Philosophy: A Student Text for VCE.

Title: Philosophy: A Student Text for VCE (Victoria Education Certificate, Australia) Units 1 & 2.
Author/s: Robinson-McCarthy, L & Symes, A.
Material type: Book.
Publisher/date: David Barlow Publishing (2010).
Format: Paperback (312 pages).
ISBN: 9781921333347
Area and topic: History of philosophy and ideas. Core areas/sub-disciplines/branches of philosophy Key/important philosophical issues/topics/problems. Pedagogical aid and/or resource.  Philosophical skills and methodology. Student text book.
Intended audience/ reading level: Secondary/upper (years 12 and 13 NZ).
Purchasing and information: pactiss.org
Unique and/or salient feature/s: ‘Philosophy: A Student text’ is a textbook designed for senior secondary school students and teachers of the VCE Philosophy syllabus. The book aims to provide an introductory overview of the core issues within the main branches of philosophy.
Synopsis and/or additional information: The following information is sourced from the above links (see ‘Purchasing and information’) and the text.

  • ‘Philosophy: A Student text’ covers the following areas: Logic and reasoning, epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, a chapter titled ‘Other great questions in philosophy’ which covers political philosophy, philosophy of religion and ‘Other traditions of thought’ e.g. Hinduism and Australian indigenous philosophy. In addition, there is a chapter on advice for teachers and learning.
  • Each chapter includes: highlighted key terms and definitions, profiles of major philosophers, explanations of philosophical concepts and theories, small group and individual activities, discussion questions, written exercises, guided analyses of primary texts, visual material and discussions of film, literature and contemporary issues, suggested tips for assessment, tasks and resources and, advice on course design and planning.
Strengths: The book covers nearly every area of philosophy that one would expect to find in any standard introduction to philosophy book/course at stage 1 (and 2) university level. In addition, the book is written and structured specifically with secondary school study and assessment in mind. A notable strength of the book is the ‘dovetailing’ of the four standard approaches to introducing general philosophy i.e. 1) by subject matter (epistemology, ethics etc), 2) as a historical survey of the leading names in philosophy and their influential ideas, 3) as a set of enduring problems 4) as a toolkit for critical thinking and conceptual analysis.
Limitations: The book is very formal in style, fairly dense, and is essentially little different from a first year university course. Given this, those inclined towards a more flexible approach – who intend to incorporate philosophy into other units/subjects, or to adopt an approach more in line with the P4C (Philosophy for Children) programme may find aspects of the text structure and content at odds with their intentions. There is also a tendency towards breadth of information at the expense of depth. Although this makes the material more accessible to school age children, it tends to simplify some of the material to the point where the historical and/or contemporary significance of the issue/s in question aren’t explored as fully as they could be.

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