Cover image for Dictionary of philosophy
Dictionary of philosophy
Bunge, Mario, 1919-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Amherst, N.Y. : Prometheus Books, 1999.
Physical Description:
316 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


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B791 .B76 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Bunge (logic and metaphysics, McGill U.) defines most terms quickly and succinctly, but throws in a few longer definitions. His focus is contemporary philosophy, so he excludes many traditional and archaic terms now little used. He also employs special characters and symbols, mostly from formal log

Author Notes

prolific author on all aspects of the philosophy of science and a pioneer in philosophy of technology, Mario Augusto Bunge was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1919 and educated at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata, receiving his Ph.D. in physics in 1952. He did research work in and taught theoretical physics in Argentina before moving to the United States in 1960, where he taught at several universities, including the University of Pennsylvania, Texas, Delaware, and Temple University. He moved to Montreal in 1966, where he remains and has been Frothingham Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at McGill University since 1981.

Bunge insists on describing both science and technology exactly as they are. His pioneering approach to the philosophy of technology includes a clear characterization of all the components of technological systems in systems-theory terms, including their value commitments and relationships to other institutions. Outspokenly critical of what he views as pseudo-science, including psychoanalysis, Bunge is equally strong in his defenses of democracy, although he also sees it as subject to much abuse.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Bunge is a prolific philosopher, lately concentrating on the social sciences and their relationship to philosophy. Many academic libraries hold all or part of his eight-volume Treatise on Basic Philosophy (Reidel/Kluwer, 1974^-89). In this new dictionary of "modern philosophical concepts, problems, principles, and theories," Bunge has attempted to create a fresh entry in a crowded field. This work concentrates on Western terms and ideas, omitting concepts the author considers to be obsolete or rooted in philosophic fashion or trends. In many ways, this is a dictionary of the philosophy of science, as Bunge uses scientific examples, especially from the physical sciences, to elucidate many concepts and focuses on concepts of interest to philosophers of science. Entries are arranged alphabetically and range in length from a few sentences to a few paragraphs. Ample cross-references are provided. The definitions are fairly clear, and the examples used to illustrate concepts are appropriate although somewhat technical. Some of the entries include declarative or judgmental conclusions without sufficient explanation (e.g., existentialism is described as "a hodge-podge of enigmatic utterances"). Bunge's approach is not historical. Therefore, this work cannot stand on its own for beginning students of philosophy who need to understand the historical context and evolution of philosophic thought. Entries on terms such as form, falsifiability, and rationalism make no mention of the philosophers or times of their emergence as key concepts. In fact, the uninitiated reader could easily get the sense that philosophy is not something done by people, because there is almost no reference to philosophers at all. Furthermore, there are no entries on individual philosophers or schools of philosophic thought. The tone of the entries is decidedly unique. On the one hand, many entries read more like a logic or mathematics text than a generally philosophical one. On the other hand, many entries have a more casual, almost humorous tone (there is an entry for hair-splitting, described as "a favorite with theologians and with philosophers without long-term research projects"). The result can be a little unsettling, as the text suddenly shifts from readable to technical with little warning. This is compounded by a tendency to unnecessarily wander into logical notation when plain language would do and a system of cross-references that uses upward-pointing arrows. Given the complete lack of historical context, the focus on a somewhat narrow spectrum of philosophical concepts, and the opinionated nature of many of the conclusions, this is not a first choice for a one-volume dictionary of philosophy. Better choices would be The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy (Cambridge, 1995) or A Dictionary of Philosophy (Blackwell, 1996). Comprehensive academic philosophy collections may want to consider this purchase. Bunge's approach will probably be best appreciated by logicians and philosophers of science.

Library Journal Review

Adopting "a naturalist and scientistic standpoint" rather than staying "neutral," Bunge (Finding Philosophy in Social Science, Yale Univ., 1996) claims to define only philosophical terms of "enduring value," to shun "trendy" terms, and to avoid "solemnity" so as to "lighten, not burden" his listener. All that not only significantly limits the range of this dictionary but lends it an air of dogmatism. Although Bunge offers some correct and useful definitions (especially of terms in logic), his writing is so far from clear and the work so marred by numerous sloppy and incorrect definitions (e.g., defining "ambiguity" as denoting more than one object when the issue is whether one can tell which use is meant from the context, contradictions in defining "a priori/a posteriori" and "hypothesis") that, on the whole, this dictionary fails to come close to the many fine works already available. Avoid it! Instead, rely on Robert Audi's The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy (LJ 7/95), Simon Blackburn's The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy (LJ 11/1/94), and Ted Honderich's The Oxford Companion to Philosophy (LJ 7/95).¬ĎRobert Hoffman, York Coll., CUNY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Reviewers never know how many entries they must consult in a dictionary before deciding whether their first impression is correct. The first impression that this book is narrow-minded, taking as valid only philosophy that is "naturalistic and scientistic," is confirmed by later investigation. Most definitions are as brief as possible, and often idiosyncratic: "H, The most dangerous letter in the German language." Few originators of the concepts defined are mentioned. Many entries are sarcastic: "Analytical Philosophy" (which resembles "more a demolition team than a construction crew"), "Dasein," "History," "Logical Positivism," "Metaphysics," "Ontology" (lumping Wittgenstein with Heidegger, Leibniz, Whitehead, even Carnap, as "typically speculative and remote from science"), "Tense Logic" ("a useless toy"). Some definitions are simply bad: "Sense Datum" is defined by the example "garlic stinks," not a datum. There are surprising omissions (other minds, type/token) and some long entries ("Mind-Body Problem"). Not worth having except in a library with users who share the author's mind-set; there is no virtue in it apart from its occasional flashes of humor. J. M. Perreault; emeritus, University of Alabama in Huntsville