Zeno and the Tortoise: How to Think Like a Philosopher.

Title: Zeno and the Tortoise: How to Think Like a Philosopher.
Author/s: Fearn, Nicholas.
Material type: Book.
Publisher/date: Atlantic Books (2002).
Format: Paperback (192 pages).
ISBN: ISBN-10: 1903809614, ISBN-13: 978-1903809617
Area and topic: History of philosophy and ideas. Philosophical skills and methodology.
Intended audience/ reading level: General/medium
Purchasing and information: amazon.com
Unique and/or salient feature/s: The aim of ‘Zeno and the Tortoise’ is twofold: 1) To introduce various philosophical tools/methods/approaches; 2) to pin each tool/method/approaches to a particular philosopher that either introduced it or presupposed it in coming to their philosophical positions/s. This approach is premised on the assumption presented by the author, that ‘most enduring contributions of the great philosophers’ are ‘thinking tools, methods and approaches’ rather than ‘theories and systems’(Introduction).
Synopsis and/or additional information: The following information is sourced from the above links (see ‘Purchasing and information’) and the text.

  • ‘Author Nicholas Fearn aims to leave readers with an array of handy instruments at their disposal, whether Ockham’s razor, Hume’s fork, or Nietzsche’s hammer. ‘The object,’ he writes, ‘is to show not merely what the great philosophers thought, but to demonstrate how they thought.’ In addition to supplying readers with the building blocks of philosophical reasoning, Fearn offers a summary history of Western philosophy running from the pre-Socratics through medieval and modern philosophy and up to Derrida. Along the way students will encounter Zeno’s reductio ad absurdum, the Socratic method, Cartesian demons, and a number of other elemental concepts drawn from the last 2,500 years of inquiry’.
  • The various tools/method/approaches are introduced through 25 short chapters. Each chapter introduces a given tool/method/approach in light of a specific philosopher. The chapters are as follows: Thales’s Well, Protagoras and the Pigs, Zeno and the Tortoise, The Socratic Inquisition, Plato’s Cave, Aristotle’s Goals, Lucretius’s Spear, Ockham’s Razor, Machiavelli’s Prince, Bacon’s Chickens, Descartes’ Demon, Hume’s Fork,  Reid’s Common sense, Rousseau’s Contract, Kant’s Spectacles, Bentham’s Calculus, Hegel’s Dialectic, Nietzsche’s Hammer, The Young Wittgenstein’s Mirror, The Older Wittgenstein’s Games, Popper’s Dolls, Ryle’s University, Turing’s Machine, Dawkin’s Meme, Derrida and Deconstruction, Further Reading, Index.
Strengths:  One strong feature of this book is the novel approach it adopts i.e. introducing philosophy as a collection of various tools, methods and skills initiated by or associated with the leading names of the philosophical tradition. Although the book would be helpful as a background resource for teachers, there is ample material here to be mined for classroom activity.
Limitations: One could argue that the main focus on connecting the tool/method/approach with the appropriate philosopher is at the expense of other, possibly more important aspects of the philosopher’s influence and contribution. Also, the book is not designed for the classroom and therefore may require some additional work to make it so.

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