Philosophical Dilemmas A Pro and Con Introduction to the Major Questions and Philosophers

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  • Edition: 4th
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2013-08-30
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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Supplemental Materials

What is included with this book?


Philosophical Dilemmas: A Pro and Con Introduction to the Major Questions and Philosophers, Fourth Edition, outlines the classic arguments made by philosophers through the ages. It features sixty-three brief topical essays by author Phil Washburn organized around thirty-one fundamental philosophical questions like "Does God exist?" "Is morality relative?" and "Are we free?" Each essay takes a definite stand and promotes it vigorously, creating a sharp contrast between the two positions and giving each abstract theory a more personal and believable "voice." The accessible writing style and conflicting answers encourage students to examine the different positions and to think carefully about which essay makes the stronger case.

This fourth edition, a major revision, now enriches the discussion of each philosophical question by adding fifty-four brief essays--two in each chapter--on great philosophers who held conflicting viewpoints on the issues covered. Additionally, the chapters have been rearranged so that these essays and the philosophers discussed appear in approximate chronological order, from Plato and Protagoras to Wittgenstein and Searle. The text is enhanced by numerous pedagogical features including an introduction to each issue, key terms, chapter summaries, study questions after each essay, chronologies, a glossary, and an appendix on how to write an essay.

A Companion Website at contains online sources and self-test questions for students and numerous instructor resources: introductions to the issues; summaries of the topical essays; summary points, PowerPoint-based slides, and test questions for the historical essays; answers to the critical questions that follow each essay; test questions on the topical essays; suggestions for class discussions; and a list of online resources.

Author Biography

Phil Washburn is Master Teacher in the Liberal Studies Program at New York University. He is the author of The Vocabulary of Critical Thinking (2009) and the editor of The Many Faces of Wisdom (2003).

Table of Contents

"Critical Questions" follow each essay, and an "Understanding the Dilemma" section ends each chapter.
1. History: Socrates and Western philosophy
1.1 Is Morality Relative?
2. Protagoras and the Sophists
3. Plato
Yes: Relativist. "Moral Relativism"
No: Absolutist. "Right for You, Wrong for Me?"
1.2 Can We Understand Happiness?
4. Aristotle
5. The Hellenistic Age and Skepticism
Yes: Definer. "Happiness"
No: Critic. "The Elusive Dream"
1.3 Is Pleasure the Only Value?
6. Epicurus
7. Marcus Aurelius and Stoicism
Yes: Hedonist. "Hedonism"
No: Pluralist. "A World of Values"
1.4 Is Society the Source of Values?
8. Confucius
9. Christianity
Yes: Functionalist. "An Objective Basis for Values"
No: Moral Theist. "The Current Crisis and Its Solution"
1.5 Is Happiness the Standard of Value?
10. Kant and the Age of Reason
11. Mill and Happiness
Yes: Utilitarian. "Utilitarianism"
No: Formalist. "The Principle of Morality"
1.6 Are We Always Selfish?
12. Hume and the Moral Sense
13. Nietzsche
Yes: Psychological Egoist. "No Free Lunch"
No: Psychological Altruist. "Is Love Selfish?"
1.7 Current Controversy: Should Doctors Ever End People's Lives?
No: Protector. "Having Reasons for Moral Decisions"
Yes: Euthanizer. "The Complex Issue of Euthanasia"
2.1 Is the Soul Immortal?
14. Plato and the Immortal Soul
15. Lucretius
No: Mortalist. "Immortality"
Yes: Survivor. "For and Against an Afterlife"
2.2 Is Faith An Answer?
16. Augustine
17. Abelard
Yes: Believer. "Accepting Limits"
No: Questioner. Faith and Its Consequences"
2.3 Is It Logically Necessary that God Exists?
18. Anselm
19. Aquinas
Yes: Logical Theist. "Possible and Impossible"
No: Scientist. "It Ain't Necessarily So"
2.4 Is There Evidence that God Exists?
20. Ockham
21. Machiavelli
22. Galileo
Yes: Causal Theist. "In the Beginning"
Yes: Design Theist. "Design or Chance?"
No: Atheist. "The Retreat of the Gods"
2.5 Can God Allow Innocent Suffering?
23. Leibniz
24. Voltaire
No: Contradictor. "There Is No God"
Yes: Reconciler. "Character and Contentment"
2.6 Current Controversy: Is Buddhism Philosophy?
Yes: Buddhist. "The Philosophy of Buddhism"
No: Specialist. "The Difference Between Religion and Philosophy"
3.1 Is Certainty the Standard of Knowledge?
25. Bacon
26. Descartes and Certainty
Yes: Foundationalist. "Certainty"
No: Pragmatist. "The Test of Knowledge"
3.2 Is Experience the Source of All Knowledge
27. Locke and Experience
28. Spinoza
Yes: Empiricist. "The Source of Knowledge"
No: Rationalist. "The Strange Case of the Mathematician"
3.3 Can We Know About the External World?
30. Reidley
No: Internalist. "Knowledge of the External World"
Yes: Predictor. "Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made Of"
3.4 Is It Possible that We Know Nothing At All?
31. Hume and Skepticism
32. Kant's Copernican Revolution
Yes: Skeptic. "Past and Future"
No: Perceiver. "The Limits of Ignorance"
3.5 Does Science Give Us Real Knowledge?
33. Comte
34. Schopenhauer
Yes: Positivist. "Science as Knowledge"
No: Romantic. "What Kind of Understanding?"
3.6 Current Controversy: Does Truth Exist?
Yes: Representationalist. "True Belief and False Beliefs"
No: Postmodernist. "Ten Theses on Language"
4.1 Is Equality the Highest Social Value?
35. More
36. Burke
Yes: Egalitarian. "Society and Property"
No: Elitist. "What Elitists Believe"
4.2 Is Society Based On A Contract?
37. Locke and the Social Contract
38. Hegel
Yes: Contractor. "The Social Contract"
No: Organicist. "The Social Organism"
4.3 Is Liberty the Highest Social Value?
39. Rousseau
40. Mill and Liberty
Yes: Libertarian. "Liberty, the Supreme Social Value"
No: Paternalist. "Empty Phrases"
4.4 Is Capitalism Just?
41. Marx
42. Spencer
Yes: Capitalist. "Capitalism, Democracy, and Justice"
No: Socialist. "Capitalist Society"
4.5 Do Individuals Have Absolute Human Rights?
43. Rawls
44. Singer
Yes: Rights Defender. "The Foundation of Human Rights"
No: Rights Skeptic. "A Confused Idea"
4.6. Current Controversy: Is Race Essential To Identity?
Yes: Essentialist. "The Meaning of Being Black"
No: Nonessentialist. "Race and Identity"
5.1 Is the Mind Nothing But the Brain?
45. Descartes and Dualism
46. Hobbes
Yes: Materialist. "Body and Soul"
No: Dualist. "The Inner Life"
5.2 Are We Free?
47. Holbach
48. Kierkegaard
No: Hard Determinist. "One World, Not Two"
Yes: Metaphysical Libertarian. Free Will and Common Sense"
5.3 Are Scientific Laws Compatible With Free Will?
49. Hume and Free Will
50. James
Yes: Soft Determinist. "Verbal Disputes, Facts, and Free Will"
No: Incompatibilist. Caused Actions Are Not Free"
5.4 Are We Responsible For Our Actions?
51. Freud
52. Sartre
No: Excuser. "Rejecting Responsibility"
Yes: Judge. "No Excuse"
5.5 Can Computers Think?
54. Searlenstein
Yes: Mechanist. "Can Computers Think?"
No: Mentalist. "People vs. Machines"
5.6 Current Controversy: Are the Differences Between Men and Women Philosophically Significant?
No: Unifier. "Men, Women, and People"
Yes: Complementer. "Who's Afraid of Difference?"
Appendix: How to Write an Essay
Glossary of Contrasting Positions

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