Blackwell Philosophy Guides (series).

Title: Blackwell Philosophy Guides (series).
Editor/s: Cahn, Steven.
Material type: Book.
Publisher/date: Blackwell.
Format: Paper back. (Between 350 – 450 pages).
Area and topic: Core branches/sub-disciplines of philosophy.
Intended audience/ reading level: Tertiary/upper.
Purchasing and information: 1) 2)  3)
Unique and/or salient feature/s: The ‘Blackwell Philosophy Guides’ offer critical surveys of specific important subjects and/or central areas of philosophical interest. As a general rule, each book in the series has 15 to 20 commissioned entries on the topic in question with each entry/chapter focused on one aspect of the subject/area being discussed.
Synopsis and/or additional information: The following information is sourced from the above links (see ‘Purchasing and information’) and the text.

  • With regards to each book in the series, every chapter ‘… written especially for this volume by internationally distinguished scholars – reviews a problem, examines the current state of the discipline with respect to the topic and discusses possible futures of the field’.
  • The current titles are: ‘The Blackwell guide to … medical ethics, philosophy of language, feminist philosophy, philosophy of law and legal theory, philosophy of religion, American philosophy, aesthetics, computing and information, Continental philosophy, philosophy of mind, ancient philosophy, philosophy of education, metaphysics, philosophy of science, social and political philosophy, business ethics, ethical theory, philosophical logic, modern philosophers, epistemology’.
  • There is no common structure for all the books. The structure depends on the subject and issue discussed and how it tends to be categorised by those in the relevant field.
  • For example, ‘The Blackwell Guide to The Philosophy in Language’ has the following four sections: 1) Foundational issues, 2) Meaning 3) Reference 4) Truth – with the bulk of the 30 entries being divided between section 2 and 3. In contrast ‘The Blackwell Guide to Continental Philosophy’ is arranged such that each chapter is headed under the name of a prominent philosopher within this tradition. The approach adopted here is in line with the way Continental philosophy is typically studied at the introductory level. ‘The Blackwell Guide to Ethics’ has two main sections: ‘Meta-ethics’ and ‘Normative ethics’ with three to four main headings per section. For example ‘Normative ethics’ has the three following heading: ‘Consequentialism’, ‘Deontology’ and ‘Alternative views’ Finally, each heading has 5 entries per heading. For example, the Heading ‘Alternative Views’ has the following entries : ‘Virtue ethics’, ‘feminist ethics’, ‘pragmatic ethics’ … and so forth.
Strengths: Each volume in the series offers a very comprehensive introduction to the various sub-disciplines/branches of philosophy. Although the reading level is generally too high for high-school students, teachers who would like a) a well rounded overview of philosophy as it is currently practiced in the universities (i.e. beyond a simple one volume introduction to philosophy as a whole), or b) a survey of only one area or subject in philosophy – would benefit from the series.
Limitations: Although the titles in the series are supposedly introductory overviews, the books are intended for university level philosophy students and therefore the general reader (let alone secondary-school students) may find the level to be in advance of their own. If one is looking for direct resource material or high-school level texts on the same subject matter, then there are other books on this site that would better serve this end. If the reader requires only a very general overview of philosophy then a single volume introduction may well be all that is required.

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