The Philosopher’s Lexicon


Over the past year I’ve discovered that a lot of my academic work needs more than a little modification before I can share it on Stories & Soliloquies, and I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of explaining my favorite philosophers to an intelligent, but largely non-academic audience. I try to pull out all jargon, avoid obscure references, and limit my use of academese (that precious fashion of making ideas seem more complex than they actually are). I think that this has made my writing better and cleaner, and it has definitely helped me clarify my thoughts.

Still, a lot of jargon still slips in, and so – following James Pailly’s excellent example – I’ve decided to build a lexicon of philosophical terms. I’ve discussed the merits and dangers of jargon a few times before, but now I’m going to tackle the terms themselves.

I’ll be posting entries into the Philosopher’s Lexicon in between Philosopher Fridays posts. I will typically list the definition, give a general explanation, and then discuss how different philosophers use the term. I will choose the words to cover at random (there will be no sensible order besides what fits my mood). Some entries will be short, some will be long (I imagine “substance” will be on the longer side), some will be in groups of words, and some will be solo entries. Basically, each entry will be a bit different. I’ll try to keep them as brief as possible, and hopefully set the stage for a series of pithy snapshots.

While there are a lot of excellent encyclopedias and dictionaries of philosophy out there, I hope to (at least occasionally) tailor this space to the terms I tend to use here on this blog, and add in my own evaluation of whether or not my use of these terms is helpful, or whether I would do better to find another way.

And of course, I’m happy to take requests.

  1. Philosophy
  2. Begging the Question
  3. Argument
  4. Occam’s Razor
  5. De Dicto/De Re Distinction
  6. Ontology and Epistemology
  7. Logical and Causal Possibility
  8. Analytic and Synthetic Reasoning
  9. A Priori and A Posteriori Knowledge
  10. A Map of Distinctions:
    1. Part One
    2. Part Two
    3. Part Three
    4. Part Four
  11. Eschatology
  12. Apophatic Theology
  13. Theodicy
  14. Soteriology
  15. Ad Hominem Attack
  16. Straw Man Argument
  17. No True Scotsman Fallacy