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Philosophy is a discipline or field of study involving the investigation, analysis, and development of ideas at a general, abstract, or fundamental level. It is the discipline in search for a general understanding of values and reality by speculative or hypothetical thought rather than observational means. The term covers a very wide range of approaches, and is also used to refer to a worldview, to a perspective on an issue, or to the positions argued for by a particular philosopher or school of philosophy. The phrase "a philosophical attitude" is often used to refer to a stoical approach to life. This article concerns philosophy as a discipline.

Historically, definitions of philosophy have been hard to construct, as most (if not all) fail to cover all the works that are traditionally categorised as philosophy. Introductions therefore usually refuse to try to offer a neat definition, preferring instead to present a set of examples of philosophical problems and discussions, and a list of approaches which are not philosophical. These often include such questions as "what is knowledge?", "could human beings have free will?", and "of what sorts of thing is the universe made up?" The philosophical approach to these questions is not, for example, an appeal to authority (either from the past or the present), nor an examination of what most people believe, nor (usually) an examination of what is most useful or practical; it involves, rather, an examination of the relevant concepts and their relationships with other concepts and theories.


Philosophical topics

Philosophers analyse and investigate such concepts as existence or being, morality or goodness, knowledge, truth, and beauty. Historically most philosophy has either centred on religious beliefs, or science. Philosophers may ask critical questions about the nature of these concepts — questions typically outside the scope of other disciplines, such as science. Several major works of post-medieval philosophy begin by examining the nature of philosophy. Philosophers are motivated by specific questions such as:

  • What is truth? How or why do we identify a statement as correct or false, and how do we reason? What is wisdom?
  • Is knowledge possible? How do we know what we know? What is unknown? If knowledge is possible, what is known vs. unknown? How do we take what is "known" to extrapolate what is "unknown"?
  • Is there a difference between morally right and wrong actions (or values, or institutions)? If so, what is that difference? Which actions are right, and which wrong? Are values absolute, or relative? In general or particular terms, how should I live? How is right and wrong defined?
  • What is reality, and what things can be described as real? What is the nature of those things? Do some things exist independently of our perception? What is the nature of space and time? What is the nature of thought and thinking? What is it to be a person?
  • What is it to be beautiful? How do beautiful things differ from the everyday? What is Art? Does true beauty exist?

These five broad types of question are called analytical or logical, epistemological, ethical, metaphysical, and aesthetic respectively. They are not the only subjects of philosophical inquiry, and there are many overlaps between the categories which are subsumed within the discipline under the four major headings of Logic, Ontology, Epistemology, and Axiology. Aristotle, who was the first to use this classification (as he believed that to call himself "sophos" or wise was immodest), also considered politics (which he saw as part of ethics), modern-day physics, geology, biology, meteorology, and astronomy as branches of philosophical investigation. The Greeks, through the influence of Socrates and his method, developed a tradition of analysis that divided a subject into its components to understand it better.

Lao Zi
Lao Zi

Other traditions did not always use such labels, or emphasize the same themes. While Hindu philosophy has similarities with Western philosophy, there was no word for "philosophy" in Japanese, Korean, or Chinese until the 19th century, despite long-established philosophical traditions. Chinese philosophers, in particular, used different categories than the Greeks. Definitions were not based on common features, but were usually metaphorical and referred to several subjects at once [1]. Boundaries between categories are not distinct in Western philosophy, however, and since at least the 19th century, Western philosophical works have usually addressed a nexus of questions rather than distinct topics.

Motives, goals and methods

The word "philosophy" is derived from the ancient Greek (Φιλοσοφία, philosophia) which may be translated as "love of wisdom". It suggests a vocation for questioning, learning, and teaching. Philosophers are curious about the world, humanity, existence, values, understanding, and the nature of things. The origin of philosophy in the West lies with the pre-Socratic philosophers of ancient Greece.

The keynote speech of all western philosophy is attributed to Pythagoras by Sosicrates (relying on Heraclides of Pontus), according to Diogenes Laertius in Lives of Eminent Philosophers, life of Pythagoras (8.8):

"Sosicrates in his Successions of Philosophers says that, when Leon the tyrant of Phlius asked him who he was, he said "A philosopher", and that he compared life to the Great Games, where some went to compete for the prize and others went with wares to sell, but the best (beltistoi) as spectators (theatai); for similarly, in life, some grow up with servile natures, greedy for fame and gain, but the philosopher (philosophos) seeks for truth (aletheia)."

From the verb theorein, "to see". comes theoria, "insight". The word for "seek" there is actually the word for "hunt". The man who loves wisdom hunts for insight. The sceptics subsequently quipped that they were always looking, never finding, and labelled themselves "doubters". Even in denying insights the skeptic uses them and so the tradition started by the Greeks and the language of it continue.

In the East, the origin is more difficult to pinpoint, as human thought developed in different ways, and the approach typical of philosophy can be seen as underlying ancient texts without being made explicit. However, it can be plausibly contended that eastern philosophy began around the same time as Greek philosophy. For example, the Tao te Ching, a Taoist text normally seen as one of the great works of eastern philosophy, was written some time around 600 BC. There are many other view points and intellectual traditions in philosophy, especially in Persia (Iran) both in Islamic and pre-Islamic periods, which is still mainly unknown to the West. Their two main traditions are usually called the "Illumination school" and the "Transcendent school".

In all cases, philosophy can be distinguished from other disciplines by its methods of inquiry. Philosophers often frame their questions as problems or puzzles, in order to give clear examples of their doubts about a subject they find interesting, wonderful or confusing. Often these questions are about the assumptions behind a belief, or about methods by which people reason.

Philosophers typically frame problems in a logical manner, historically using syllogisms of traditional logic, since Frege and Russell increasingly using formal systems, such as predicate calculus, and then work towards a solution based on critical reading and reasoning. Like Socrates, they search for answers through discussion, responding to the arguments of others, or careful personal contemplation. Philosophers often debate the relative merits of these methods. For example, they may ask whether philosophical "solutions" are objective, definitive, and say something informative about reality. On the other hand, they may ask whether these solutions give greater clarity or insight into the logic of language, or rather act as personal therapy. Philosophers seek justification for the answers to their questions.

Contemporary Western academic philosophy has been divided into two broad traditions since about the nineteenth century: Anglo-American or analytic philosophy and continental philosophy. Both traditions are extremely diverse, and include their own methods of analysis. Broadly speaking, analytic philosophy is distinguished by its focus on analysis and argument, and the Continental tradition distinguished by its sceptical and anti-transcendentalist assumptions and focus on ideas. The areas of interest and problems are largely shared by the two traditions; they differ in their approaches and methods.

Language is the philosopher’s primary tool. In the analytic tradition, debates about philosophical method have been closely connected to debates about the relationship between philosophy and language. There is a similar concern in continental philosophy. Meta-philosophy, the "philosophy of philosophy", studies the nature of philosophical problems, philosophical solutions, and the proper method for getting from one to another. These debates are also connected to debates over language and interpretation.

These debates are not less relevant to philosophy as a whole, since the nature and role of philosophy itself has always been an essential part of philosophical deliberations. The existence of fields such as pataphysics point to a lengthy debate that is beyond the scope of this article (see meta-philosophy).

Philosophy may also be approached by examining the relationships between components, as in structuralism and recursionism. The nature of science is examined in general terms (see philosophy of science), and for particular sciences, (biophilosophy).

Non-academic uses of the word

Popularly, the word philosophy is often used to mean any form of assimilated knowledge. It may also refer to someone's perspective on life (as in "philosophy of life") or the basic principles behind, or method of achieving, something (as in "my philosophy about driving on highways"). This is also commonly referred to as a worldview.

Reacting to a tragedy philosophically might mean abstaining from passionate reactions in favour of intellectualized detachment. This usage arose from the example of Socrates, who calmly discussed the nature of the soul with his followers before consuming a deadly potion of hemlock as ordered by an Athenian jury. The Stoics followed Socrates in seeking freedom from their passions, hence the modern use of the term stoic to refer to calm fortitude.

Philosophical traditions

Members of many societies have considered philosophical questions and built philosophic traditions based upon each other's works. The term "philosophy" in a Euro-American academic context may misleadingly refer solely to the philosophic traditions of Western European civilization. This is also called "Western philosophy", especially when contrasted with "Eastern philosophy", which broadly subsumes the philosophic traditions of Asia. Both terms group together diverse, even incompatible schools of thought.

Eastern and Middle Eastern philosophical traditions have influenced Western philosophers. Russian, Jewish, Islamic and recently Latin American philosophical traditions have contributed to, or been derivative of Western philosophy, yet retain a unique identity.

It is convenient to divide contemporary Western academic philosophy into two traditions, since use of the term "Western philosophy" over the past century has often revealed a bias towards one or the other.

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)
Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)

Analytic philosophy is characterized by a precise approach to analysing the language of philosophical questions. The purpose is to lay bare any underlying conceptual confusion. This approach dominates Anglo-American philosophy, but has roots in continental Europe, where it is also practiced. The tradition of analytic philosophy began with Gottlob Frege at the turn of the twentieth-century, and was carried on by Bertrand Russell, G. E. Moore and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Continental philosophy is a label for various schools predominant in continental Europe, but also at home in many English-speaking Humanities departments, that may examine language, metaphysical approaches, political theory, perspectivalism, or various aspects of the arts and culture. One of the focuses of recent continental philosophical schools is the attempt to reconcile academic philosophy with issues that appear non-philosophical, subverting common expectations of what philosophy is meant to be.

The differences between traditions are often based on their favored historical philosophers, or emphases on ideas, styles or language of writing. The subject matter and dialogues of each can be studied using methods derived from the others, and there have been significant commonalities and exchanges between them.

Other philosophical traditions, such as African, are rarely considered by foreign academia. On account of the widespread emphasis on Western philosophy as a reference point, the study, preservation and dissemination of valuable but not widely known non-Western philosophical works faces many obstacles.

Languages can either be a barrier or a vehicle for ideas. The question of which specific languages can be considered essential to philosophizing is a theme in the works of many recent philosophers.

Western philosophy

Main article: Western philosophy

The Western philosophic tradition began with the Greeks and continues to the present day. Major Western philosophers include Parmenides, Democritus, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Heraclitus, Avicenna,Sextus Empiricus, Augustine of Hippo, Boethius, Anselm of Canterbury, William of Ockham, John Duns Scotus, Thomas Aquinas, Francis Bacon, René Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, Nicolas Malebranche, Gottfried Leibniz, Thomas Hobbes, George Berkeley, John Locke, David Hume, Thomas Reid, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Charles Darwin, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, John Stuart Mill, Søren Kierkegaard, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Gottlob Frege, Alfred North Whitehead, George Edward Moore, Bertrand Russell, Henri Bergson, Edmund Husserl, John Dewey, William James, Charles Sanders Pierce, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Theodor Adorno, Jean-Paul Sartre, John Rawls, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Jane Addams, Judith Butler, Simone de Beauvoir, Phyllis Rooney, Emmanuel Lévinas, and Thomas Kuhn.

Other influential contemporary Western philosophers include Giorgio Agamben, Daniel Dennett, Jerry Fodor, Jürgen Habermas, Saul Kripke, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, Thomas Nagel, Jean-Luc Nancy, Richard Rorty, Hilary Putnam, Robert Nozick, John Searle, Gianni Vattimo, Slavoj Žižek, Willard van Orman Quine, Donald Davidson, and Jacques Derrida (the last three deceased since 2000 but continue to exert a strong contemporary influence, due to both the strength of their published work and their institutional influence among peers and students).

Western philosophy is sometimes divided into various branches of study, based on the kind of questions addressed. The most common categories are: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy, ontology, and aesthetics. Some other disciplines include logic, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of language. For more information, see Western philosophy.

Eastern Philosophy

Main article: Eastern philosophy
Dr. Allama Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938)
Dr. Allama Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938)

Eastern philosophy follows the broad traditions that originated from, or were popular within, India, Persia, Mid East and China. Major Eastern philosophers include Yajnavalkya, Gautama Buddha, Zarathustra, Kong Zi (Confucius), Kapila, Lao Zi (Lao Tzu), Akshapada Gotama, Meng Zi (Mencius), Zhuang Zi (Chuang Tzu), Xun Zi, Han Feizi, Mazdak, Patanjali, Nagarjuna, Dharmakirti, Al-Razi, Sankara, Farabi, Ramanuja, Ibn Rushd, Huineng, Huang Po, Zhu Xi, Suhrawardi, Wang Yangming, Mulla Sadra, Narayana Guru, Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Allama Iqbal, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Seyyed Hossein Nasr.

Indian philosophy is perhaps the most comparable to Western philosophy. For instance, the ancient Nyaya school of Hindu philosophy explores logic as some modern Analytic philosophers do; similarly the school of Carvaka was openly atheistical and empirical. However there are important differences - e.g. ancient Indian philosophy traditionally emphasized the teachings of schools or ancient texts, rather than individual philosophers, most of whom either wrote anonymously or whose names were simply not transmitted or recorded.

Applied philosophy

Though often seen as a wholly abstract field, philosophy is not without practical applications. The most obvious applications are those in ethicsapplied ethics in particular – and in political philosophy. The political philosophies of Confucius, Kautilya, Sun Tzu, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Niccolo Machiavelli, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, Mahatma Gandhi, Robert Nozick, and John Rawls have shaped and been used to justify governments and their actions.

In the field of the philosophy of education, progressive education as championed by John Dewey has had a profound impact on educational practices in the United States in the twentieth century.

Other important applications can be found in epistemology, which might help one to regulate one's notions of what knowledge, evidence, and justified belief are. Two useful ways that epistemology and logic can inform the real world are through the fields of journalism and police investigation. Informal logic has many useful and practical applications, helping citizens to be critical in reading rhetoric and in everyday discussion. Philosophy of science discusses the underpinnings of the scientific method. Aesthetics can help to interpret discussions of art. Even ontology, surely the most abstract and least practical-seeming branch of philosophy, has had important consequences for logic and computer science.

In general, the various "philosophies of," such as philosophy of law, can provide workers in their respective fields with a deeper understanding of the theoretical or conceptual underpinnings of their fields.

Often, philosophy is seen as an investigation into an area not understood well enough to be its own branch of knowledge. What were once merely philosophical pursuits have evolved into the modern day fields of psychology, sociology, linguistics, and economics (among others). Computer science, cognitive science and artificial intelligence are modern areas of research that philosophy has played a role in developing.

Moreover, a burgeoning profession devoted to applying philosophy to the problems of ordinary life has recently developed, called philosophical counseling. Many Eastern philosophies can and do help millions of people with anxiety problems through their emphasis on meditation for calming the mind and the connection between the health of the body and the health of the soul.

History (of Western philosophy)

Main article: History of Western philosophy

Traditionally, the history and study of the history of philosophy is divided into three areas: Ancient Greek, Medieval, and Modern. There is also now focus being put on the post-modern period, especially existentialism. Étienne Gilson, in his book The Unity of Philosophic Experience, attempts to show important connections between the ideas of the medieval period and their development in the modern period; this is contrary to traditional interpretations of modern philosophy as a new era unconcerned with the past.

Ancient Greek Philosophy is typically divided into the pre-Socratic Period, the philosophy of Plato, and the philosophy of Aristotle. Important pre-Socratic philosophers include Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Parmenides, and Heraclitus. The pre-Socratics, as far as we know from the fragments which survive, were mostly interested in metaphysics; their goal was to find the universal arche or defining principle of the world. Also notable are arguments about the distinction between the one and the many and the possibility of change.

Socrates and his pupil Plato revolutionized philosophy. While Socrates wrote nothing, his influence survives through that of his pupil. Plato defined the issues with which philosophy still wrestles.

A student of Plato's, Aristotle, was concerned with all matters of knowledge, and his Nicomachean Ethics would form the basis of all later ethical discussions. He also deepened the study of metaphysics, improving on the theory of forms suggested by Plato and creating the hylomorphic theory (ie. All things in the universe are composites of form and matter--of the immaterial universal and the material particular).

Marcus Tullius Cicero was one of the greatest Roman orators and legal philosophers of the ancient world. His explication of the Natural Law, the belief that the rule of law must be rooted in the nature of the cosmos itself, held great sway in the ancient and medieval world. It was Cicero who offered one of the first conceptions of the commonwealth, as a people united by common interests and a shared sense of law (lex). The Romans rooted law in concepts of rights and power, which through their military might, they projected throughout Europe.

Law was already an important concept in the near east when the Romans invaded and conquered. The Hebrew people living in Jerusalem already had a complex understanding of law and of its relation to the creator of the cosmos. Law for them was intimately related to the idea of being a people or a nation. The Law was a gift from God given to the Hebrew people as a means of maintaining their identity and purity before their creator-God.

In the 200s-400s early Christians built on this already ancient Hebrew understanding. A number of important Christian thinkers sought to understand the nature of law and its relation to the early Church. Irenaeus of Lyon, Tertullian, Origen and Ambrose of Milan rank among the most important.

It was Augustine, however, who had the greatest and longest impact. A convert to Christianity, Augustine wrote many important texts. One of his most widely read works are Confessions, his biography recounting his studies in Cicero's philosophy, his conversion to the Gnostic religion of Manicheanism, and his eventual conversion to Christianity. Another important Augustinian text is his City of God in which he argued against the claim then circulating among some Romans that the Christians were the cause of Rome's decline. Augustine argued that Christians had strengthened a corrupt Empire, slowing its inevitable decline. In Book 19 he argues against Cicero's understanding of the commonwealth, stating instead that the commonwealth is defined by people who are united in a commitment to share what they love.

After Augustine, many important Christian thinkers, including Justinian I, Boethius, and Gregory the Great shaped philosophy in the early medieval period. An issue of great importance was coming to grips with the great political power that the Church had achieved, particularly in the office of the papacy.

In the thirteenth century, the works of Aristotle had become influential once again, after having been lost to Western Europe since the fall of Rome. One of the greatest synthesizers of Christian and Aristotelian thought was Thomas Aquinas. His synthesis of Aristotelian metaphysics and practical reasoning with Christian teaching became characteristic of medieval philosophy. A central issue of which was understanding the nature of Being-as-such and the God who identifies himself as the Creator of all beings. In his Summa Theologiae, Aquinas attempted to answer in brief format all the major theological issues of his day by synthesising Christian belief with Aristotelian hylopmorphic metaphysics.

Aquinas divided the concept of law into four modes: Eternal Law, Natural Law, Human Law, and Divine Law. The Eternal Law reflects God's intentions for creation. The Natural Law are laws immanent in Being. The human law is the positive law of princes; and the Divine Law is the revelation of God in the Scripture. Natural law relies on the power of the human mind to know the form and substance of things and thereby their telos (their eternal purpose, goal, or end) that makes it possible to know the natural law. Aquinas argued that ultimately the tele (plural of telos) merged into the desire to achieve union with God.

William of Ockham offered an important alternative to Thomistic philosophy. He argued against the premise that Thomas Aquinas accepted on faith, that a true and accurate understanding of the tele can be known through human experience, and thus he argued against the Natural Law as Aquinas had proposed it.

Modern thinkers would find much of value in the thought of Ockham. Descartes, who is often called the father of modern philosophy, proposed that philosophy should begin with a radical skepticism about the possibility of obtaining reliable knowledge. In his Meditations, he systematically destroys all the foundations of knowledge except one (I am thinking, therefore I am), and then uses this single indubitable fact to rebuild a system of knowledge. The questions he raises would then be dealt with by Spinoza, Malebranche, Hobbes, Arnauld, John Locke, Leibniz, and David Hume. The period was marked by an association with the natural sciences and rationalism.

The many debates among these modern philosophers caused strains in every area of philosophy, most notably metaphysics. Finally, Immanuel Kant wrote his Critique of Pure Reason and attempted to reconcile conflicting views and establish a new groundword for studying metaphysics rooted in the analysis of the conditions for the possiblity of knowledge. A central claim of Kant's program of "critique" involved the refutation of classical and Thomistic conceptions of metaphysics, which suggested an abstact concept of being-as-such. Kant argued that being predicates nothing, such that to claim "that x" and "that x is" are equivalent expressions. There is no "Being" in the abstract, only particular beings and these are known only as phenomena of human experience. No knowledge of things in themselves (noumena) is possible. Kant dubbed this insight in his philosophy a "Copernican Revolution".

Kant's moral philosophy is rooted in the claim set out in the Critique of Practical Reason that "There is nothing that is good without qualification, except a good will." Why is this? Simply because anything at all can be either good or evil except a desire to do good. The only thing that guides human action to be moral is the individual will seeking to obey the dictates of reason. In his famous Categorical Imperative, he sets out the principle of moral judgment: "As such that the principle of one's action can be willed to be a universal principle (held by all)." Kant's thought offered a means for thinking about moral duty without reference to metaphysical programs, which were becoming increasingly dubious in the light of advancing scientific progess. The duty to obey what practical reason demands became the mode of moral reasoning known as Kantianism. Kantian philosophy continues to cast a long shadow in legal theory. Contemporary theorists like John Rawls and Jurgen Habermas draw much of their inspiration from Kantian predecessors.

By the late 19th Century, however, several important philosophers argued against the Kantians' skeptical attitude. One of the most influential was Edmund Husserl, who founded the philosophical mode known as phenomenology. Husserl's approach to philosophical method indirectly inspired a wide range of important thinkers in the twentieth century. Through the writings of Catholic thinkers, such as Edith Stein and Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) phenomenology was coupled with Thomistic thought to investigate the nature of the dignity of the human person. Coupled with existentialism, the phenomenology of Martin Heidegger influenced thinkers as diverse as Karl Jaspers, Hannah Arendt, Paul Ricoeur, and Jacques Derrida.

See also



For beginners

Topical introductions

  • What Does It All Mean? A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy by Thomas Nagel
  • A Short History of Modern Philosophy by Roger Scruton
  • World Philosophies by Ninian Smart
  • Indian Philosophy: a Very Short Introduction by Sue Hamilton
  • A Brief Introduction to Islamic Philosophy by Oliver Leaman
  • Eastern Philosophy For Beginners by Jim Powell, Joe Lee
  • An Introduction to African Philosophy by Samuel Oluoch Imbo
  • Philosophy in Russia: From Herzen to Lenin and Berdyaev by Frederick Copleston
  • Continental Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction by Simon Critchley
  • Complete Idiot's Guide to Eastern Philosophy by Jay Stevenson
  • Classic Asian Philosophy: A Guide to the Essential Texts by OmegaX
  • The Branches of Philosophy [2]


  • Philosophic Classics: From Plato to Derrida (4th Edition) by Forrest E. Baird
  • The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant
  • Classics of Philosophy (Vols. 1 & 2, 2nd edition) by Louis P. Pojman
  • Classics of Philosophy: The 20th Century (Vol. 3) by Louis P. Pojman
  • The English Philosophers from Bacon to Mill by Edwin Arthur Burtt
  • European Philosophers from Descartes to Nietzsche by Monroe Beardsley
  • Contemporary Analytic Philosophy: Core Readings by James Baillie
  • Existentialism: Basic Writings (Second Edition) by Charles Guignon, Derk Pereboom
  • The Phenomenology Reader by Dermot Moran, Timothy Mooney
  • Medieval Islamic Philosophical Writings edited by Muhammad Ali Khalidi
  • A Source Book in Indian Philosophy by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Charles A. Moore
  • A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy by Wing-Tsit Chan
  • Kim, J. and Ernest Sosa, Ed. (1999). Metaphysics: An Anthology. Blackwell Philosophy Anthologies. Oxford, Blackwell Publishers Ltd.
  • The Oxford Handbook of Free Will (2004) edited by Robert Kane

Reference works

  • The Oxford Companion to Philosophy edited by Ted Honderich
  • The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy by Robert Audi
  • The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (10 vols.) edited by Edward Craig, Luciano Floridi (also available online by subscription); or
  • The Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy edited by Edward Craig (an abridgement)
  • Routledge History of Philosophy (10 vols.) edited by John Marenbon
  • History of Philosophy (9 vols.) by Frederick Copleston
  • A History of Western Philosophy (5 vols.) by W. T. Jones
  • Encyclopaedia of Indian Philosophies (8 vols.), edited by Karl H. Potter et al (first 6 volumes out of print)
  • Indian Philosophy (2 vols.) by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
  • A History of Indian Philosophy (5 vols.) by Surendranath Dasgupta
  • History of Chinese Philosophy (2 vols.) by Fung Yu-lan, Derk Bodde
  • Encyclopedia of Chinese Philosophy edited by Antonio S. Cua
  • Encyclopedia of Eastern Philosophy and Religion by Ingrid Fischer-Schreiber, Franz-Karl Ehrhard, Kurt Friedrichs
  • Companion Encyclopedia of Asian Philosophy by Brian Carr, Indira Mahalingam
  • A Concise Dictionary of Indian Philosophy: Sanskrit Terms Defined in English by John A. Grimes
  • History of Islamic Philosophy edited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Oliver Leaman
  • History of Jewish Philosophy edited by Daniel H. Frank, Oliver Leaman
  • A History of Russian Philosophy: From the Tenth to the Twentieth Centuries by Valerii Aleksandrovich Kuvakin
  • Ayer, A. J. et al. Ed. (1994) A Dictionary of Philosophical Quotations. Blackwell Reference Oxford. Oxford, Basil Blackwell Ltd.
  • Blackburn, S., Ed. (1996)The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
  • Mauter, T., Ed. The Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy. London, Penguin Books.
  • Runes, D., ED. (1942). The Dictionary of Philosophy. New York, The Philosophical Library, Inc.
  • Angeles, P. A., Ed. (1992). The Harper Collins Dictionary of Philosophy. New York, Harper Perennial.
  • Bunnin, N. et. al.,Ed.(1996) The Blackwell Companion to Philosophy. Blackwell Companions to Philosophy. Oxford, Blackwell Publishers Ltd.
  • Popkin, R. H. (1999). The Columbia History of Western Philosophy. New York, Columbia University Press.

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