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Handbook of Metaphysics and Ontology.

Handbook of Metaphysics and Ontology. Munich: Philosophia Verlag, 1991. xxiii + 1005 pp. $380.00--This book is destined to become the definitive reference in the field of first philosophy. While the title is apt, it is worth mentioning at the outset that the scope of this two-volume study extends beyond metaphysics proper into the intrinsically related fields of epistemology and logic, thus allowing for a more comprehensive treatment of the central issues and figures of philosophy.

The book is advertised as reflecting "the conviction that the history of metaphysics and current work in metaphysics and ontology can each throw valuable light on the other." True to this aim, the Handbook contains, for example, two separate articles devoted to the ontological argument. One by Alvin Plantinga, treating of its classical formulations, and the other by the Polish logician Perzanowski, systematically working through the arguments of Leibniz, Descartes, and Godel. Each of the articles is written by leading experts in the relevant fields. Thus, one will find contributions by Marilyn McCord Adams on Ockham, by Aune on analytic metaphysics, by Chisholm on mind, by Saunders MacLane on category theory, and by Alan Wolter on Scotism.

The work is comprised of almost five hundred self-contained articles, each of which is accompanied by a bibliography suggesting both classic and contemporary sources of further information. Its forty-eight page index provides a thorough and convenient guide, allowing one instantly to locate discussions of Adelard of Bath or Zeno of Citium.

The work under consideration is superior to other such reference books in the special attention which it pays to two things. First, the editors of the Handbook have attended to the various meanings which terms have acquired over the ages, dealing with each in their turn. So, for example, not only are the terms "transcendence," "transcendental," and "transcendentals" treated separately, but the author of the article on transcendence, Josef Seifert, discusses at least five different concepts of transcendence. A second way in which the editors have succeeded in distinguishing their work from that of others is seen in the Handbook's register of names. Articles are to be found dealing with certain thinkers who, although deserving of attention, have been consistently overlooked. I am thinking here in particular of Dietrich von Hildebrand, who broke new and important ground in ethics, axiology, and ontology; and of Johannes Daubert who, in bringing Husserl's Logical Investigations to Munich, first gave impetus and direction to the phenomenological movement.

Located in Liechtenstein and Germany, the editors have also succeeded in compiling a truly international group of contributors. The diversity of philosophical and cultural backgrounds is reflected in the breadth of the articles, and lends a certain completeness to the whole of a sort which would otherwise be lacking.

As with all of the books which Philosophia Verlag publishes, the Handbook is handsomely designed, and bound to last. The price of the set makes it affordable almost exclusively to institutional libraries; it is, however, a reference work that no institution should be without. The multifaceted approach which the editors have taken to the field of metaphysics and ontology ensures that the studies contained in the volume will long outlast the inevitable fashion changes of mainstream philosophy. In short, the Handbook does for metaphysics, what Copleston did for the history of philosophy.--James M. DuBois, Die Internationale Akademie fur Philosophie, Liechtenstein.
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Author:DuBois, James M.
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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