Author Archives: School Philosophy Resources

Twenty Thinking Tools.

Title: Twenty Thinking Tools.
Author/s: Cam, Phillip
Material type: Book.
Publisher/date: ACER Press (2005).
Format: Paperback (121 pages).
ISBN: ISBN 0-86431-501-5
Area and topic: Pedagogical aid and/or resource. Philosophical skills and methodology. Practical philosophy.
Intended audience/ reading level:  School teachers/accessible.
Purchasing and information:
  1. amazon.com
  2. Acer Books’ on-line
Unique and/or salient feature/s: ‘Twenty Thinking Tools’ is designed for teachers to structure and follow through with a process of philosophical enquiry in the classroom. Specifically, ‘it introduces teachers to the theory and practice of collaborative inquiry [a form of teaching and learning that involves class discussion and small group work], and provides an easy-to-follow guide to the tools that students will acquire as they learn to examine issues and explore ideas’(Acer Books on-line). Although not intended as such, the tools, methods and approaches presented in ‘Twenty Thinking Tools’ may be used at all levels of schooling.
Synopsis and/or additional information: The following information is sourced from the above links (see ‘Purchasing and information’) and the text.

  • ‘Beginning with an ‘Introductory Toolkit’, Twenty Thinking Tools shows teachers how to strengthen students abilities to ask insightful questions, to look at problems and issues from various points of view, to explore disagreements reasonably, to make appropriate use of examples, to draw needful distinctions, and generally to develop their imaginative, conceptual and logical abilities in order to gain a deeper knowledge and understanding of all kinds of subject matter. The Intermediate and Advanced Toolkits show teachers how to encourage students to make appropriate use of such things as counter-examples, criteria, generalisation, informal reasoning and elementary deductive logic’.
  • Specifically, the book discusses and explores a variety of general tools and procedures for a) identifying philosophical statements, issues and questions (as different from non philosophical statements, issues and questions) b) clarifying and formulating questions and problems such that they are ripe for philosophical analysis c) establishing means and ways  to set up an agenda for the upcoming philosophical discussion and enquiry d) creating hypothesis and conjectures, e) subjecting one’s finding to conceptual analysis, e) bringing to light various assumptions and implications that arise – and finally, f)  subjecting one’s findings to critical analysis and evaluation before bringing the process to resolution.
  • The text also includes examples from the classroom, supporting exercises and activities.
Strengths: The book is designed specifically for classroom philosophical enquiry. Although reasonably short in length, it is an excellent resource and is quite unique in its approach as a teacher’s guide for structuring and practicing philosophy in the classroom. Although the book is primarily created for the PFC (Philosophy for children) programme, it is well suited for general secondary school level philosophy teaching. Importantly, the class structure, learning environment, philosophical approach and model that the book is  teaches,encouragers an atmosphere of participation as opposed to a more ‘teacher, lecturing the student’ approach.
Limitations: Some aspects of the material may have to be modified for older and more advanced students. Although the books is designed for the classroom, the aim is to bring about philosophical enquiry with an emphasis on the students generating and creating philosophical issues and content i.e. there is very little in the way of including or accommodating the more formal approach of presenting philosophy as a tradition with specific issues, problems, core topics and areas, ‘big names’ and so forth – that is then open to assessment and/or examination.

Thinking in Action (series)

Title: Thinking in Action (series).
Editor/s: Kearney, Richard.
Material type: Book.
Publisher/date: Routledge.
Format: Paperback. (Titles average at 150 pages)
Area and topic: Philosophy and daily life/culture/experience.
Intended audience/ reading level: General/medium (some titles are easier reads than others).
Purchasing and information:
  • routledge.com/books/series/thinking_in_action
  • amazon.com
  • fishpond.co.nz
Unique and/or salient feature/s: The ‘Thinking in Action’ series is aimed at the general reader. Each book, written by a different author offers philosophical insight and critical debate on a variety of contemporary topics and issues of significance to Western cultural life. For the most part, the topics chosen are (arguably) of ‘considerable’ importance in today’s world i.e. they are not of a generally mundane or frivolous nature. This point contrasts with the ‘Philosophy for Everyone’ series (see review).
Synopsis and/or additional information: The following information is sourced from the above links (see ‘Purchasing and information’) and the text.

  • The book titles are as follows: On Privacy; On Manners; On … Delusion; Courage; Architecture; Criticism; Landscapes; Waiting; Shame; Translation; Education; the Human Condition; the Political; the Public; Anxiety; Cloning; Personality; Being Authentic; Evil; Humanism; the Meaning of Life; On Literature; Humour; Film; Stories; Religion; Science; Belief; Immigration and Refugees; Cosmopolitanism; Forgiveness.
  • Example title and details – ‘On the Internet’: ‘Can the internet solve the problem of mass education, and bring human beings to a new level of community? Drawing on a diverse array of thinkers from Plato to Kierkegaard, ‘On the Internet’ argues that there is much in common between the disembodied, free floating web and Descartes’ separation of mind and body. Hubert Dreyfus [ the author] also shows how Kierkegaard’s insights into the origins of a media-obsessed public anticipate the web surfer, blogger and chat room. Drawing on studies of the isolation experienced by many internet users and the insights of philosopher such as Descartes and Kierkegaard, Dreyfus shows how the internet’s privatisation of experience ignores essential human capacities such as trust, moods, risk, shared local concerns and commitment’.
Strengths: The ‘Thinking in Action’ series explores a wide range of topics from a philosophical perspective, many of which extend beyond what is commonly associated with philosophy as an academic discipline. As a resource for secondary school teachers, the content is especially appropriate and relevant for those subjects that fall within the domain of cultural and social studies – ranging from psychology through to film and television. At the very least, the books may serve as useful background information for approaching practically any subject of cultural or personal relevance from a philosophical perspective.
Limitations: The books in this series are not written or presented in a style that can be directly used as a general resource for teaching. Because of this, they will require, some ‘mining’, and imaginative (and possibly time consuming) manipulation of the content to arrive at something that is presentable and appropriate for secondary level teaching.

The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten: And 99 Other Thought Experiments.

Title: The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten: And 99 Other Thought Experiments.
Author/s: Baggini, J.
Material type: Book.
Publisher/date: Plume (2006).
Format: Paperback (336 pages).
ISBN:  ISBN-10: 0452287448, ISBN-13: 978-0452287440.
Area and topic: Popular philosophy. Key/important philosophical issues/topics/problems; Thought experiments. Moral philosophy (ethics).
Intended audience/ reading level: General/accessable
Purchasing and information: amazon.com.
Unique and/or salient feature/s: ‘The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten’ consists of one hundred philosophical puzzles, presented as thought experiments, on moral philosophical and issues concerned with ‘value’ (ranging from social issues to personal dilemmas).
Synopsis and/or additional information: The following information is sourced from the above links (see ‘Purchasing and information’) and the text.

  • ‘Each entry includes an imagined scenario, all of which are based on sources [ranging] from Plato to Sir Bernard Williams’. Each scenario presents a problem or puzzle followed by a one to two page commentary and discussion exploring the various ramifications and possible implications of the issue in question.
  • It is notable that in all cases, the author (Baggini) offers little in the way of closure in response to the problems he presents. Consequently, each issue is kept alive and the reader guessing. As Baggini says in the preface ‘This is neither a reference book nor a collection of answers to old puzzles; it is rather a provocation, a stimulus to further thought. In the comments that follow the scenarios, I may suggest a way out of the difficulty or I may be playing the devil’s advocate: it is for you to decide which… Many lines of though can be started from this book. But none end in it.’
  • Some of the puzzles date back to ‘the Greeks’ other are more contemporary. For an example of the latter, there is an entry drawn from a passage from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Other examples include: ‘if  Stelios’s body is disintegrated and then recomposed by the transporter, is Stelio’s still the same person he was?’; ‘A doctor is not allowed to end a patient life, yet if the janitor accidentally pulls the plug, the doctor is not required to put that plug back in. What is the difference?’; ‘Is it ever ethical to eat animals, even if they want to be eaten?’; ‘Is there really an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving God?’; ‘Is it right to do something wrong if it doesn’t hurt anyone?’; ‘Is torture ever a good option?’
Strengths: In line with the ‘pop philosophy’ genre, the entries are deliberately presented in a relatively light and entertaining way. The author however does not shy away from presenting issues that are important, significant and at times, provocative. Furthermore, regardless of the ‘dress up’, all the entries are in fact, for the most part, respectable and quite standard philosophical dilemmas.
Limitations: The book is relatively narrow in scope in the sense that it is concerned only with a) moral philosophy (although in the widest sense), b) which are all presented as dilemmas (not all philosophical problems and issues are dilemmas), c) and as thought experiments, i.e. a method that, although useful, has its limits and has received its share of criticism (see ‘the Guardian’ review on Wikipedia under this title entry). Furthermore, for good or bad, the book is not obviously created with the classroom in mind.

The Philosophy Gym. 25 Short Adventures in Thinking.

Title: The Philosophy Gym. 25 Short Adventures in Thinking.
Author/s: Law, Stephen
Material type: Book.
Publisher/date: Thomas Dunne Books (2003).
Format: Paperback (290 pages)
ISBN: ISBN-10: 0312314523, ISBN-13: 978-0312314521
Area and topic: Core areas/sub-disciplines/branches of philosophy. Popular philosophy. Key/important philosophical issues/topics/problems.
Intended audience/ reading level: General/accessible
Purchasing and information:
  1. amazon.com
  2. Barnes and Noble
  3. fishpond.co.nz
Unique and/or salient feature/s: ‘The Philosophy Gym’ explores 25 issues from a philosophical perspective ranging from the relatively frivolous (e.g. whether a pickled sheep is really art) to more traditionally weighty questions such as ‘does God exist’. Each issue is explored through a variety of styles and approaches including dialogues, stories, thought experiments and illustrations.
Synopsis and/or additional information: The following information is sourced from the above links (see ‘Purchasing and information’) and the text.

  • Each entry/chapter is roughly ten to twelve pages long and includes the following: A key indicating the level of difficulty (i.e. warm-up, moderate or more challenging), suggestions for further reading, additional recommended resources (including various internet sites) and ‘thinking tools’ to explain key philosophical ideas.
  • Each entry is distinct from each other so one can ‘dip in and out in any order and at any time you like’. Having said this, it may be helpful to read the introduction (which includes sections ‘What is Philosophy’, ‘Applying Philosophy to Life’, and ‘Other Reasons to Think Philosophically’) before reading the various entries.
  • The book is arranged in seven chapters/sections. The seven Sections are; (1) Logic, (2) Morality, (3) God, (4) Consciousness, (5) Expectations, (6) Truth, (7) Puzzles. Each of these chapter/sections, have a number of entries that, in total, make up the 25 issues or (as indicated in the title) ‘short adventures’. For example, section 5) ‘Morality’ explores issues under the following subheadings: (i) Is homosexual sex morally permissible? (ii) Can we have morality without God and religion? (iii) Is it morally acceptable to design children genetically? (iv) Is it right to sacrifice the life of one conjoined twin to save the other? (v) Is it morally acceptable to eat meat? (vi) Is the rightness or wrongness of an act based on our emotional reactions to the act?

 

Strengths: The book is accessible, lively and fun, yet informative; for a relatively short book it also manages to cover a fair bit of ground. Unlike many other so called ‘popular philosophy’ authors, ‘Laws’ is very good at conveying fairly dense subject matter in a simple way but without misrepresenting or seriously diluting the issues under discussion in the process. The book is also a good ‘all rounder’ i.e. it covers many classic and contemporary philosophical problems while in the process introducing the main subjects in philosophy and bringing to light various philosophical methods, tools and other ‘tricks of the trade’. Although written primarily for the general reader, the book readily lends itself to class room work. For some, the lack of syllabus structure and content, and the self contained entries (which allows one to ‘dip and pick’) will be preferable to those books designed specifically for the classroom; i.e. books with set and centralised syllabus guidelines.

 

Limitations: There are no obvious or explicit guidelines, games, activity setups, open questions, exercises and so forth designed to engage the reader/student in a more practical or activity based sense. A notable common complaint from customer reviews (mostly from those with a more religious persuasion) is the supposed lack of even handedness that the author exercises. As one ‘Amazon’ reviewer writes ‘When Law unabashedly declares his final opinion -“In short, what creationists practice isn’t good science – its bunk” – it has the potential to offend. It detracts, too, from the book’s admirable aim to “provide the skills needed to think independently” and “help fortify your courage in making a moral stand”.

The Great Philosophers: An Introduction to Western Philosophy.

Title: The Great Philosophers: An Introduction to Western Philosophy.
Author/s: Magee, Brian.
Material type: Book.
Publisher/date: Oxford University Press, 2nd edition (2001).
Format: Paperback (352 pages).
ISBN: 10: 9780192893222, 978-0192893222.
Area and topic: History of philosophy and ideas.
Intended audience/ reading level: General/ medium to advanced.
Purchasing and information:
  1. amazon.com
  2. fishpond.co.nz
Unique and/or salient feature/s: ‘The Great Philosophers’ is an overview of fifteen of the greatest Western philosophers and their philosophies. Each entry is presented in the form of a conversation between popular and respected journalist and philosopher, Brian Magee and various contemporary Scholar’s and philosophers, many who are important within the field of philosophy in their own right.
Synopsis and/or additional information: The following information is sourced from the above links (see ‘Purchasing and information’) and the text.

  • Although there is no general format for each discussion, each entry tends to include the following features: a short biographical sketch of the philosopher under discussion;  reference to  the wider philosophical, and (where relevant) the cultural and historical context in which each philosopher (and their philosophy) is situated; problems and issues to which the philosopher in question is responding; the various philosophical approaches and methods used, and in some case, introduced by the philosopher; and the  positions they hold.
  • The philosophers and movements discussed are (in order) as follows: Plato, Aristotle, Medieval Philosophy, Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz, Locke and Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Hegel and Marx, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Husserl, Heidegger and Modern Existentialism, The American Pragmatists, Frege, Russell and Modern Logic, Wittgenstein.
  • Some of the most prominent contemporary philosophers being interviewed in the volume are (no particular order) A.J Ayer, Martha Nussbaum, Peter Singer, John Searle, Hubert Dreyfus and Bernard Williams.
Strengths: The interview/conversational approach in presenting the material tends to keep the discussion relatively informal but (given the pedigree of those being interviewed) far from superficial. The interviewer, Brain Magee, is himself a very respected and knowledgeable philosophical journalist and author. This is reflected in the informative content that is explored through the questions put forward – and the prompts used to guide the interview process. Finally, as one reviewer notes, ‘the book is not only an introduction to the philosophers of the past, but gives an invaluable insight into the view and personalities of some of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century’.
Limitations: The book lacks the more structured, formal approach found in most overviews and introductions to the history of philosophy. Some parts of the discussion presuppose prior understanding of the issues being discussed and the reading level is, at times, beyond secondary-school age. Furthermore, in many cases there is a sense in which the reader is learning more about the interviewees own philosophical position and their philosophical engagement with the philosopher being discussed (notably, the ‘Ayer’ interview to this reviewers mind). This is in contrast to the more supposedly ‘neutral’ historical summaries found in most introductions on the same material.

The Philosophers Tool kit: A Compendium of Philosophical Concepts and Methods.

Title: The Philosophers Tool kit: A Compendium of Philosophical Concepts and Methods.
Author/s: Baggini, J and Fosl, Peter S
Material type: Book.
Publisher/date: Wiley-Blackwell (2002).
Format: Paperback (232 pages).
ISBN: ISBN-10: 0631228748, ISBN-13: 978-0631228745
Area and topic: Pedagogical aid and/or resource. Philosophical skills and methodolgy. Practical philosophy.
Intended audience/ reading level: Teachers/accessible to medium.
Purchasing and information: amazon.com
Unique and/or salient feature/s: ‘The Philosophers Toolkit’ provides all the intellectual equipment necessary to engage with and participate in philosophical argument, reading and reflection. Each of its 87 entries explains how to use an important concept or argumentative technique accurately and effectively.’(back cover).
and/or additional information: The following information is sourced from the above links (see ‘Purchasing and information’) and the text.

  • ‘Beginning with the basics of argumentation, the book moves on to deal with tools for assessment and criticism … and some of the radical critiques of standard philosophical methodology. Written in an engaging style, the entries are brought to life with vivid and colourful examples and are accompanied by suggestions for further reading. [The book] can be used … as an introduction to the essentials of philosophical reflection methods … a course on philosophical method, or as a reference book to which readers can turn to find quick and clear accounts of key concepts’.
  • Chapters include: 1) Basic tools for argument, 2) Tools for assessment 3) Tools for conceptual distinctions 4) Tools for radical critique, and 5) Tools at the limits. Each chapter has between ten to twenty tools and concepts with explanations of the nature of the tool in question and when and how to use it. The authors also offer additional readings and sources for elaboration on the concepts and tools discussed.
Strengths: ‘The Philosopher’s Toolkit’ offers a unique approach. Instead of introducing philosophy as a discipline comprised of various branches (ethics, metaphysics etc) or from a historical perspective, ‘Toolkit’ presents a comprehensive introduction to the methods and tools used in philosophical enquiry. Tools and methods that are often assumed but not explicitly identified or revealed through other approaches to introducing philosophy. The book is easy enough to read and each chapter is a self contained reading dedicated to exploring a given tool or approach. In sum ‘Toolkit’ may be a helpful teaching aid, especially for understanding and assessing the skills that ‘should’ be acquired by students in learning philosophy.
Limitations: Given the nature of the subject matter, the book can be a little dry to read. It is not written specifically with secondary school study in mind and in most cases (excluding courses/lessons in critical thinking or conceptual analysis) the content does not really present itself as something to teach by itself.

The Duck That Won the Lottery: 100 New Experiments for the Armchair Philosopher

Title: The Duck That Won the Lottery: 100 New Experiments for the Armchair Philosopher.
Author/s: Baggini, Julian.
Material type: Book.
Publisher/date: Plume (2009).
Format: Paperback (336 pages).
ISBN: ISBN-10: 0452295416, ISBN-13: 978-0452295414.
Area and topic: Popular philosophy. Philosophy and daily life/culture/experience. Philosophical skills and methodology. Practical philosophy. Critical thinking.
Intended audience/ reading level: General/accessable.
Purchasing and information: amazon.com
Unique and/or salient feature/s: ‘The Duck That Won the Lottery’ is a ‘pop philosophy’ book on applied critical thinking. The book analyses a large and wide variety of positions and claims (100 in total), all of which are drawn from daily life, especially  those areas and avenues that impact on our decision making.
Synopsis and/or additional information: The following information is sourced from the above links (see ‘Purchasing and information’) and the text.

  • ‘This book sets out to highlight 100 common ways in which people argue badly. Most take their cue from examples of fallacious reasoning, but others focus on habit styles, and biases of thought. Others start from perfectly good arguments that are nonetheless used in unreasonable ways. [The Duck That Won the Lottery] is not a textbook, and my list contains overlaps and variants of what the logicians would identify as the same species of poor reasoning. I have chosen bad argumentative moves that are actually used in the real world, and have catalogued them accordingly, not necessarily in the same way as professors of philosophy and critical thinking. The cross-referencing is an invitation to explore all the similarities and differences between the manoeuvres I describe … the examples are drawn from real life … [e.g.] the response to terrorism and the war in Iraq … environmentalism, alternative medicine, religion, euthanasia and poverty … [ and a few lighter toy examples e.g.] quantum sheep poets, lucky ducks, and gods from outer space’. (preface).
  • Specifically, each entry starts with a short quote sourced from some relatively current news report or entertainment item. Examples here include spurious claims made by the following political, media and the entertainment personalities: Donald Rumsfeld, Emma Thompson, Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, and Chris Martin … among many others. Each quote is then followed by a 2 to 3 page brief that explains how the quote in question is an example of some specific form of fallacious reasoning. This in turn is followed by a variety of questions to encourage further reflection on the fallacy or suspect argument/claim in question. The entry finishes off with cross-references to other entries/chapters that are related to the fallacy or suspect argument/claim just discussed.
Strengths: On the one hand, the book aims to awaken the reader from the non-reflective acceptance of news items, entertainment and other media snippets — the ‘sound bites’ that form the background narrative of our wider social and cultural life. With this awarness, the reader (student) is invited to adopt a more active, healthy and critical attitude to what is often just psychologically persuasive rhetoric, ideology and propaganda. On the other hand, the use of current and often important real life concrete examples may be a more interesting and engaging way to become acquainted with what are essentially rather abstract fallacies. The presentation of the book (i.e. 100 short entries that share the same format/structure) makes it easy to pick and choose, in any order, just one entry at a time for short classroom exercises.
Limitations: The book is not intended as a classroom text. Because of this, some time and effort may be required to make the exercises appropriate and presentable for class work. The book is in essence a coffee table book in critical thinking and current affairs with little else in the way of philosophy. Even then, other than discussing ‘fallacies’, the book offers little else with regards to critical thinking. For example, there is no attention given to what is and what is not a good argument, or how an argument is constructed, analysed, evaluated and so forth.

The Art of Living (series).

Title: The Art of Living (series).
Editor/s: Vernon, Mark.
Material type: Book.
Publisher/date: Acumen.
Format: Paperback. (160-70 pages, average.)
Area and topic: Philosophy and daily life/culture/experience.
Intended audience/ reading level: General/medium to advanced.
Purchasing and information:
  1. http://www.acumenpublishing.co.uk/series.asp,
  2. amazon.com
  3. fishpond.co.nz
Unique and/or salient feature/s: ‘The Art of Living’ series focuses on themes of existential importance and (in some cases) mundane ‘everyday’ issues that we tend to take for granted.
Synopsis and/or additional information: The following information is sourced from the above links (see ‘Purchasing and information’) and the text.

  • ‘From Plato to Bertrand Russell, philosophers have engaged wide audiences on matters of life and death. ‘The Art of Living’ series aims to open up philosophy’s riches to a wider public once again. Taking its lead from the concerns of the ancient Greek philosophers, the series asks the question “How should we live?” Authors draw on their own personal reflections to write philosophy that seeks to enrich, stimulate and challenge the reader’s thoughts about their own life. In a world where people are searching for new insights and sources of meaning, ‘The Art of Living’ series showcases the value of philosophy and reveals it as a great untapped resource for our age’
  • Series titles are: Hope, Forgiveness, Commitment, Science, Distraction, Faith, Money, Me, Death, Middle Age, Work, hope, Deception, Sport, Illness, Fame, Wellbeing, hunger, Pets.
  • Example titles: Raymond Tallis: On Hunger: ‘In this book, Raymond Tallis takes us through the different levels of our hunger. Out of our primary appetites arise a myriad of pleasures and tastes that are elaborated in second-level hedonistic hungers creating new values. The evolution of appetite into desire opens the way to social hungers such as the hunger for acknowledgement. Awareness of death awakens a further level of hunger for something that lies beyond the pell-mell of successive experiences leading towards extinction. The art of living is the art of managing our hungers.’
  • Table of contents: 1. The first hunger, 2. Hedonistic hunger: foodism and beyond, 3. The hunger for others, 4. The fourth hunger, 5. Ending hunger.
Strengths: The titles in this series reflect the intended aim, i.e. to explore those issues that are of central importance in our current age and climate with regards to ‘the art of living’. Less dramatically, each title explores certain issues and ideas that have the strongest influence on current (predominently Western) cultural  values, beliefs —  and especially as they are felt in our personal lives. By reflecting on such issues from a philosophical perspective, teachers may introduce the discipline through subject matter that is not merely of intellectual interest. For many students this may make the subject of philosophy more ‘alive’ for them. Looking at it from the other way around, the series may help high-school aged students reflect, through philosophy, on those issues that are (or will be) of central importance to their lives.
Limitations: The books are not intended for teaching purposes and though written for the general reader, some of the books in the series are quite difficult to read. Furthermore, although most of the titles deal with style and content that are philosophical in a general sense, in a stricter sense they would be better placed under the umbrella of humanities and social sciences.

The Routledge Philosophers (series).

Title: The Routledge Philosophers: (Series).
Editor/s: Leiter, Brian.
Material type: Book.
Publisher/date: Routledge.
Format: Paperback. (Between 250 – 350 pages.)
Area and topic: History of philosophy and ideas.
Intended audience/ reading level: Tertiary/lower.
Purchasing and information:
  1. routledge.com/philosophy/search/
  2. amazon.com
  3. fishpond.co.nz
Unique and/or salient feature/s: Each volume in the ‘Routledge Philosophers’ series presents a general introduction and comprehensive overview of one of the great Western philosophers and their work. Each title is written by a different respected contemporary author/philosopher. Each author offers a critical assessment of the main positions and key arguments held by the featured philosopher.
Synopsis and/or additional information: The following information is sourced from the above links (see ‘Purchasing and information’).

  • All of the featured philosophers and their works are considered in light of the wider philosophical and cultural context in which they are situated. Furthermore, the authors of each volume discuss the legacy of each position in line with subsequent (and current) philosophical developments.
  • Depending on the book, additional features may include: chronologies of major dates and events, chapter summaries, annotated suggestions for further reading and a glossaries of technical terms.
  • The present book titles are (no particular order): Habermas, Aquinas, Socrates, Adorno, Mill, Foucault, Plato, Hume, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Russell, Merleau-Ponty, Spinoza, Rawls, Aristotle, Husserl, Darwin, Kant, Freud, Hobbes, Leibniz, Hegel, Rousseau, Schopenhauer, Locke.
  • Title example: ‘Schopenhauer’ By Julian Young. ‘Beginning with an overview of Schopenhauer’s life and work, he [Young] introduces the central aspects of [Schopenhauer’s] metaphysics fundamental to understanding his work as a whole; his philosophical idealism and debt to the philosophy of Kant; his attempt to answer the question of what the world is; his account of science; and in particular his idea that ‘will’ is the essence of all things. Julian Young then introduces and assesses Schopenhauer’s aesthetics, which occupy a central place in his philosophy … before assessing his ethics of compassion, his arguments for pessimism and his account of ‘salvation’. In the final chapter, Young considers Schopenhauer’s legacy and his influence on the thought of Nietzsche and Wittgenstein.
Strengths: Many (if not most) of the original texts written by the philosophers featured in this series can be hard to follow and understand. Their writing output is often large, varied and spread over many years; their philosophical positions often change as they develop and the original texts tend to include content that is of little philosophical and/or contemporary interest or relevance. To accommodate these issues and related problems, each title in this series offers a helpful relatively short, comprehensive yet ‘readable’ overview of each philosopher and their work. Importantly, special attention is given to selecting only those themes and issues of historical and contemporary importance and significance. Because of these reasons, each volume may serve as a helpful guide for understanding the primary texts of specific philosophers or as introductory overviews for those who do not to require any further exploration. Also, teachers may choose to select specific titles if they wish to focus exclusively on one philosopher or (if up to the challenge) they could read the series as a whole for a more in-depth introduction to philosophy.
Limitations: Arguably, rather than an entire series, a single volume that covers all (or most of) the major philosophers may suffice for the purpose of secondary level philosophy. On the other hand,  as with most overviews and guide books, there is a loss of richness and depth of understanding that may only be gained from direct engagement with the primary texts.

Reading Philosophy (series).

Title: Reading Philosophy (series).
Editor/s: Each volume has its own editor/s
Material type: Book.
Publisher/date: Wiley.
Format: Paperback. (Between 250 – 350 pages.)
Area and topic: History of philosophy and ideas. Core areas/branches/ sub-disciplines of philosophy. Student text book.
Intended audience/ reading level: Tertiary/lower.
Purchasing and information:
  1. www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/Sectio/id-404050.html
  2. amazon.com
  3. fishpond.co.nz
Unique and/or salient feature/s: ‘Reading Philosophy’ is a series of text books focused on specific core topics and sub-disciplines of philosophy. Each volume in the series offers a balance between a) edited anthology of key and important classic and contemporary readings from seminal philosophical texts on the subject in question; and b) interactive instruction and commentary by the books editor/s to assist exploration and analysis of the text.
Synopsis and/or additional information: The following information is sourced from the above links (see ‘Purchasing and information’) and the text.

  • Written for readers with little or no exposure to the subject under discussion, the aim is to encourage the practice of philosophy in the process of engagement with philosophical texts.
  • Although drawing from important writings from various periods in the history of philosophy, the series is not intended as a historical survey of the development of philosophy – nor is the emphasis on quantity of selection. The main focus is on exploring important aspects of specific core topics or disciplines as they currently stand in the present philosophical climate. To this end, the readings selected are those that best, or at least sufficiently, represent those aspects.
  • Typical features of each volume include: Book introduction from the editors outlining the main subjects principal concerns; a number of topical chapters each containing two primary readings accompanied by an introduction to the topic; introductions to the readings as well as extensive and in some cases interactive commentaries on the passages presented; various questions for debate; annotated bibliography.
  • Present titles are, ‘Reading  …  Philosophy of Religion, Ethics, Metaphysics, Epistemology, Philosophy of Language’, and ‘Reading Philosophy’ (each of the above titles is followed by the line ‘Selected Texts with Interactive Commentary’).
  • Example title ‘Reading Ethics: Selected Texts with Interactive Commentary’ Chapter 1)  Goodness. 2) Justice. 3) Reasons for Action. 4) Subjectivism and Objectivism.5) Morality and Obligation. 6) Boundaries of Moral Philosophy.
  • Each chapter in turn has various sub-headings. For example, chapter 1) ‘The Good’, has the following sub headings: Introduction. Introduction to Aristotle. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (extracts from Book I). Commentary on Aristotle. Introduction to Mill. J. S. Mill, Utilitarianism (extracts from Ch. 2, ‘What Utilitarianism Is’). Commentary on Mill. Introduction to Foot. Philippa Foot, ‘Utilitarianism and the Virtues’ (extracts). Commentary on Foot.
Strengths: The series offers an excellent way of introducing the discipline of philosophy as presently practiced through direct acquaintance with the readings of the great philosophers past and present. Furthermore, the series adopts an interactive approach to ensure that the reader/student is actively philosophically engaged with the issues. For these reasons, and because the books are essentially a series of text books, they are well suited to secondary school level philosophy.
Limitations: The target audience is probably tertiary level so the readings may be slightly difficult in parts for secondary school students. Teachers may find ways to accommodate this problem e.g. by selecting easier parts of the book; or by editing/paraphrasing other parts to make the writings easier to comprehend and/or read. This however maybe somewhat time consuming.