The Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy

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9780141018409: The Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy

'A definitive work.explains clearly and succinctly concepts and theories at the heart of European and American philosophy.' - Brenda Almond

What do philosophers mean by 'absolute' and 'akrasia'? What are 'Polish notation' and 'prime matter'? What contributions to human thought were made by Plato, Machiavelli, Kant and Derrida? These questions and many more are answered by this illuminating dictionary, which draws on contributions from over 100 leading philosophers.

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DEONTOLOGY

1 This word was devised by Jeremy Bentham (1748 - 1832), and used by him to mean the `science of morality'. He also used the word as a name for his whole elthical theory, including both the basic principle of utility and a vast number of detailed applications. Bentham's Deontology 1834 was compiled by his editor in a way frowned upon by many of Bentham's followers, including John Stewart Mill. 2 a code of ethics for certain professions, e.g. the medical profession.

LAPLACE

Pierre Simon de (1749 - 1827) French astronomer and probability theorist. On the basis of Newtonian physics, he held the view that the total course of events in the universe would be perfectly predictable to an intelligence who knew the position of every particle in the universe and the forces acting upon it. In the absence of such perfect knowledge, however, we should be guided by a rational estimate of probabilities.

SOLIPSISM

1 (in ontology) The view that nothing exists except one's own self and the contents of its consciousness. 2 (in epistemology) The view that nothing can be known except one's own self and the contents of its consciousness.

In an older sense, solipsism means egoism, the view that nothing is to be valued except one's own interests and pleasures. This usage occurs e.g. in Kant's Critique of Practical Reason 3, section 3. The invention of the word and its use in this sense have been traced to a satirical anti-Jesuit work dating from the 1650s. It accused Jesuits of unscrupulous pursuit of self-interest, i.e. of what is now called egoism. On the other hand, `egoism' signified until the nineteenth century what in present-day usage is called solipsism. It seems that the two words exchanged their meanings in the course of the nineteenth century.

About the Author:

Thomas Mautner is Visiting Fellow in the School of Humanities at the Australian National University, He has published papers in academic journals and has lectured widely on 17th and 18th century philosophy, moral and political thought and national rights.

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