Understanding Movements in Modern Thought (series).

Title: Understanding Movements in Modern Thought (series).
Editor/s: Reynolds, Jack.
Material type: Book.
Publisher/date: Mcgill-Queens University Press.
Format: Paperback (Between 150-250 pages).
Area and topic: History of philosophy and ideas.
Intended audience/ reading level Tertiary/lower.
Purchasing and information:
  1. mqup.mcgill.ca/book_list.php?series=64&thumbnails
  2. amazon.com
  3. fishpond.co.nz
Unique and/or salient feature/s: Written for undergraduates meeting the subject for the first time, ‘Understanding Movements in Modern Thought’ is a series that focuses exclusively on the most important schools of thought, traditions and movements in Western philosophy and the history of ideas from the beginning of the modern era. Attention is paid to why these specific traditions/movements arose ‘there and then’, the problems and issues they inherited and responded to, their influence on subsequent movements and traditions, and their legacy as it stands today.
Synopsis and/or additional information: The following information is sourced from the above links (see ‘Purchasing and information’) and the text.

  • Each volume in the series introduces central themes and important features of a particular philosophical movement or tradition and explores how they deal with often long standing philosophical issues and problems. The nature, salience and development of each movement/tradition is explored in line with the various philosophers associated with the movement/ tradition in question. Attention is paid here to both the commonalities that these philosophers share (i.e. those commonalities that identify them as belonging to the same movement/tradition) and the differences between them. In addition, each movements/traditions is situated within the wider philosophical context.
  • All books are written by contemporary philosophers, one author per book. The style and arrangement of chapters differs from book to book, although they tend to follow fairly conservative structures in line with the way the movement in question is often presented and or studied. For example, the title ‘Introduction to Naturalism’ favours an ‘issues’ approach; the title ‘Post-structuralism’ heads its chapters under the names of various philosophers; ‘Existentialism’ combines both approaches.
  • Titles are ‘Understanding … Nietzscheanism; Environmental Philosophy; Feminism; Post colonialism; Psychoanalysis; Hegelianism; Utilitarianism; Hermeneutics; Empiricism; Phenomenology; Existentialism; Virtue Ethics; Post-structuralism; Rationalism; German Idealism; Naturalism.
  • Example title: ‘Understanding Environmental Philosophy’ presents a comprehensive, critical analysis of contemporary philosophical approaches to current ecological concerns … Central ideas and concepts about environmental value, individual wellbeing, ecological holism and the metaphysics of nature set the stage for a discussion of how to establish moral rules and priorities, and whether it is possible to transcend human-centred views of the world. The reader is also helped with an annotated guide to further reading, questions for discussion and revision as well as boxed studies highlighting key concepts and theoretical material’.
Strengths: Most introductions to philosophy focus either exclusively on particular philosophers or on key themes and cores subjects/branches. ‘Understanding Movements in Modern Thought’ introduces philosophy in terms of various movements – which in itself is quite unique, yet in ways that capture some of the strengths of these more ‘usual’ approaches. Notably, by focusing on specific movements and traditions, the reader is introduced to perennial and enduring philosophical themes, issues and problems, but with attention to how they are represented within specific periods and places.
Limitations: Although the series may make for some interesting and informative reading, the content is either not obviously relevant to secondary school taught philosophy or is too detailed for this level of philosophy. Furthermore, although the books in the series are intended as introductions, they are not intended for the general reader as such. In other words, some of the books are not really ‘easy reads’.

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