Sex from Plato to Paglia
A Philosophical Encyclopedia
by Alan Soble
December 2005, 1248pp, 7x10
2 volumes, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-0-313-32686-8
$191, £142, 160€, A273
eBook Available: 978-0-313-06268-1
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

More than 150 alphabetically arranged entries on topics, thinkers, religions, movements, and concepts locate sexuality in its humanistic and social contexts.

Sexuality has captured our imagination since antiquity. Its passion and mysteries have inspired numerous creative works and posed many ethical, legal, and social challenges. Because sex is so central to our personal lives and society, various thinkers have pondered its philosophical dimensions.This reference book, the first of its kind, offers comprehensive coverage of sexual philosophy. Unlike other works, which explore the biology of sex, this encyclopedia locates sexuality in its broader intellectual and social contexts.

Alan Soble, one of the world’s foremost authorities on the philosophy of sex, has consulted an advisory board of distinguished specialists. Through more than 150 alphabetically arranged entries, the encyclopedia chronicles how people have thought about sexuality across time and cultures. The entries, written by more than 100 expert contributors who cite current scholarship, provide insightful discussions of thinkers, topics, movements, religions, and concepts.


  • Includes more than 150 alphabetically arranged entries
  • Draws upon the work of more than 100 expert contributors from a range of disciplines
  • Provides biographical and topical entries
  • Entries are fully cross-referenced and close with extensive bibliographies
  • Provides a selected, general bibliography of major works


"This two-volume encyclopedia provides 153 entries on figures, concepts, and schools of thought in the philosophy of sex. It includes topics of current social relevance, such as acquaintance rape and genital mutilation; more purely theoretical topics; and the sexual philosophies of major and minor religions. Major thinkers in the field and those for whom sexuality was not a primary focus are both included here. Access to entries is provided through an alphabetical table of contents, name and subject indexes, a guide to related topics, and cross-referencing. Suggestions for additional reading appear at the end of entries, and there is also a selected general bibliography. Soble has a long record of publication in the field of philosophy and sex, and the specialized interdisciplinary focus of his encyclopedia will be useful to researchers who have had to make do with more general reference works....Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above."—Choice, July 1, 2006

"Editor Soble is one of the founding scholars of the relatively new field of the philosophy of sex and remains one its prominent thinkers. In this two-volume reference work of remarkable depth and range, he has assembled a notable cast of more than 150 academic contributors to produce 153 A-to-Z entries examining the conceptual, metaphysical, ethical, and historical dimensions of human sexual thought and activity. Entries average 3500 words and contain extensive references and a generous reading list....Recommended for academic and large public libraries."—Library Journal, April 1, 2006

"[A] highly stimulating read ... The encyclopedia is admirably clearly organized and laid out. The entries are well formulated and structured, and followed by thorough lists of references... this is a commendable piece of work that would benefit many university libraries."—Reference Reviews, July 1, 2006

"This resource is remarkable in that it straddles the lines between a reference work and a study companion, between scholarly and general-interest reading....[i]t integrates and presents the scholarship in such a way as to provide both a reference source and a unique compendium to the field that can easily be used as a primer, one that is destined to become a classic."—Reference & User Services Quarterly, January 1, 2006

"[A] valuable tool for the serious student of the philosophical dimensions of sex. Most entries in the encyclopedia offer reasonable and balanced discussions of such complex issues as consent, prostitution, and sex education. The references and recommended readings sections will prove invaluable to serious students of sexology."—PsycCritques, November 1, 2006

"This compilation of over 150 experts' articles includes such topics as abstinence, bestiality, consent, dysfunction, French feminism, Hinduism, the law, nudism, phenomenology, seduction, sexual violence and utopianism, along with explanations of the thought of such as John Boswell, Havelock Ellis, Michel Foucault, Thomas Hobbes, Gottfried Leibniz, Saint Paul, Robert Rimmer, the Marquis de Sade and Baruch Spinoza. The result is eclectic but thorough, with a wide range of figures, topics/concepts and history/schools of thought within the subject. Lest we forget the most important elements, entries also describe thought on friendship, humor, language and love."—Reference & Research Book News/Art Book News Annual, May 1, 2006

"The encyclopedia has 103 contributors, maily philosophers. It is synoptic, objective, and packed with further reference - a marvellous starting point for anyone interested in doing work in this field. It is difficult to imagine anyone not finding something enlightening between its pages. A book useful to a serious student and to the practical philosopher."—Practical Philosophy, September 1, 2007

"The encyclopedia analyzes the ideas of individual thinkers such as Aristotle, Descartes, Foucault, and Freud who have had significant influence on collective attitudes and beliefs. It also analyzes the ideas developed by major religions and philosophical schools such as Buddhism and Jainism, Existenialism and Marxism. Age-old issues such as Flirting, Marriage, and Prostitution receive due consideration, as do contemporary concerns such as Cybersex: Feminism, men's; Marriage, same-sex; and Queer theory and thinkers such as Vern Bullough, Catharine MacKinnon, John Money, and Camille Paglia....Although sex may be a constant in human experience, thinking about it has been anything but. This specialized encyclopedia embraces the full range of ideas about sex, offering carefully considered information about the place philosophers have found for sex in human experience. Recommended for academic and large public libraries."—Booklist/Reference Books Bulletin, June 1, 2006

"Sex is the root of many other political issues, including pornography, prostitution, rape and sex education. This new guide explores the different schools of thought on each of these subjects. However, its scope extends far beyond sexual politics or even current thinking."—Lawrence Looks at Books, September 1, 2006

"This 2-volume set is a fascinating, but scholarly work that discusses the philosophical theories and concepts underlying one of everyone's favorite subjects."—Against the Grain, February 1, 2006

"This is a splendid book"—Philosophy in Review, October 1, 2008
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