Background Research

The items listed below are intended as a starting point for your research, and are by no means comprehensive. General reference works such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, and directories offer background information, and quick answers to specific questions. Included are also several works that will provide a general introduction to research in philosophy.

Encyclopedias | Specialized Encyclopedias | Dictionaries | Directories | Handbooks and Guides | Individual Philosophers | Quotations


Concise encyclopedia of Western philosophy and philosophers, edited by James O. Urmson and Jonathan Ree, (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989)
*R-YAB 89-26854, Rose Main Reading Room
Detailed articles on philosophy written by many of the major philosophers of the twentieth century.

Dictionary of the history of ideas: studies of selected pivotal ideas, edited by Philip P. Weiner, (New York: Scribner’s, 1973-74), 5 vols.
*R-YAC 00-3993, Rose Main Reading Room
Extensive coverage of philosophical ideas in an interdisciplinary work that spans anthropology, psychology, religion, literature, and history. More than 300 lengthy articles, which include bibliographies.

Encyclopedia of philosophy, edited by Paul Edwards, (New York: Macmillan, 1967), 8 vols.; Supplement, edited by Donald M. Borchert, (New York: Macmillan, 1996)
*R-YAB 75-8873, Rose Main Reading Room
One of the best reference sources, with almost 1,500 detailed articles by 500 philosophers, this encyclopedia attempts to cover the whole of philosophy.

Routledge encyclopedia of philosophy, edited by Edward Craig, (London; New York: Routledge, 1998), 10 vols.
*R-YAB 99-6920, Rose Main Reading Room
An impressive new encyclopedia with over 2,000 entries from 1,300 contributors worldwide. More comprehensive than the older Encyclopedia of philosophy, with greater coverage of world philosophy and religion. Also available online.

Specialized Encyclopedias

Companion Encyclopedia of Asian Philosophy, ed. by Brian Carr and Indira Mahalingam. (London: New York: Routledge, 1997)
*OAS 97-555, Asian & Middle Eastern Division
This is one of the best one-volume works on Asian philosophy. Divided into 6 sections, it covers Zoroastrian, Indian, Buddhist, Chinese, Japanese, and Islamic philosophy. Each section includes an overview, followed by essays on the origins, the philosophers, and the ideas of each philosophical tradition. It includes a glossary of Asian philosophical terms.

Encyclopedia of classical philosophy, edited by Donald Zeyl, (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997)
*R-YAE 97-10082, Rose Main Reading Room
The ideas and philosophers of ancient Greek and Roman civilizations are examined in 270 articles written by 90 scholars.

Encyclopedia of ethics, edited by Lawrence C. Becker and Charlotte R. Becker, (New York: Garland, 1992)
*R-YF 92-8253, Rose Main Reading Room
Includes over 400 articles on ethical theory, moral problems, political and social theory, and the history of ethics.

Encyclopedia of phenomenology, edited by Lester Embree, (Dordrecht; Boston: Kluwer Academic Press, 1997)
*R-YAB 00-4775, Rose Main Reading Room
The history of the phenomenological movement, its ideas and influence in other fields, are examined in over 166 detailed articles. This is not an introductory text.


Blackwell philosopher dictionaries, (Oxford, England; Cambridge, MA: Blackwell)
*R-YBX (and the philosopher’s name), Rose Main Reading Room
Each of these dictionaries provides an overview of a philosopher’s life and work, followed by an alphabetical listing of his main ideas and terminology. Currently available are dictionaries for Descartes, Hegel, Heidegger, Hobbes, Kant, Locke, Rousseau, and Wittgenstein.

The Cambridge dictionary of philosophy, edited by Robert Audi, 2nd edition, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999)
*R-YAB 00-1949, Rose Main Reading Room
An encyclopedic dictionary providing detailed definitions of philosophical terms. Over 4,000 entries cover all areas of philosophy, although it is partial to British and American analytical philosophy. Comparable to The Oxford companion to philosophy.

Eisler, Rudolf, Worterbuch der philosophischen Begriffe, (Berlin: E.S. Mittler & Sohn, 1927-30), 3 vols.
JFF 99-1170, General Research Division
Considered the standard German encyclopedic dictionary of philosophy for years, it has been superseded by Ritter’s revision (see below).

Encyclopedia of Eastern Philosophy and Religion: Buddhism, Taoism, Zen, Hinduism. ed. Stephan Schuhmacher and Gert Woerner. (Boston: Shambhala, 1989)
*R-*OAS 89-2133, Rose Main Reading Room
Intended for the general reader, this is essentially a philosophical dictionary, explaining roughly 4,000 terms and concepts used in Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and Zen.

Historisches Worterbuch der Philosophie, edited by Joachim Ritter and Karlfried Grunder, (Basel/Stuttgart: Schwabe, 1971- )
*R-YAB 75-8077, Rose Main Reading Room
Over 1,200 scholars examine the historical development of philosophical concepts and terms. The editors see it as a revision of Eisler’s Worterbuch der philosophischen Begriffe. To date 11 volumes, up to the letter V, have been published.

The Oxford companion to philosophy, edited by Ted Honderich, (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1995)
*R-YAB 95-10051, Rose Main Reading Room
Considered the “premier single-volume encyclopedic dictionary of philosophy in English” by Hans Bynagle in his Philosophy: A guide to the reference literature. It provides exhaustive coverage of all areas and traditions in Western and Eastern philosophy.

Peters, F.E., Greek philosophical terms: A historical introduction, (New York: New York University Press, 1967)
*R-YAE 79-791, Rose Main Reading Room
No knowledge of Greek is required to use this dictionary. Greek philosophical terms are transliterated into English and arranged alphabetically.


Directory of American philosophers, (Bowling Green, Ohio: Philosophy Documentation Center, 1963- )
*RR-YBXB, Rose Main Reading Room
Includes philosophers and philosophy departments at universities and colleges in the U.S., with addresses and phone numbers, and a separate Canadian section.

International directory of philosophy and philosophers, 2003/04, (Bowling Green, Ohio: Philosophy Documentation Center, 1973- )
*RR-YBXL 74-120, Rose Main Reading Room
Addresses and phone numbers of philosophers and philosophy departments from 132 countries, excluding North America.

Handbooks and Guides

The best in literature of philosophy and world religions, edited by William L. Reese, (New York: R.R. Bowker, 1988), (The Reader’s adviser, 13th ed., vol. 4.)
*R-*GBO 95-363, Rose Main Reading Room
A critical guide to the literature in philosophy. Of the eight chapters devoted to philosophy, each covers a particular period in philosophy and is written by a subject specialist. Each chapter begins with a brief essay, followed by general works on the topic and a bibliography.

Bynagle, Hans, Philosophy: A guide to the reference literature, 2nd edition, (Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1997)
*RS-YA 97-11834, Rose Main Reading Room
A comprehensive guide to reference sources in philosophy, with detailed descriptions and evaluations.

DeGeorge, Richard T., The Philosopher’s guide to sources, research tools, professional life, and related fields, (Lawrence, KS: Regents Press of Kansas, 1980)
JFE 80-4026, General Research Division
A comprehensive listing of reference sources in philosophy, with brief annotations in only a small portion of entries. Dated, but still useful.

Koren, Henry, Research in philosophy: a bibliographical introduction to philosophy and a few suggestions for dissertations. (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1977)
JFD 92-18018, General Research Division
A bibliographical introduction to philosophy, valuable for its inclusion of older and more unusual bibliographies.

Individual Philosophers

The library of living philosophers, edited by Paul A. Schilpp, (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1939-1949), vols. 1-7, Open Court, 1952- . vols 8-
*R-YAM, Rose Main Reading Room
Each volume is devoted to a modern philosopher, with a biography, a bibliography, a series of essays evaluating the philosopher, and the philosopher’s reply to his critics.

Past masters,
Available online in the Library’s reading rooms.
This database provides electronic access to the collected or selected works of the major western philosophers.  Among the philosophers included are Aquinas, Aristotle, Berkeley, Descartes, Hobbes, Hegel, Hume, Kant, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Pierce, Plato, Spinoza, and Wittgenstein. A valuable research tool, it allows keyword searches of texts. 


Dictionary of philosophical quotations, edited by A.J. Ayer and Jane O’Grady, (Oxford; Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers, 1992)
*R-YAB 00-4641, Rose Main Reading Room
This dictionary has quotations from over 300 western philosophers.