The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy

Article excerpt

The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. Edited by Robert Audi. Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press, 1995, 882 pp., $89.95, cloth; $27.95 paper. The Oxford Companion to

Philosophy. Edited by Ted Honderich. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995, 1009 pp.,

$49.95, cloth.

Theologians and philosophers share many of the same figures (such as Augustine, Anselm and Kierkegaard), wrestle with many of the same problems and questions (such as the existence of God, ethical issues and the justification of belief), and are influenced by or respond to many of the same movements and systems (such as pragmatism, existentialism and postmodernism-in all its forms and shapes). Consequently, it is not long before theologians find themselves confronted with the discipline of philosophy. Yet, it would require quite a large library and substantial time to delve into such matters, both of which many may understandably lack. These two reference works go a long way towards filling in that gap and providing a wealth of information that is readily accessible for philosophers, apologists and theologians.

Both of these works are similar in many respects. A number of philosophers have contributed to both works, some even writing on the same entry, such as John Cottingham on "Descartes." Both are current in their research and quite up-to-date in their selections. Each has extensive cross-reference systems. They are also similar in their aim: to provide a one-volume extensive dictionary of philosophers, philosophies (both Western and Eastern) and related disciplines by a team of international scholars. However, there are also some differences.

The Oxford Companion (OC) has a number of features which are absent in the Cambridge Dictionary (CD). One such feature that is almost indispensable to a reference work is bibliographies. The CD does not include bibliographies for any of the entries, while the OC has at least one reference for every entry and quite a few for some entries. These references are helpful, for they direct the reader to the best of the related material or to a work that contains an extensive bibliography. Another lacuna in the CD is that while it often quotes directly from the subject of the article, only rarely does it provide a reference. The OC, in contrast, provides at least a general reference for quotations. The OC also provides thirteen charts in the appendix and a handy elevenpage chart of the chronology of philosophy. The charts or "Maps of Philosophy" graphically display the relationship between issues, schools of thought and philosophers in such fields as epistemology, logic and ethical theories. The OC also has a number of portraits of prominent philosophers scattered throughout the text. All of these features are missing in the CD.

In terms of more substantive matters, there are also some similarities and differences. As to be expected in such works, there is not always an even treatment of figures or movements. The article on Thomas Reid (a key figure in Scottish Common Sense philosophy) by Keith Lehrer in the CD is both more exhaustive and definitive than that in the OC. But, in general, the articles in the CD are not as extensive as those in the OC. However, the CD has roughly twice as many entries.

As far as references to theological issues, the OC has more entries on God, philosophy of religion and related topics than does the CD. The article on "God and the philosophers" in the OC is a fair treatment of the philosophical concept of God throughout the history of philosophy (pp. …