Conditions of Use
Comprehensiveness: Learning from Arguments, as the title suggests (hereafter LfA), focuses on specific types of argument regarding tradition or common subject in philosophy: existence of God and suffering; personal identity; free will; limits of... read more
Comprehensiveness: Learning from Arguments, as the title suggests (hereafter LfA), focuses on specific types of argument regarding tradition or common subject in philosophy: existence of God and suffering; personal identity; free will; limits of knowing; against prisons and taxes; abortion; eating animals; utilitarian ethics. The role of the historical development of philosophy does not figure into this perspective, nor am I suggesting that it should, necessarily. It is a choice, and the author chooses almost exclusively to look at logical argument structure applied to largely practical problems.
I have not seen anything in the way of inaccuracy; possibly arguments or positions I might not agree with, but that is normal.
Relevance: Highest score here--the issues are persistent and enduring.
Clarity: The author's style is 'degree zero', Hemmingway-ish economical. It is unpretentious and secondary to the value of clarity and communication.
Consistency: The arguments themselves are not always consistent with each other, but that is intentionally the case. The quality and clarity is consistent throughout.
Modularity: The chapters are largely independent, with some though limited cross-referencing. The subsections are short and clearly headed.
Organization: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion, but the sequence of topics, apart from the introduction, seems to build in a less clear way. That is, there is a sense of progress and building over the course of each chapter, but less so over the course of the book as a whole.
Interface: There are no distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader that I was able to notice.
Grammatical: The text contains no grammatical errors that I was aware of.
Cultural: The frequent use of thought-experiments make use of names redolent of a wide range of ethnicities as well as an equitable distribution of genders, and an apparent interest in resisting cultural clichés.
Other comments: For my personal taste, the absence of any account of philosophy in its development over time is a limit I would not want to take on entirely. Also, the level of rigor and detail regarding types of argument and logical structure may not be appropriate to all audiences (more appropriate for well prepared/older students, not necessarily beginning students). These minor reservations aside, I found LfA to be a clear exposition of many basic and fundamental arguments and their application to highly relevant issues.
(Regarding the online form for this review: I was not able to change the field for institution from "Alexandria Technical & Community College" to the correct "Metropolitan State University", St. Paul MN).
The textbook focuses fairly in-depth on ten philosophical arguments from a wide range of philosophical subfields, but leaves out many other arguments. I'd describe it as broad but (by design!) not especially comprehensive. read more
The textbook focuses fairly in-depth on ten philosophical arguments from a wide range of philosophical subfields, but leaves out many other arguments. I'd describe it as broad but (by design!) not especially comprehensive.
I noticed some minor scientific and other errors (e.g., the claim in ch. 3 that identical twins have the exact same DNA) but no significant errors.
Most if not all of the arguments the textbook focuses on involve perennial philosophical questions.
Overall, the textbook is written very clearly in a way suitable for introductory arguments with lots of argument mapping. I think the argument mapping is helpful and instructive for students; however, I sometimes found the sheer proliferation of abbreviations and premises hard to keep track of.
I noticed no terminological or other similar inconsistencies.
Each chapter of the textbook is helpfully written as a standalone chapter. Each chapter is divided into 6-12 subsections. I think it would have been helpful to provide chapter divisions larger than these subsections (e.g., 2-4 parts), since each chapter is too much material to cover in one class session but each subsection is too little material to cover.
The textbook is clearly organized with an easy-to-follow table of contexts and appendix of major arguments.
I noticed no interface issues.
I noticed one small typo but no grammatical errors.
The textbook goes out of its way to use names and examples from a wide range of cultural contexts.
I enjoyed reading this textbook. The explicitness with which the author argues for conclusions he himself does not necessarily accept is fun. The reflection questions at the end of each chapter are helpful. I do wonder whether pairing each chapter arguing for a certain conclusion with another chapter arguing for the opposite conclusion would have made things more "balanced."
I don't think that a textbook like this SHOULD "cover all areas and ideas of the subject" -- that would bee too tall of an order for an introductory philosophy book. Hence the neutral rating. I believe that the book covers an appropriate range of... read more
I don't think that a textbook like this SHOULD "cover all areas and ideas of the subject" -- that would bee too tall of an order for an introductory philosophy book. Hence the neutral rating. I believe that the book covers an appropriate range of material, but if you're looking for something that is absolutely comprehensive this probably isn't your best bet. I also would imagine supplementing this book with other material (e.g. more discussion of how arguments work, some primary readings in the history of philosophy, readings from a diverse range of authors and different traditions — full disclosure, I'm a historian of philosophy) in my introduction to philosophy class, but I don't expect to have a single book that covers everything I would want to cover.
I have not read the whole thing word-for-word so cannot speak to the complete absence of errors, but the parts I have read are concise, accurate, and to-the-point.
One advantage of philosophy is that the arguments are worth engaging with in their own right even if they are not considered to all be completely successful (as the author is careful to point out, they are not all intended to be knock-down arguments, but rather a guide to using arguments and thinking about philosophical issues).
This book exhibits many of the virtues emphasized by Anglo-American analytic philosophy, including clarity. At times I thought some of the potential objections and examples went a little further afield than necessary, but not to the point of detracting from the usefulness of the resource.
With the same caveat that I have not read the whole thing word-for-word, the parts I did read were consistent.
Each chapter can easily stand on its own.
The book is not organized so as to tell a single, coherent narrative throughout. But I wouldn't expect a philosophy textbook to do this, and the fact that this book doesn't do so makes it easier to adapt to different kinds of courses.
The interface is fine -- pdf is what I read, though print versions are available. I imagine for students it would be helpful to have a hyperlinked pdf at the very least, even better an online reading environment other than pdf. For many instructors I suspect that a different format that allowed them to edit/remix materials would be useful as well. But pdf is fine.
I have not read the whole thing word-for-word so cannot speak to the complete absence of errors, but the parts I have read are free from errors.
The text is fine, and uses a variety of examples, but many are very stereotypical "boyfriend / girlfriend" sort of examples, and I would have like to see less emphasis on militaristic metaphors for arguments (attacking, defending, etc.).
To my mind this is a very high quality example of what good philosophy OER resources can look like. Well done to the author and other contributors. Some slightly more nitpicky comments: I thought the chapter on free will was one place where canvassing the different options could be very helpful for students rather than diving straight into a single perspective. I find that introductory students are often confused about what the different positions might be in the first place. I also thought the introduction to arguments was too quick for the average student, and that more time would be needed practicing the skills of argument analysis up front. But neither of these comments should take away from the overall usefulness and quality of this resource as a whole.
Table of Contents
- Preface for Students
- Preface for Instructors
- Chapter 1: Can God Allow Suffering?
- Chapter 2: Why You Should Bet on God
- Chapter 3: What Makes You You
- Chapter 4: Don't Fear the Reaper
- Chapter 5: No Freedom
- Chapter 6: You Know Nothing
- Chapter 7: Against Prisons and Taxes
- Chapter 8: The Ethics of Abortion
- Chapter 9: Eating Animals
- Chapter 10: What Makes Things Right
- Appendix A: Logic
- Appendix B: Writing
- Appendix C: Theses and Arguments
Ancillary MaterialSubmit ancillary resource
About the Book
Learning from Arguments is a novel approach to teaching Introduction to Philosophy. It advances accessible versions of key philosophical arguments, in a form that students can emulate in their own writing, and with the primary aim of cultivating an understanding of the dynamics of philosophical argumentation.
The book contains ten core chapters, covering the problem of evil, Pascal’s wager, personal identity, the irrationality of fearing death, free will and determinism, Cartesian skepticism, the problem of induction, the problem of political authority, the violinist argument, the future-like-ours argument, the ethics of eating meat, utilitarianism (both act and rule), and the trolley problem. Additionally, there is an introductory chapter explaining what arguments are and surveying some common argumentative strategies, an appendix on logic explaining the mechanics and varieties of valid arguments, and an appendix providing detailed advice for writing philosophy papers.
Each of the ten core chapters offers a sustained argument for some controversial thesis, specifically written for an audience of beginners. The aim is to introduce newcomers to the dynamics of philosophical argumentation, using some of the arguments standardly covered in an introductory philosophy course, but without the additional hurdles one encounters when reading the primary sources of the arguments: challenging writing, specialized jargon, and references to unfamiliar books, philosophers, or schools of thought.
About the Contributors
Daniel Z. Korman, University of California Santa Barbara