Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Philosophical Lexicon, New Edition



Copyright © Daniel Dennett and Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen.




The 2008 Edition of The Philosophical Lexicon is the first edition to be published since the Eighth Edition appeared in 1987. The Seventh Edition was published in 1978, while the earlier editions circulated in unpublished, mimeograph form. On the occasion of this edition, The Philosophical Lexicon has migrated from its former dwelling with Blackwell to its present online location.

The Lexicon began one night in September of 1969 in the hands of Daniel Dennett, who was writing lecture notes and found himself jotting down as a heading "quining intentions". He saw fit to compose a definition of the verb. In the morning he was ill prepared to lecture, but handed a list of about a dozen definitions together with the Introduction to his colleagues at Irvine. Joe Lambert promptly responded with several more definitions and sent the first batch to Nuel Belnap and Alan Anderson at Pittsburgh. Almost by return mail their first entries arrived, and within a few months they together prepared a second edition, then a third, and so it continued.

The editions have been cumulative, but along the way a few entries have either been dropped as sub-standard or replaced by better definitions of the same term. Originally, only twentieth-century philosophers were considered eligible, but how could the pronoun "hume" be resisted? The one strict rule is that no one has been permitted to define him or herself - editors included.

During the 21 years that have past since the publication of the last edition in 1987, Daniel Dennett received almost two hundred new entry proposals. These were all passed on to me along with the editorship in May 2008. 56 of the proposals have been selected for the 2008 Edition and added to the 245 entries from the Eighth Edition. Henceforth, a new edition of the Lexicon will appear annually.

For this edition, as for the previous, all (living, locatable) definienda were given the opportunity to delete the entry on them if they wished. I am happy to say that philosophers have proven to be good sports about being satirized, even when the satire is quite rude and unfair! My thanks go to all our eponymous colleagues, and my apologies to all the illustrious members of the profession who deserve to be included but have so far failed to inspire a suitably pungent definition.

Also thanks to all of those who have contributed to The Lexicon with entry proposals. Over the years, The Lexicon has benefitted from the wit of Kathleen Akins, Brian Barry, Devon Belcher, Nick Bellorini, Andrew Belsey, Simon Blackburn, George Boolos, Stewart Candlish, Ronald Carrier, Jordan Cates, Timothy Chappell, John Cronquist, Bill de Vries, J.A. Durieux, Peter Forrest, Jack Fortune, Jeff Foss, Jurg Freudinger, Don Garrett, Stephen Glaister, Soren Haggqvist, Martin Hollis, Gary Iseminger, Philip Kitcher, Carsten Korfmacher, Bill Lycan, Penelope Mackie, John MacKinnon, Hugh Mellor, Elijah Millgram, Robert Nozick, Panos Parissis, Hilary Putnam, Dan Radcliffe, David Sanford, Eric Schliesser, Mark Schroeder, George Sher, Harry Silverstein, Edward Stein, Steve Stich, Philip Turetsky, Steve Wagner, David Weinberger, Roger White, Jennifer Whiting, and Jamie Whyte.

Proposals for new entries may be sent to: submissions[at]

Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen


Department of Philosophy

Aarhus University


The pantheon of philosophy has contributed previous little to the English language, compared with other fields. What can philosophy offer to compare with the galvanizing volts, ohms and watts of physics, the sandwiches, cardigans, and raglan sleeves of the British upper crust, the sado-masochism of their Continental counterparts, or even the leotards of the circus world? We speak of merely platonic affairs, and Gilbert Ryle has given his name to a measure of beer (roughly three-quarters of a pint), but the former is inappropriate to say the least, and the latter is restricted to the patois used in certain quarters of Oxford. There are, of course, the legion of pedantic terms ending in "ian" and "ism", such as "neo-Augustinian Aristotelianism", "Russellian theory of descriptions", and such marginally philosophic terms as "Cartesian coordinate" and "Machiavellian", but these terms have never been, nor deserved to be, a living part of the language. To remedy this situation we propose that philosophers make a self-conscious effort to adopt the following new terms. With a little practice these terms can become an important part of your vocabulary, to the point that you will wonder how philosophy ever proceeded without them.

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