Use your browser's print controls to print a copy of this resource guide.


Introduction to the Collections

The New York Public Library collects extensively in most areas of philosophy. The largest collection of philosophy is in the General Research Division (room 315); Asian philosophy is in the Oriental Division (room 219); philosophy written in any of the Slavic or Baltic languages is in the Slavic and Baltic Division (room 217); and philosophies of Judaism, and philosophy in Hebrew or Yiddish is in the Jewish Division (room 84).

The General Research Division collects philosophy primarily in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. Translations of works originally written in English, however, are rarely acquired. Over 500 philosophy journals from around the world form an important part of the collection.

An open-shelf browsing collection of major works and reference sources is available in the Rose Main Reading Room, Room 315, along the southwest wall. Items housed here are indicated in CATNYP with a classmark that includes the prefix *R (e.g., *R-YAB).

Holdings of works by and about Baruch Spinoza and Immanuel Kant are particularly strong. The Library has the first edition of Spinoza’s Tractatus theological-politicus (1670); the first (1781), third, fifth, and sixth editions of Kant’s Kritik der reinen Vernuft and a first edition of his Die Religion Innerhalb der Grenzin der blossen Vernuft (1793); also, a first edition of Descartes’ Discours de la methode (1637).

The Library also subscribes to many electronic resources that will be helpful to the researcher. These can be accessed from the public computers located in any of our reading rooms. Other selected web resources listed in this guide can be accessed from any computer with Internet access.

If you need further assistance, visit our reference desk, or e-mail us at

Using the Library’s Catalogs

CATNYP is the online catalog of The New York Public Library’s four Research Libraries.  It is easily accessible via the World Wide Web at  For general instructions on using CATNYP, please consult Using the Library's Online Catalog. The following information is specific to the subject of Philosophy.

CATNYP allows searching by author, title, keyword, and subject.  A subject search will generally yield more precise results, but only if you know the appropriate Library of Congress subject headings for your topic.

Some of the basic subject headings for philosophy include names of individual philosophers, different branches within philosophy, philosophical schools, time periods, and country:

  • Descartes Rene
  • Metaphysics
  • Ethics
  • Pragmatism
  • Existentialism
  • Medieval Philosophy
  • German Philosophy
  • Philosophy Chinese

If you do not know the Library of Congress subject headings for your topic, it will be easier to perform a word search. A word search will generally retrieve more items, though many of them may not be relevant. When performing a multiple word search, be sure to use the word "and" between each concept:

            philosophy and eastern

After you retrieve your results in a word search, scan the record of one of the items that most closely matches your topic. You will see the item’s subject headings listed; by clicking on any of the links you can perform a search for items on that specific subject, if desired.

If visiting the Library, you may wish to search the Dictionary Catalog, most of whose entries now appear in CATNYP.  To search the Dictionary Catalog you can use the same terms you would use in CATNYP (see above).

If you need assistance locating materials, please see a reference librarian at the Reference Desk in Room 315.  If you are not in the library, you may also e-mail us for assistance at

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.


Biographical dictionary of twentieth-century philosophers, edited by Stuart Brown, Diane Collinson, and Robert Wilkinson, (London: Routledge, 1996)
*R-AB 96-127, Rose Main Reading Room
A collection of brief biographies of twentieth-century philosophers, along with bibliographies of their main publications and secondary literature.

Collinson, Diane, Fifty major philosophers: A reference guide, (New York: Routledge, 1987)
*R-YAB 87-6009, Rose Main Reading Room
Provides short biographical sketches of 50 major philosophers from Greek antiquity to the twentieth century, with a brief explanation of their ideas. Written for the general reader.


Below are some of the major bibliographies in Philosophy. To find additional bibliographies on CATNYP, use subject heading

  • Philosophy Bibliography

Bibliographie de la philosophie, vols. 1-10. (Paris: Librarie Philosophique J. Vrin, 1937), 10 vols.
YA (Bibliographie de la Philosophie) 1937-1952/53, General Research Division
An encyclopedic attempt to list all books and journal articles in philosophy in the major western languages.

Bibliographie de la philosophie/Bibliography of philosophy, (Paris: Librairie Philosophique J. Vrin, 1954-), vols. 1-
JFM 98-439, General Research Division
A continuation of the Bibliographie de la philosophie, but only for books. Abstracts are in the book’s original language, if it is a major European language; otherwise, the abstracts are in English or French.

A Bibliography of philosophical bibliographies, edited by Herbert Guerry, (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1977)
JFE 92-11389, General Research Division
Includes both bibliographies of individual philosophers and subject bibliographies on philosophical topics from 1450 to 1974.

Rand, Benjamin. Bibliography of Philosophy, Psychology and Cognate Subjects. (Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1940-49). Vol. 3 of Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology, ed. James Baldwin.
*R-YAB, Rose Main Reading Room
Volume 3 is in two volumes; the first is devoted to individual philosophers, the second to philosophical topics. Valuable for finding books and articles published in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Repertoire bibliographique de la philosophie/ International philosophical bibliography, (Louvain: Institut superieur de philosophie, 1949), vols. 1-
JFM 98-438, General Research Division
A quarterly listing of books and articles (but no abstracts) in philosophy, including books in all the major western European languages, and articles from over 400 periodicals. It covers many non-English journals and books not included in The Philosopher’s Index.

Totok, Wihelm, Handbuch der Geschichte der Philosophie, (Frankfurt: Vittorio Klostermann, 1964-), vols 1-6
*RS-YA 76-6152, Rose Main Reading Room
A comprehensive bibliography on the entire history of philosophy. It covers the literature from 1920 up to the 1980’s, and is considered one of the best guides. It is a supplement to Ueberweg’s Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie.

Die Philosophie der Antike, revised ed. (Basel: Schwabe, 1983- ).
JFL 84-195 Bd. 2, T. 1; Bd. 3., General Research Division
Die Philosophie des 17. Jahrhundrets, revised ed. (Basel: Schwabe, 1988- )
JFL 89-168, General Research Division
These histories of philosophy are revisions of the nineteenth-century Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie by Friedrich Ueberweg. Each volume contains a comprehensive bibliography listing sources from all the major western languages. This major philosophical bibliography is still being updated.


General Histories | Ancient Greece and Roman | Middle Ages | Renaissance | Modern Philosophy

General Histories

Brehier, Emile,  History of philosophy,  (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963-69), 7 vols.
*R-YAC 00-5994, Rose Main Reading Room
A standard work for the history of European philosophy since it was first published in France in the 20s and the 30s.

Copleston, Frederick,  A history of philosophy,  (Westminister, MD: Newman Press, 1963),  8 vols.
*R-YAC 75-592, Rose Main Reading Room
A clear, concise, and reliable survey of the whole of western philosophy.

Russell, Bertrand,  A history of Western philosophy, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1945)
*R-YBX (Russell) 99-11621, Rose Main Reading Room
A lively, one-volume introduction to the history of philosophy.  Although popular and well-written, it is not highly regarded by philosophers.

Scharfstein, Ben-Ami. A Comparative History of World Philosophy: From the Upanishads to Kant. (Albany: State University of New York, 1998)
*R-YAC 03-564, Rose Main Reading Room
An excellent, comparative history of the European, Indian, and Chinese philosophical traditions. In almost every chapter, Scharfstein examines a philosophical theme and traces how it is developed in each tradition.

Ancient Greece and Rome

Armstrong, A.H., ed., The Cambridge History of Later Greek and Early Medieval Philosophy, (London: Cambridge University Press, 1967)
*R-YAC (Armstrong, A.H.), Rose Main Reading Room
A survey of later Greek and early Christian thought from the fourth century B.C. to the twelfth century A.D.

Gomperz, Theodor,  Greek thinkers: A history of ancient philosophy,  (London: J. Murray, 1914[31]),  4 vols.
*RR-YAE (Gomperz, T. Greek Thinkers. 1914), Rose Main Reading Room
Published in Germany between 1893 and 1909, this remains an important work on the history of Greek philosophy. 

Guthrie, W.K.C.,  A history of Greek philosophy,  (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962-1981), 6 vols.
*RR-YAE (Guthrie, W.K.C.), Rose Main Reading Room
The  standard work, in English, on Greek philosophy.  Begins with the pre-Socratics and ends with Aristotle.

Middle Ages

Cambridge history of later medieval philosophy, edited by Norman Kretzmann,  (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982)
*R-YAG 82-2009, Rose Main Reading Room
Essays ranging from the rediscovery of Aristotle in the 11th century to the end of scholasticism in the 16th.

Gilson, Etienne,  History of Christian philosophy in the Middle Ages,  (New York: Random House, 1955)
*R-YAG 00-4652, Rose Main Reading Room
A superb introduction to philosophy in the Middle Ages by a renowned scholar, with an extensive bibliography.


Cambridge history of Renaissance philosophy, edited by Charles B. Schmitt,  (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988)
*R-YAM 88-3038, Rose Main Reading Room
An examination of philosophical thought from the middle of the 14th to the 17th century, and the beginning of modern philosophy.

Modern Philosophy

Lowith, Karl,  From Hegel to Nietzsche: The revolution in nineteenth century thought,  (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991)
*R-YBXD 00-5986, Rose Main Reading Room
Lowith's work is considered by many to be the best study of 19th century German philosophy.

Passmore, John,  A hundred years of philosophy,  2nd edition, ( London: Duckworth, 1966)
*R-YAC (Passmore) 00-4779, Rose Main Reading Room
An important and influential book that examines the major philosophical movements of the last hundred years.

Locating Journal Articles

Electronic Resources

Please note that these electronic resources are only accessible from within the Humanities & Social Sciences Library. You can find dedicated computers, displaying the Selected Electronic Resources screen, located in the Rose Main Reading Room, as well as in many of the divisions throughout the Library.

This database allows full-text searching of academic journals from a wide range of subject areas. It is searchable by author, publication title, subject, or words within an article. It currently includes 17 philosophy journals. Articles date from the 19th century up to what is called a “moving wall” of 3 to 5 years between the current issue and what is available on JSTOR.

Proquest Research Library
Contains full text articles from over 1700 newspapers and periodicals.

Religion and Philosophy Collection (EBSCOhost)
Provides access to popular and scholarly journals through its collection of databases. It currently includes 12 philosophy journals.

The Philosopher's Index
The major index for philosophy. It indexes and abstracts books, book reviews, and articles from more than 570 philosophy journals, worldwide. A print version is also available, see Print Resources below.

Project Muse
Project Muse provides access to the full text of nearly 200 scholarly journals, with about a dozen philosophy titles available. It is searchable by author, publication title, and subject.

Print Resources

The philosopher’s index: An international index to philosophical periodicals and books,  (Bowling Green, Ohio: Philosophy Documentation Center, Bowling Green State University, 1967-), incomplete holdings
*RB-YAA 72-1340, Rose Main Reading Room

The philosopher’s index: a retrospective index to u.s. publications from 1940. (Bowling Green, Ohio: Philosophy Documentation Center, Bowling Green State University, 1978), 3 vols.
*RB-YAA 78-2467, Rose Main Reading Room
Extends the coverage of The philosopher’s index for journal articles from 1940 to 1966, and books from 1926 to 1940. (Book reviews after 1941 are not included.)

Philosophical books, (Leicester, England: Leicester University Press, 1960-), vols. 1-
JFL 92-292, General Research Division
A quarterly journal with long reviews of current books in philosophy. It tends to review only books in the Anglo-American, analytical tradition. Current issues are available in the Periodicals Section, room 108.

Ruben, Douglas H., Philosophy journals and serials: An analytical guide, (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1985)
JFE 86-3731, General research Division
Lists 335 journals, newsletters, and bulletins in philosophy. Although no longer current, this guide remains useful for its descriptions and evaluations of the focus of each journal.

Selected Online Resources

The following are key online databases and web sites that will be of use to Philosophy researchers. Please note that some online resources are only accessible from within the Humanities & Social Sciences Library. You can find dedicated computers, displaying the Selected Electronic Resources Menu, in the Rose Main Reading Room, as well as in many of the divisions throughout the Library. (See also Locating Journal Articles for online periodical indexes.)

Online Databases | Internet Sites

Online Databases

Dissertation Abstracts
Lists doctoral dissertations and master’s theses from North American colleges and universities since 1861; some foreign dissertations are also included. Since 1980, citations for dissertations include abstracts written by the author. Dissertations published since 1997 have a 24-page preview.

Past Masters- Philosophy.
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.

The Philosopher’s Index
A bibliographic database, with author-written abstracts, covers scholarly research in all the fields of philosophy published in journals and books since 1940. International coverage is offered through nearly 500 journals from 38 countries. Book reviews are also included.

Internet Sites

The following Web sites are especially recommended and are freely available from any computer with an Internet connection.

Philosophy in Cyberspace
Indexes thousands of online philosophy sites. There are five sections: branches of philosophy, primary texts, organizations, discussion, and miscellaneous

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
The encyclopedia contains 700 lengthy articles written by 600 authors on a broad range of philosophical topics. A board of scholars reviews each article before it is posted.

The Notebook for Contemporary Continental Philosophy
The best online site for continental philosophy containing links to every major European philosopher.

NOEMA: The Collabortaive Bibliography of Women in Philosophy
A growing bibliography of works by women in aesthetics, epistemology, ethics, logic, metaphysics, history of philosophy, as well as the philosophy of mind, science, art, and many other subjects.

A refereed all-English electronic international magazine of analytical philosophy. Sorites is indexed and abstracted by the Philosopher's Index.
This site includes links to over a thousand resources on over 400 philosophers throughout history. You can search by time period, by philosopher name, or by topic area. For convenience, this page also provides quick links for 50 of the most often requested philosophers.

International Directory of Online Philosophy Papers
A site for academic philosophers to search and register online philosophy papers. Currently contains 500+ entries.

Where to Go for More Help

This resource guide is a small sample of what The New York Public Library can offer you in your research. For further assistance, the librarians of The New York Public Library are here to help you.

General Research Division, Humanities and Social Sciences Library
Located in Room 315, the Reference Desk is staffed during all hours the library is open. We can assist you in getting started with your research, or help you with any stumbling blocks you have encountered.

  • Tuesday, Wednesday - 11am-7:30pm; Thursday, Friday, and Saturday - 10am-6pm
  • General Research Division Telephone Reference: 212-930-0830. Tuesday through Friday 10am - 3pm EST.
  • E-mail Reference Service is also available.

Asian and Middle Eastern Division, Humanities and Social Sciences Library
Located in Room 219, the staff of the Asian and Middle Eastern Division can assist you with your research in areas relating to eastern philosophies.

  • Thursday, Friday, and Saturday - 10am-6pm, Tuesday, Wednesday - 11am-7:30pm
  • Telephone Reference Service is available at (212) 930-0716
  • E-mail Reference Service is available at

Ask Librarians Online
Ask questions online and receive answers via e-mail or chat.

NYPL Express Information Services Live from the NYPL Photographic Services & Permissions