains more than 26 million citations to articles in both print and online versions of specialized encyclopedias from all major and minor reference publishing houses.

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Basic Reference Sources

Use the following encyclopedias and dictionaries for finding background information, definitions, biographical information, and summaries.
The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy
Main Library Reference B 41 .C35 1999
Contains entries of philosophers, philosophy-related terms, and subfields of philosophy. Does not include entries on philosophers living at time of publication.
Dictionary of Logical Terms and Symbols
Main Library Reference QA 9 .G698
According to the preface, the primary objective of this source is "to present compactly, concisely, and side by side a variety of notational systems currently used by logicians, computer scientists, and engineers." Includes a glossary of logical terms.
Dictionary of World Philosophy
Main Library Reference B41.I26 2001
Entries are drawn from West African, Arabic, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Jewish, Korean, Latin American, Maori, and Native American philosophy.

Encyclopedia of Aesthetics
Main Library Reference BH 56 .E53 1998
"...Includes more than 600 essays, alphabetically arranged, on approximately 400 individuals, concepts, periods, theories, issues, and movements in the history of aesthetics" (preface).
Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics
Online version (2d ed., 2012)
Main Library Reference BJ 63 .E44 1998 (1st ed.)
Contains entries on specific topics dealing with ethical theory, ethical concepts, medical and scientific ethics, environmental ethics, legal ethics, ethics and politics, business and economics ethics, media ethics, and social ethics. Each entry includes a glossary of important terms, a defining statement of the essay topic, cross-references to related essays, and a bibliography. Volume 4 includes an index to the set.

Encyclopedia of Asian Philosophy
Main Library Reference B 121 .E53 2001
Alphabetically arranged entries range from ancient times through the twentieth century and include individuals (Gandhi, Mencius), schools of thought (Kagyu, Yoga), texts (Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads), and concepts (free will, subject and object). Topics are drawn from the traditions of Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Shinto, and Zoroastrianism. See also the Companion Encyclopedia of Asian Philosophy, which contains lengthy thematic essays.

Encyclopedia of Bioethics, 3d ed.
Main Library Reference QH 332 .E52 2004
An interdisciplinary, multi-volume work covering not only philosophical aspects, but also the historical, theological, scientific, and legal ramifications of a wide variety of bioethical topics and issues. The 464 essays were written by 437 scholars. Volume 5 contains an appendix of  "Codes, Oaths, and Directives Related to Bioethics." Use the index in volume 5 to identify specific topics and individuals.

Encyclopedia of Classical Philosophy
Main Library Reference B 163 .E53 1997
"Presents 270 articles on major and minor figures and on topics of importance to the philosophy of Greek and Roman antiquity" (Credo Reference description).

Encyclopedia of Empiricism
Main Library Reference B 816 .E53 1997
"Entries on key figures, topics, and doctrines examine Empiricism both as a specific movement of the 17th and 18th centuries, and as a broader tendency that reflects the influence of various forms of empirical thought throughout history. Entries include extensive cross-referencing and brief bibliographies" (publisher's description).

"...covers all areas of philosophy in the Middle Ages and part of the Renaissance, ranging from 500 to 1500 CE. It contains general entries on medieval philosophers and medieval philosophies and on the key terms and concepts in the subject area, but it also provides more in-depth details and analyses of particular theories" (publisher's description).
Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2d ed.
Main Library Reference B 41 .E5 2006
Aims to cover "the full spectrum of philosophical topics" (preface). Nearly 1,500 signed articles — about 900 of them on individual philosophers — were contributed by an international group of scholars. Volume 10 includes an index to the set.
Encyclopedia of Semiotics
Main Library Reference P 99 .E64 1998
"A comprehensive reference guide to concepts in semiotics, sign theory, and cultural studies. Three hundred entries by leading scholars in a variety of fields — from anthropology and literary theory to linguistics and philosophy — survey the study of signs and symbols in human culture. The articles cover key concepts, theories, theorists, schools of thought, and issues in communications, cognition, and cultural theory" (publisher's description).
Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment
Main Library Reference B 802 .E53 2003
Contains over 700 signed articles by scholars which examine Western society from the rise of Descartes' disciples in 1670 to the fall of Napoleon in 1815. Topical outline in volume 1; subject index in volume 4.

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics
Main Library Reference BJ 63 .I58 2013
A nine-volume set comprised of over 700 alphabetical entries, ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 words in length, written by an international roster of subject experts. Alphabetical list of entries in volume 1; subject index in volume 9.

The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences
Main Library Reference BF 311 .M556 1999
Contains 471 essays, arranged alphabetically, relating to mind and cognition, including philosophy, psychology, neurosciences, computational intelligence, linguistics and language, and culture and cognition. Each entry has an extensive list of reference and/or further readings. Name and subject indexes.
New Dictionary of the History of Ideas
Reference CB 9 .N49 2005
While not confined to philosophical subject matter, nonetheless philosophical ideas (e.g., "Free Will, Determinism, and Predestination," "Stoicism," "Time," "Utilitarianism") are some of the topics covered in this six-volume set. Articles appear in alphabetical sequence, with bibliographies included. Volume 6 contains the index.
The Oxford Companion to Philosophy
Main Library Reference B 31 .O94 1995
Covers philosophers, philosophical and related terms, and philosophical movements. The focus is on Western philosophy, although non-Western philosophy is included. Includes appendices of logical symbols, maps of philosophy, and a chronology of philosophy.
Publisher's description: "[The Handbooks] in philosophy bring together the world's leading scholars to discuss the latest thinking in a range of major topics in philosophy. Containing specially-commissioned essays with extensive referencing to further reading, the handbooks offer both thorough introductions to topics in the discipline, and a useful reference resource for scholars and advanced students."

Click on the "Subject" tab, then choose "Philosophy." Contains over 15,000 entries from reference works published by Oxford University Press, including: The Biographical Encyclopaedia of Islamic Philosophy, The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy, Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, The Oxford Companion to the Mind (2d ed.), The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy (2d rev. ed.), and The Oxford Encyclopedia of African Thought.
Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Main Library Reference B 51 .R68 1998
A ten-volume set that is an excellent starting point for comprehensive, interdisciplinary coverage of philosophical topics and philosophers. Entries include bibliographies of suggested reading for additional information. Volume 10 is the index to the set. Available online is the Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, an abridged version of the ten-volume set.
While far from complete, this refereed source is intended to be constantly evolving, with new entries added regularly. Many entries have lengthy bibliographies.

About Reference Sources

Reference sources such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks provide summary and factual information. These sources generally contain well established knowledge and can provide a basic understanding on which to build. Use reference sources to:

> Find basic concepts of a topic;

> Get historical context and relationships to other topics;

> Identify and define special terms used to discuss the topic; or

> Find or verify data, facts, formulas, etc.