This post is written by Elizabeth Layton, a history major who plans to go to graduate school to become a librarian. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy is available in digital format through the Virtual Reference Shelf and in our print reference collection (Call Number: B51 .O94).
Whether you’re just beginning to get your feet wet in the pool of philosophy or if you are a veteran philosophe, the Oxford Companion to Philosophy is an amazing book for you. Published in 1995 and compiled by Ted Honderich, this gem of a companion is much more than meets the eye. Not only does it cover the major and minor philosophers, it also alphabetically organizes all of the major arguments and schools of thought within philosophy today as well as throughout history.
While many people believe that books about philosophy are just for philosophy classes and majors, this is simply not the case. There is a philosophy to everything under the sun. There is a military philosophy; there has been a philosophy to how history should be viewed, to how the universe is established and even to argue whether or not we truly exist. No matter what you are studying or teaching, the Oxford Companion to Philosophy can help you better understand your subject and assist you in looking at things from a different point of view.
And I know what you’re thinking, the idea of sitting back and contemplating the argument that we all only exist because of our own will, or debating that the only thing we experience together is primary characteristics (which was brought to our attention by John Locke by the way) but you can, and you do. We are all philosophers, lovers of knowledge, who strive to consume every nugget of information that we can. After all, this is why the professors are teaching and the students are attending classes, because we want to learn.
Within this encyclopedia, one of my favorite things that I have learned is metaphysical idealism versus metaphysical realism. In basic terms it is the argument of whether or not we actually have a soul, and if we do, where is it located? This argument has been made on both sides since the great philosophers Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates wrote their plays and studied in Greece. Some say that if the soul exists it must have mass, so where do we put the mass in our bodies? There are equally fascinating arguments as to where our souls are or where they go after we die. Does the soul exist? You be the judge: read the Oxford Companion to Philosophy, form your own opinions from those who have studied philosophy long before us, or learn from them and discover your own!
by Elizabeth Layton