The impulse to speculate about this phenomenon—the sudden eruption of dictionaries of philosophy in our own fin de siècle—is difficult to resist, particularly since a similar eruption of dictionaries is occurring in other intellectual disciplines as well. My own speculation is that we are witnessing the Owl of Minerva in full and somewhat frantic flight. As old hands in the trade know—but perhaps not many undergraduates, graduate students, or laymen—definitions in philosophy, unless they are purely stipulative, are almost never starting (...) points in inquiry; even more rarely are they stopping points. Normally, they are more in the nature of summaries pro tempore. In the normal course of things the motive for such quick backward-glancing summaries is a quite innocent desire, or need, for conceptual ballast and bearing before proceeding to the next intellectual task. But the flood of dictionaries and such-like reference books in the past couple of decades in philosophy, and in other disciplines, raises the suspicion—and not, I think, in my mind alone—that something more is going on. There is widespread malaise in the profession at present and some energetic treading of the waters on the sound principle, enunciated by Woody Allen, that “swimming is what you should do so you shouldn’t drown,” and nobody seems to know or have much of an idea of where we go from here. The volumes under review are part and parcel of this phenomenon. Honderich’s cheerful remark that “Philosophy... is not a dead or dying subject, but one whose vigour... is as great as ever it has been. It is only the sciences and the superstitious that come and go” seems suspiciously like whistling past the graveyard; it would not need remarking if it were true, or at any rate if it were not so dubious. (shrink)
The present volume is an important and highly useful contribution to Reid studies that adds considerably to our knowledge of his work. The book is well made, and I noticed only one misprint. It contains three sets of manuscripts, one dealing with natural history, another on physiology, and a third, much the largest, on Reid’s work on materialism. It also contains a statement by Paul Wood of very sensible editorial principles, seventy-four pages of introductions to the manuscript material, some explanatory (...) notes with translations of Latin passages in the manuscripts and information about the papers and books Reid quotes or refers to in his texts, an index of manuscripts, a set of textual notes, and a not very useful index for the volume as a whole. Lamentably, the usefulness of the volume is compromised by Wood’s having used editions of Reid’s printed works that are rare and not easily available instead of the standard 1895 Hamilton eighth edition in the Georg Olms reprinted edition. Wood does, on rare occasions, quote from or refer to the Hamilton 1854 fourth edition of Reid’s work whose pagination appears to coincide with the 1895 edition, but these references are too few to be helpful. (shrink)
Thomas Reid, contemporary and philosophical foe of David Hume, was the chief figure in the group of philosophers constituting the Scottish school of common sense. Between 1753 and 1762, Reid delivered four "Philosophical Orations" at graduation ceremonies at King’s College, Aberdeen. This is the first English translation of those Latin orations, which reveal Reid’s philosophical opinions during his formative years. Reid’s influence was strong in America until the middle of the 19th century. Thomas Jefferson was a convert to the commonsense (...) philosophy of Reid and his school, and for the first dozen academic generations after the revolutionary war, American students were steeped in the thought of Reid and his associates. Thus Reid profoundly influenced American political, literary, and philosophical culture. His philosophy served as a cornerstone of American education. (shrink)
It is impossible to summarize this book at all adequately in a review; the book itself is a summary of various relativist/anti-relativist arguments. Any attempt to condense these still further can only yield something too coarse and shallow to be useful. Instead, I shall set out as briefly as I can how the authors conceive the debate between relativists and their opponents. Their programmatic conception foreshadows the remainder of the book.
It is quite impossible to write an adequate review of this book within the word limits any sane editor would impose. The nine chapters and four Epilogues on the History of Philosophy comprising this enormous production were written by sixty-one authors and are of greatly varying quality. Richard Popkin himself acknowledges that “No effort has been made to force the different authors into a common expository style or into a common point of view. Readers will find that the various authors... (...) have many points of view and often differ with each other”. Despite Popkin’s own desperate interventions in the form of connecting passages designed to relate one chapter or section of a chapter to others, little coherence is achieved. (shrink)
This book is the second volume of a critical edition of the writings of Thomas Reid, an edition that will include many of his manuscript remains as well as his previously published works. These volumes are intended to displace the heretofore standard 8th edition of Reid’s works edited by Sir William Hamilton. Hamilton’s edition is marred by his numerous, often intrusive, and obtuse footnotes. Reid’s spelling and punctuation were also sometimes “corrected” by Hamilton, so his edition does not present a (...) fully accurate version of the original editions whose publication was superintended by Reid. The type in the Hamilton edition is also archaic and very small, making reading the text excessively difficult. The present and subsequent volumes are intended to present canonical texts free of the flaws in the Hamilton text. This volume succeeds admirably in that project. (shrink)
These two books are Volumes 1 and 2 of a three-volume work; the projected third volume, Warranted Christian Belief, has yet to be published. In the first volume, Warrant: The Current Debate, Plantinga surveys the current chaos in epistemology stemming from the breakdown of classical foundationalism and examines critically the efforts of several contemporary philosophers to introduce some order into the field, most particularly Roderick Chisholm, William Alston, John Pollock, Laurence BonJour and, to a lesser extent, others such as Richard (...) Foley, Fred Dretske and Alvin Goldman. In this volume, Plantinga is trying not only to put out of play the views he rejects but also to provide the reader with anticipations of his own views in Warrant and Proper Function. Although there is an immense amount of overlap between these books, and there is much cross-referencing, they are not continuous; each can be read entirely independently of the other. Even should, through some misfortune, the projected third volume fail to be written, these two volumes are certain to stand for a long time as exceptionally important works. Warrant and Proper Function, in particular, is likely to generate a veritable Niagara of Ph.D. theses in a field many had come to see as having reached the point of diminishing nits. (shrink)