Central Problems of Philosophy (series).

Title: Central Problems of Philosophy (series).
Editor/s: Shand, John.
Material type: Book.
Publisher/date: McGill–Queens University Press and Acumen Publishers.
Format: Paperback. (Between 180 -320 pages.)
Area and topic: Key/important philosophical issues/topics/problems.
Intended audience/ reading level: Tertiary/upper.
Purchasing and information:
  1. http://www.acumenpublishing.co.uk/results
  2. mqup.mcgill.ca/book_list.php?series=11&records=20
  3. amazon.com
  4. fishpond.co.nz
Unique and/or salient feature/s: Each book in ‘The Central Problems of Philosophy’ series is dedicated to analysing one specific issue, core problem or area of philosophical importance. Each book is written by one author and serves as a guide and introduction to area of interest. The emphasis is on the contemporary/current state and standing of the areas and issues in question and not on historical development.
Synopsis and/or additional information: The following information is sourced from the above links (see ‘Purchasing and information’) and the text.

  • The current titles are: A Priori; God; Rights; Realism and Anti-Realism; Death; Action; Mind and Body; Modality;  Meaning; Scepticism; Causation and Explanation; Paradox; Truth; Perception; Ontology; Knowledge; Universals; Free Will; Relativism.
  • Example title: ‘Rights’ by Duncan Ivison. ‘Duncan Ivison uses some of the current debates over the threat of global terrorism to explore the nature of rights, especially those civil and political rights at the heart of liberal democracy. Various critiques of rights – Marxist, postmodernist and feminist – are examined and the book concludes by exploring what, exactly, we should want from a theory of human rights today and what role this theory should play in global politics’.
Strengths: Although narrowed to specific issues, themes and core problems, each book draws on or relates to material falling under any number of areas/branches in philosophy. For example, the book title ‘Meaning’ draws on philosophy of language, existentialism, philosophy of art, as well as other areas outside of philosophy (e.g. sociology, critical theory). The title ‘Relativism’ explores relativism in relation to epistemology, ontology and metaphysics, ethics, logic … and so forth. Also, the main focus of the series is on the current state of things with regards to the subjects covered. In sum, in the process of exploring each issue, the reader (teacher/student) is introduced to many aspects of philosophy and is given a brief glimpse at the latest and often strongest philosophical arguments and positions. Furthermore, as a rule, the books are clear, concise, tightly written, well organised and to the point.
Limitations: The emphasis on contemporary and/or current takes on longstanding issues and arguments may have its limits. For secondary school teaching it may be preferable to introduce the issues from a wider contextual/historical perspective. This approach may foster a deeper appreciation of the significance of the ideas and positions being discussed. (This is not to say that the books in this series do not offer any such context). The main problem overall is the intended reading level (i.e. tertiary); in light of this, the general reader, secondary school student and some teachers may find the books a struggle to read.

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