Introduction to Philosophy
Nathan Smith, Houston, TX
Gregory Browne, Ypsilanti, MI
Parish Conkling, Houston, TX
Copyright Year: 2022
ISBN 13: 9781951693596
Conditions of Use
This textbook covers a wide variety of topics. The authors had to make some hard choices about what to include for the sake of brevity and, for the most part, I think the choices they made were good ones. The section on biomedical ethics, for... read more
This textbook covers a wide variety of topics. The authors had to make some hard choices about what to include for the sake of brevity and, for the most part, I think the choices they made were good ones.
The section on biomedical ethics, for example, is a very serviceable introduction. It discusses abortion, euthanasia, and clinical trials. It also includes a robust summary of the four principles of medical ethics, which it presents it as a part of the section on clinical trials. That organizational choice is unconventional but, I think, effective, as it allows for the principles to be further explained in terms of their role in research ethics.
I would have liked to see a distinct section on the Philosophy of Mind, although I appreciate that the metaphysics section attempted to meet me halfway by including a (somewhat slapdash) discussion of the metaphysics of consciousness.
I was mostly satisfied on this score. I cannot speak to all of the sections of the book, but I thought the content on ethics and logic, for example, was fairly reliable. The discussion of non-capitalist frameworks in Chapters 11 and 12 struck me as a little bit blithe and uncharitable.
The textbook does a good job connecting its content to world affairs and contemporary moral problems. It also shows admirable restraint here, in that it manages to invoke current events without being too specific in the particulars, which ensures that the textbook won’t too quickly become obsolete. The section on Ethics and Emerging Technologies in the Applied Ethics chapter a good example of the restraint that I have in mind here—the textbook rightly chooses to discuss ongoing advances in artificial intelligence, but keeps the focus on the general philosophical questions that are raised by such technologies. As a result, this section is likely to remain relevant regardless of the ways in which those technologies evolve in the near future.
I was impressed at many points with this textbook’s concision and clarity. The chapter covering normative moral theories was particularly strong. In the past, I have struggled to find a short reading to assign students about deontology that was succinct but also substantive. The one in this textbook fits the bill and I will be using it in some of my classes.
I did notice some relatively minor explanatory oversights that I suspect might lead to unclarity. On page 313, for instance, the question of whether a machine can possess intentionality is invoked. Unfortunately, the word ‘intentionality’ is not defined, and this is the first and only time that the term it appears in the textbook. I fear that this is sure to confuse undergraduates.
The textbook is stylistically and organizationally consistent.
This textbook is extremely modular. Most of the sections could be read (and assigned to students) in isolation.
The PDF came with native bookmarks dividing it into navigable sections and subsections, which I appreciated. There are some minor formatting issues. On page 315, for instance, the “Clinical Trials” subheading is smaller than it ought to be, making it appear as if it belongs to the previous section on euthanasia and assisted dying.
Given that this is a textbook that is likely to be distributed to and read by students mostly as a PDF, it would be nice if the page numbers printed within the text conformed to the document's page numbers in a PDF viewer. This may require starting numbering within the text at a number greater than one, which is a bit ungainly, but I think that the advantages gained in ease of use for instructors assigning page ranges would make it worth doing.
I did not notice any grammatical errors.
I very much appreciated the in-depth discussion of non-Western philosophical traditions. Although I did not read them closely, I also noted sections on both intersectionality and epistemic injustice, which seem like good inclusions.
Of the several that I have looked at, I believe that this is the best open access introductory philosophy textbook currently available.
This textbook covers all of the perennial philosophical questions and represents a wide range of global traditions. I was particularly impressed with quality of the separate sections on Indigenous, Chinese, and Indian philosophy and their... read more
This textbook covers all of the perennial philosophical questions and represents a wide range of global traditions. I was particularly impressed with quality of the separate sections on Indigenous, Chinese, and Indian philosophy and their inclusion in other sections (e.g. Dharmakirti in 7.2 Knowledge & Mencius in 8.3). My only qualm is that as a pragmatist I would have appreciated more references to that tradition beyond the obligatory reference to William James's soft determinism (6.4 Free Will).
Each section does a masterful job of introducing a perennial question and providing the major historical and contemporary positions on the subject without favoring one over the other. This requires students to provide their own analysis and reflection as they contemplate the Review Questions.
This textbook is a solid introduction to historical and contemporary philosophy and surveys all of the major topics.
I found the writing to be very accessible with technical terms highlighted and defined in the Key Terms section. Also, the videos and graphics throughout the term were very illuminating and interesting.
I felt that each module followed a similar format to aid comprehension, that a variety of positions were covered, and that multimedia was introduced that would allow students to apply their learning to popular media and their own experience.
The textbook chunks material into sections that are quite manageable. It also balances large topics (e.g. Metaphysics) with thorough surveys of subtopics (e.g. Substance, Self & Identity, Cosmology & God, Free Will). As a result, I could imagine using this textbook both for my PHL 201 Being & Knowing and PHL 202 Ethics course. The former would focus on Chapters 6 & 7 (Metpahysics & Epistemology) and the latter would focus on Chapters 8-11 (Value Theory, Normative Theory, Applied Ethics, and Political Philosophy). I could also see the other chapters sprinkled into either course as needed.
The textbook does an admirable job of providing a general introduction to the history, methods, and skills on philosophy in CH 1-5, then shifts to thorough examinations of the major branches of philosophy in CH 6-11, and concluding with contemporary debates in Ch 13. Thus, it builds general knowledge first and then fills in the details once that base on learning is established.
The interfance is very intuitive and it is easy to find each module and to search the whole text suing the Index. I also liked the highlighting feature and I am sure students will also.
I did not notice any.
I spoke to this topic in my first answer on Comprehensiveness. It includes a wide range of global cultures and highlights their relevance to contemporary conversation. I would like to see a bit more Indigenous scholars engaged outside of the section on Indigenous Philosophy, but this textbook is still better than most.
On the whole I am very impressed with this textbook! It is more inclusive and comprehensive than most textbooks on the market, it is well organized and accessible, and most importantly it is free. I will most likely adopt this textbook for one of more of my classes. I also like the variety of supplements provided in each chapter (e.g. Summary, Key Terms, References, Review Quesitons, Further Reading), but I am sad that textbook does not provide a bank of Multiple Choice or Short Answer questions that I could incorporate into weekly quizzes. Are those available in an edition for Instructors?
The book does a good job surveying some of the history of philosophy, including Ancient Greek as well as other traditions (e.g. philosophy coming out of China, India, Africa, and North America). Its primary focus though is a survey of the... read more
The book does a good job surveying some of the history of philosophy, including Ancient Greek as well as other traditions (e.g. philosophy coming out of China, India, Africa, and North America). Its primary focus though is a survey of the different kinds of philosophy as most modern philosophers would likely divide the discipline. The book gives a good introduction to these areas, pointing out some interesting and significant issues in each, tools used to tackle those issues, and some useful takeaways for those students who might not continue taking classes in the field.
The course content is accurate, with a good use of citations to support their work and for further reading. This is useful when evaluating an OER text, and is also a good demonstration of best practices for students who will be working on their own paper.
The book is up-to-date and accessible, but deals with universal issues, and does so without reference to overly time-specific references.
The text is lucid and clear, and though it introduces quite a lot of philosophy-specific terminology, it does so intentionally and takes time to explain the terms and provide needed context.
The text is very consistent, and connects back to earlier sections, has a clear outline, and maintains consistent terminology throughout.
Though as I mentioned above the text builds on itself well and connects back to earlier sections, it would be quite possible to use individual chapters modularly (e.g. using the section on epistemology at the beginning of an epistemology course). Any important terms are defined, and particular earlier chapters aren't necessary (though are helpful). Each section contains its own comprehension study questions, references for further reading, and so on.
The book is well organized with a clear roadmap and signposts throughout.
The text is easily navigable. If viewed as a webpage there are helpful hyperlinks connecting everything, but items are well labeled with consistent pagination for those students who prefer to print a chapter out to read it (though there are multiple delivery methods such as videos which they would still benefit from watching online that are integrated throughout the text).
The book is clearly written with clear, readable, and correct grammar.
While clearly focusing on Western philosophy, the authors do a good job including non-Western philosophical sources as equally valid disciplines which can interact in ways that are mutually beneficial.
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1. Introduction to Philosophy
- Chapter 2. Critical Thinking, Research, Reading, and Writing
- Chapter 3. The Early History of Philosophy around the World
- Chapter 4. The Emergence of Classical Philosophy
- Chapter 5. Logic and Reasoning
- Chapter 6. Metaphysics
- Chapter 7. Epistemology
- Chapter 8. Value Theory
- Chapter 9. Normative Moral Theory
- Chapter 10. Applied Ethics
- Chapter 11. Political Philosophy
- Chapter 12. Contemporary Philosophies and Social Theories
About the Book
Designed to meet the scope and sequence of your course, Introduction to Philosophy surveys logic, metaphysics, epistemology, theories of value, and history of philosophy thematically. To provide a strong foundation in global philosophical discourse, diverse primary sources and examples are central to the design, and the text emphasizes engaged reading, critical thinking, research, and analytical skill-building through guided activities.
About the Contributors
Nathan Smith has a PhD in philosophy from Boston College and the University of Paris, Sorbonne. His dissertation was on René Descartes’s early scientific and mathematical work. He has been a full-time instructor of philosophy at Houston Community College (HCC) since 2008. He has published on Descartes, phenomenology, and topics in Open Educational Resources (OER), including chapter contributions to an OER textbook through the Rebus Foundation. At HCC, he served as Chair of the Philosophy, Humanities, and Library Sciences Department from 2015 to 2017 and has served as the Open Educational Resources Coordinator since 2017. In this capacity he has secured and managed over $500,000 in grants for the institution and leads a cross-disciplinary, district-wide effort to provide “zero cost books” courses and degree plans for students.
Gregory Browne, Eastern Michigan University
Parish Conkling, Houston Community College