An Introduction to Philosophy
Russ W. Payne
Copyright Year: 2015
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There are different ways of introducing philosophy to newcomers, one is to present it as a living discipline defined by problems made more intelligible and relevant by tracing their historical roots. W. Russ Payne’s An Introduction to Philosophy... read more
There are different ways of introducing philosophy to newcomers, one is to present it as a living discipline defined by problems made more intelligible and relevant by tracing their historical roots. W. Russ Payne’s An Introduction to Philosophy takes this approach and does a good job at it. The first two chapters describe the nature of philosophy and the place of logic and concepts like ‘truth’, while subsequent chapters focus on two key periods in the history of philosophy (Ancient Greece and Early Modernity), and core themes in the philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, love, happiness, metaethics, and the question of social justice in political philosophy. Although exclusively from an Analytic perspective, the textbook does provide a fairly comprehensive and sound overview of what it does covers. It does not have a glossary or an index. The first chapter lists some undefined key terms, but this convention is abandoned thereafter. The book does provide review and discussion questions at the end of each chapter, which can be used in a variety of different ways.
The textbook is fairly accurate in its presentation and definition of key issues, concepts, and themes, but again, it strictly follows an analytic approach to the discipline, which means that Continental thinkers, feminist perspectives, and non-European traditions are excluded. Unless it is complemented with material from these non-Analytic traditions, this textbook by itself will be of little use to someone planning to teach philosophy in a more global or pluralistic manner.
The textbook presents classic theories, arguments, and examples that should stand the test of time. Its content shouldn't require much updating. The book’s format and organization allows for easy incorporation of revisions and updates.
Explanations are clear and concise. The author uses technical jargon sparingly and defines technical terms well. Adding a glossary would help, however.
The textbook's narrative flows consistently. It moves from historical roots to the present in ways that helps readers see the historical and contemporary relevance of the issues being covered.
The textbook is divided into chapters and sections that stand on their own, and thus lend themselves to easy revision, reorganization, remixing, and so on. It can be used as a whole or only in part. Chapters can be read in different orders and still be understood.
The textbook is well organized. Key concepts are explained and material is appropriately divided into easily digestible units. The examples given in each chapter illustrate well their concepts. Transitions are easy to follow and allow the reader to make important connections within and between chapters.
Students have access to PDF copies. Printed copies of the whole or parts can be made easily. The textbook is published under a CC By license, which permits the greatest freedom to retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute its contents. Most chapters contain links to readings, but they must be checked to avoid broken hyperlinks.
No recognizable grammatical errors, but typographical errors were found throughout the text. For example, page 6 says, “the reality” rather than “reality”.
The author does not use offensive or culturally insensitive language. However, the exclusion of continental, feminist, and non-European approaches can arguably be construed as insensitive to these traditions.
Overall this is a good textbook and may be combined with other sources to deal with its limitations.
As with most disciplines, philosophy comes with its own vast array of key terms, concepts, and vocabulary, which introductory students must learn in order to make sense of the discipline’s contributions and key debates (both past and present). The... read more
As with most disciplines, philosophy comes with its own vast array of key terms, concepts, and vocabulary, which introductory students must learn in order to make sense of the discipline’s contributions and key debates (both past and present). The text does not contain an index or glossary. The reader must sort through the chapter/s in order to find the relevant definitions or explanations. In Chapter 1, four vocabulary words are listed at the end of the chapter (which is helpful), but that convention is not repeated in other chapters, which introduce additional vocabulary.
The content that is covered is represented accurately. However, it should be noted that the text does not contain the entire breadth or history of the discipline. For instance, one will not find coverage of global or world traditions in philosophy, feminist philosophy (apart from very brief mention of care ethics in Chapter 10), or contributions of the continental tradition in philosophy. The treatment of the text (and themes) is predominately representative of the analytic tradition in philosophy. Of course, this does not mean that an introductory text must cover everything, but merely that the reader should be aware of its approach.
The text is up-to-date, and may easily be updated as needed.
The text is written in a clear and accessible style geared toward introductory students; the use of any relevant jargon (when present) is commonly followed by a definition and/or explanation of the key term, movement, or theory.
The text is internally consistent, in its terminology/ies and framework/s.
The book’s individual chapters may easily be assigned individually and out of order, without reliance on referential material that might come before or after any specific chapter. It is thus possible to both build on knowledge base acquired within a specific chapter (by covering supplementary chapters from this text or another), as well as covering one or more standalone chapters without assigning the entire text.
To some readers, it might seem confusing that the text features four chapters devoted to ethical issues (Chapters 8-11), while one chapter might more clearly and succinctly address the leading range of problems and questions in moral philosophy. There is also the concern that since they come at the end of the book, a beginning student might get the impression that the content in those chapters is less significant or less central to the study of philosophy, which would certainly not be the case. Additionally, Chapter 11 might be better titled “Political Philosophy” or “Social and Political Philosophy,” as the range of issues covered there are not exclusively social justice topics.
No interface issues recognized; although it might be a good idea to check the hyperlinks that refer the reader to live websites (to avoid sending the reader to a broken/outdated link).
No recognizable grammatical errors; however, typographical errors may be found in the text. For example, in Chapter 9, the spelling of “Divine” shifts to “Devine” throughout the chapter, and on page 104, one finds both spellings in that section. Another example, see page 93 for “mght” and “constrasting.” Also, in the book’s description, there’s an extra “first” (“Students are first invited first”).
The text is not culturally insensitive. The text does make use of examples that are inclusive to gender (this may be observed by reviewing examples and exercises used in Chapter 2).
Terrific text! Its versatility allows for coverage of standalone chapters as well as building on knowledge acquired in previous chapters. The embedded links to online primary source texts provide the reader with a valuable opportunity to explore the original texts that frame the discussion and background material to the topics and themes of the book.
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1: What Philosophy Is
- Chapter 2: How to do Philosophy
- Chapter 3: Ancient Philosophy
- Chapter 4: Rationalism
- Chapter 5: Empiricism
- Chapter 6: Philosophy of Science
- Chapter 7: Philosophy of Mind
- Chapter 8: Love and Happiness
- Chapter 9: Meta Ethics
- Chapter 10: Right Action
- Chapter 11: Social Justice
About the Book
The goal of this text is to present philosophy to newcomers as a living discipline with historical roots. While a few early chapters are historically organized, the goal in the historical chapters is to trace a developmental progression of thought that introduces basic philosophical methods and frames issues that remain relevant today. Later chapters are topically organized. These include philosophy of science and philosophy of mind, areas where philosophy has shown dramatic recent progress. This text concludes with four chapters on ethics, broadly construed. Traditional theories of right action is covered in a third of these. Students are first invited first to think about what is good for themselves and their relationships in a chapter of love and happiness. Next a few meta-ethical issues are considered; namely, whether they are moral truths and if so what makes them so. The end of the ethics sequence addresses social justice, what it is for one's community to be good. Our sphere of concern expands progressively through these chapters. Our inquiry recapitulates the course of development into moral maturity. Over the course of the text, the author has tried to outline the continuity of thought that leads from the historical roots of philosophy to a few of the diverse areas of inquiry that continue to make significant contributions to our understanding of ourselves and the world we live in.
About the Contributors
W. Russ Payne, Bellevue College