Continuum’s Reader’s Guides (series.)

Title: Continuum’s Reader’s Guides (series).
Editor/s: Campbell, Sarah.
Material type: Book.
Publisher/date: Continuum (Philosophy).
Format: Paperback. (Between 150 to 400 pages, most are around 200.)
Area and topic: History of philosophy/ideas.
Intended audience/ reading level: Tertiary/ lower to middle.
Purchasing and information:
Unique and/or salient feature/s: Each title in the ‘Continuum’s Reader’s Guides’ series is written by a contemporary author and offers a clear introduction and guide to one of the classic works of Western philosophy.
Synopsis and/or additional information: The following information is sourced from the above links (see ‘Purchasing and information’) and the text.

  • ‘Each book explores the major themes, historical and philosophical context and key passages of a major philosophical text, guiding the reader toward a thorough understanding of often demanding material’.
  • ‘All the ‘Reader’s Guides’ follow the same basic format, with chapters on: Philosophical and historical context, Key themes, Reading the text, Reception and influence, Further reading. Each book includes important and salient passages from the original texts’.
  • The titles in the series are: Aristotle’s ‘Nicomachean Ethics’ and also ‘Politics'; Berkeley’s ‘Principles of Human Knowledge’, and also ‘Three Dialogues'; Deleuze’s ‘Difference and Repetition'; Deleuze and Guattari’s ‘Anti-Oedipus'; Derrida’s ‘Writing and Difference'; Descartes’ ‘Meditations'; Hegel’s ‘Philosophy of Right'; Heidegger’s ‘Being and Time’, and also ‘Later Writings’; Hobbes’s ‘Leviathan'; Hume’s ‘Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion’, and also ‘Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding'; Kant’s ‘Critique of Aesthetic Judgment’ and also  ‘Critique of Pure Reason’, and ‘Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals'; Kierkegaard’s ‘Fear and Trembling’ ; Kuhn’s ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions'; Locke’s ‘Essay Concerning Human Understanding’ and ‘Second Treatise of Government'; Mill’s ‘On Liberty’  and also ‘Utilitarianism'; Nietzsche’s ‘On the Genealogy of Morals’, and also ‘The Birth of Tragedy'; Plato’s ‘Republic’, and also ‘Symposium'; Rawls’s ‘A Theory of Justice'; Rousseau’s ‘The Social Contract'; Sartre’s ‘Being and Nothingness'; Spinoza’s ‘Ethics'; Wittgenstein’s ‘Philosophical Investigations’ and also ‘Tractatus Logic-Philosophicus’.
Strengths: The obvious strong feature of this series is the service it offers in providing guidance for often difficult classic philosophical texts. Each book in the series highlights important themes from the featured text (themes that are often not made explicitly clear in the original text); jargon, key terms and difficult terminology is explained, and each position is contextually situated, both within the philosopher’s over all philosophical system and (in most cases) the wider philosophical tradition.
Limitations: The books in this series are ‘guides’ – i.e. the authors of these guides do not singularly represent the work they are featuring; to ignore this is to run the risk of closing off other possible readings and interpretations of the original text including one’s own reading and interpretation. In other words, there is no substitute for direct engagement with the original work. Having said this, given the effort and specialist expertise often required to penetrate these often very dense texts, then it may not be fair or practical to expect teachers without a philosophical background (let alone students) to directly engage with the original text without some guidance.

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