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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Voices of Wisdom: A Multicultural Philosophy Reader, 6th edition edited by Gary E. Kessler (Wadsworth Publishing) (Hardcover) First published in 1992 this anthology quickly became the standard for multicultural introductions to philosophy. Composed of a group of culturally diverse readings addressing a selection of seminal philosophical questions in ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics, VOICES OF WISDOM introduces students to the traditional terrain of philosophy as developed in the European tradition, yet in a manner that embraces significant philosophical insights borne out of different cultural legacies.

This text is ideal for undergraduates and introductory courses in philosophy because it offers a unique mix of texts: some selections from classical Western philosophy and many more popular texts representing innovative ideas from the postcolonial world.  As anthologies go, this volume provides plenty of ideas and perspectives for students to consider and debate.  It is definitely on my recommend list.

Excerpt: Since the publication of the first edition of Voices of Wisdom, I am gratified to note that more introductory textbooks now incorporate a multicultural perspective—a per­spective that was unique to this introductory reader when it was first published in 1992. At that time the introductory readers that were available treated philosophy as if it were entirely an Anglo-European male phenomenon. Little or no attention was given to Hindu, Buddhist, Chinese, African, Native American, Latin American, and feminist philosophy. Voices of Wisdom helped to change that situation, offering to those who wished it the possibility of assigning significant readings that represent the global nature of philosophizing. This sixth edition continues to offer a multicultural perspective and has benefited from the teaching and learning experiences of the many instructors and students who used the previous editions. Readers have learned that ideas from other cultures are worth careful consideration and that these ideas make important contributions to human understanding.

Although I wish to stress the universal nature of philosophizing, I am well aware of the dangers of anachronism. A text of this sort faces not only the problems associated with anachronism in the historical sense but also what we might term "cultural" anachronism. The writings of ancient philosophers mingle with modern texts, and thinkers from different cultures are brought together. The student may get the im­pression that Plato, Buddha, Nietzsche, Confucius, Descartes, and Aristotle are all contemporaries discussing the same issues with the same concepts in English! There are similarities. But there are also vast differences. Where appropriate, the important similarities and differences are stressed in my introductory remarks.

My selection of issues betrays my own Anglo-European perspective. Whereas many of the topics`are fundamental and universal (How should one live? Is knowledge pos­sible? What is really real?), their importance and centrality differ from tradition to tra­dition. The mind–body problem, the puzzle of freedom and determinism, the prob­lem of moral skepticism—these problems are not necessarily the central ones that gripped the minds of Chinese or Indian philosophers. Just as Anglo-European phi­losophers have not had much to say about Karma, Buddhist thinkers have not been overly concerned with proving the existence of God.

However, I do believe this Western way of organizing the material is justified in this instance. Even though the significance of the problems and the way they are formu­lated differ from culture to culture, many of the underlying issues are the same. One cannot reflect`for long on Karma and reincarnation without addressing issues relating to freedom and human identity. Furthermore, I think it best, for introductory and prac­tical purposes, to organize the material around traditional Anglo-European philosoph­ical themes. Many students already have some concern with these issues (for example, the existence of God). In addition, most introductory courses deal with these themes, and this book allows instructors to continue that practice, but some new and different voices are emphasized thereby enriching philosophical thinking.

It should be noted that there exists no culturally neutral set of categories for or­ganizing the material. If I had used the dominant concerns of, let us say, the Indian tradition (?!@@dmqh G!@@dmqh C!@@dmqh K!@@dmqh A!@@dmqh I!@@dmqh E!@@dmqh M!@@dmqh @!@@dmqh H!@@dmqh D!@@dmqh L!@@dmqh B!@@dmqh J!@@dmqh F!@@dmqh N!@@dmqhpractices of nations.

Voices of Wisdom includes much philosophical material that has come to be regarded as classic in the West. This material is included for two reasons. First, most students take an introductory philosophy course in conjunction with general education and, as part of that experience, it is important for them to read philosophical writings that are significant to the Western cultural tradition. Second, this writing is good philosophy (that is why it has become classic), and students should experience the ideas of profound philosophical minds. However, profound philosophical minds exist all over the world and, whereas other styles of thinking and other traditions may be very different, they are no less important.

Although the topics in this new edition remain largely unchanged, there are nine­teen new or revised selections. The revisions not only reflect recent events but also add different perspectives and fresh material.

Part I deals with introductory matters. In Chapter 1, I discuss the nature of phi­losophy, the meaning of rationality, and the value of studying philosophy, and I offer some practical advice on how to read philosophical texts.

Part II, "Ethics," begins by exploring the questions "How Should One Live?" (Chapter 2) and "How Can I Know What Is Right?" (Chapter 3). These are significant questions that have received much global attention in one form or another. Further, these are questions with which students can connect personally, and therefore I have found it useful to place them early in the text.

I have included two chapters on political and social philosophy in Part II, "Ethics," because both deal with issues relating to justice. Chapter 4, "What Makes a Society Just?", and Chapter 6, "Is Justice for All Possible?", make the text more responsive to current events of great moment.

Part III, "Epistemology," introduces students to the topics "Is Knowledge Possible?" (Chapter 6) and "Does Science Tell Us the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth?" (Chapter 7).

Part IV, fquot;Metaphysics," is divided into five chapters: Chapter 8, "What Is Really Real?"; Chapter 9, "Are We Free or Determined?"; Chapter 10, "What Am I?"; Chapter 11, "Who Am I?"; and Chapter 12, "Is There a God?"

The following changes have been made for this new edition.

Introductions to selections have been streamlined and condensed.

Reading questions have been reworked in order to stimulate both careful reading of the selections and student reflection on the meaning of key ideas and arguments. Eighteen new readings have been added.

There are more selections from fiction dealing with philosophical topics. More attention has been paid to contemporary continental philosophy.

In making these revisions I have tried to be responsive to reviewer's suggestions, thereby, I trust, making Voices of Wisdom more useful for introductory courses.

I agree with John Dewey's notion that we learn by doing. In my experience, the more I can get my students to do for themselves, the more they learn. Thus, rather than pro­viding summaries of the selections—a practice that can discourage careful reading by students—I provide the background information they need to understand the selec­tions, and I supply questions that are designed to guide the students' reading prior to the selections. This approach encourages students to read the selections for themselves and to formulate their own questions about the material. It also gives instructors an opportunity to require students to answer the questions in a philosophical journal be­fore class meetings. The questions and the students' responses can then be used as the basis for class discussion. Students are thereby encouraged to become actively engaged in the process of figuring out what a text means.

In most chapters the material is arranged chronologically. Sometimes, however, an­other sort of arrangement is more pedagogically useful, and so I have not restricted myself to the chronological pattern in all cases.

I have put technical terms in bold type on their first occurrence and provided brief definitions. A glossary (Appendix I) provides a convenient reference for those terms and their definitions.

Appendix II provides a brief pronunciation guide to Chinese, Sanskrit, and Arabic words. Foreign words can be daunting to readers and this pronunciation guide should alleviate some of the unease they may feel.

The companion website for this text is an important pedagogical feature. Go to http://www.wadsworth.com/philosophy_d for Student Book Companion Sites, Fields of Philosophy, Philosophers and Their Works, a Philosophical Timeline, and much more. Wadsworth has created excellent support material`online that will aid both students and instructors. The Internet contains much information about philo­sophical topics as well as classic philosophical texts from around the world. Searching the Web is second nature to most students, and directing them to this companion site will help them understand more of the material and lead them further on their jour­ney into the exciting realm of philosophical thought. The supplemental material found on the Web site will aid student comprehension and give added flexibility to in­structors as they construct their`courses.

I have written the introductory material in an informal, engaging, and, I trust, clear manner. I hope to engage students in`the thinking process by connecting the selections to questions and issues students have already begun to encounter. The selections them­selves have been classroom-tested and represent different degrees of difficulty. Most will challenge beginning students to think in more depth and in a more precise way.


Experiencing Philosophy by Anthony F. Falikowski (Prentice Hall) This Jtextbook for an introductory course uses plain language to explore philosophy, with frequent references to its personal and practical relevance. Following an introduction to the techniques of philosophical argument, the text covers such topics a s metaphysical questions, moral decision-making, and political philosophy.

Anthony Falikowski pays serious attention in this new text to the personal and practical relevance of philosophy by focusing on its experiential, therapeutic, and social applications. The "applied focus," intended to inspire students to further their studies in philosophy, is complemented by a built-in study guide and substantial excerpts from classical original sources. By combining the theoretical with the practical through the integration of descriptive outlines, readings, and numerous pedagogical aids, this`text strikes an educationally productive balance between accessibility and academic rigor.

Special features in Experiencing Philosophy

  • Cutting-edge emphasis on personal applications of philosophy including ancient wisdom applied to modern life, stoicism for stress management, and Buddha as Higher Reality Therapist

  • Substantial treatments of logic and reasoning

  • Built-in study guide based on the SQ3R system of learning

  • Focus on diversity with a variety of primary source documents from many perspectives, in different voices

  • Practical, experiential orientation in accessible format and design 

Excerpt: Experiencing Philosophy is a textbook written and designed to be used in introductory philosophy courses. It could also be adopted in humanities and liberal arts courses, in general education courses, or in critical thinking courses. It can be used in insti­tutions having a first year "foundations" component in their academic program or in vocational schools where there's a wish to broaden the student's intel­lectual horizons.

The book begins with the assumption that philos­ophy is not simply something you know or do`but something you experience! There is a human side to philosophy that, unfortunately, is too often neglected in traditional approaches to philosophical teaching. I believe philosophy needn't be seen as some-thing that is completely theoretical and dry or some-thing that is totally impractical and outdated; rather, the study of philosophy has the potential to transform lives. Acceptance of a metaphysical belief in God or a philosophical commitment to materialistic atheism, for example, will take individuals down very different roads in life. In this book, I will explore philosophy with frequent references to its personal and practical relevance, making efforts to present the subject in its rich diversity to an audience that demands accessibil­ity. Convoluted, impenetrable language will therefore be regarded as an academic vice, not as a virtue of philosophic expression.

Experiencing Philosophy is an "applied" text of sorts. Though the personal and applied nature of the book does not adequately present itself in the table of contents, the practical "experiential relevance" shows up in the "Know Thyself" diagnostics, in the "Take It Personally" chapter introductions, in the "Meditative Moment" journal writing opportunities, as well as in the features entitled "Philosophers in Action" and "Discussion Questions for Critique and Analysis." These last two elements in the book provide occa­sions for students to actually "do" philosophy and thereby experience it in practice for themselves. Note, however, that by making this book practical and per­sonally relevant, I do not wish to compromise on academic respectability. I have written it to be theoreti­cally sound and philosophically sophisticated. You should find it technically accurate and appropriately detailed. As part of my content coverage, I have also included the actual writings of philosophers discussed in a repeating feature throughout the book entitled, "Original Sourceworks." Any one excerpt will be rel­atively short so as not to discourage beginning stu­dents, but, cumulatively, the original writings will constitute a significant exposure to some of the major works with which all introductory philosophy stu­dents should be familiar. For the most part, though, significant topics and important philosophers' writ­ings will be paraphrased, summarized, and explained for those students who would find an entire course based on the classical works inappropriate. In writing this book, I recognize that there are levels of difficul­ty; I also recognize that not everyone who studies phi­losophy plans to major in it. The truth is a majority don't. Furthermore, I appreciate the fact that begin­ning students should not be expected to master material often assigned in philosophy graduate courses—something I was once expected to do! To capture the point metaphorically, let us say that before one can run a marathon, one must first learn to walk.

In recognition of learner needs, this text will contain a substantial pedagogical apparatus designed to encourage and motivate students as well as to maxi­mize their chances of success. I don't want your stu­dents' first philosophy course to be their last. Little is accomplished if the syllabus is covered, but because of "technical difficulties," regarding meaning and com­prehension, nobody cares to learn or remember what was taught. Systematically covering the`contents of philosophy, but failing to motivate and inspire stu­dents to pursue it further, is like saying, "the operation was a success, but the patient died!" In this book, we'll be focusing on the "philosophical patient" as much as on following the strict operational procedures demanded by the doctors of philosophy! My aim is to make philosophy "student-friendly"—to give it S.O.U.L.—a Student`Orientation for Understanding and Learning. My goal here is to make this text inter­esting and exciting for students. I hope to challenge and inspire them. Anyone using this book can expect to do the same.

In Chapter 1, we begin with a discussion of the nature, purpose, and scope of philosophy, examining a number of`myths and misconceptions about philoso­phy, and exploring its personal and therapeutic value. In this section, we make efforts to motivate students in their studies by pointing out that philosophy can help to clarify values and assist them in making important life decisions. We observe that, through an examination of perennial wisdom, people can find greater direction and`achieve an enhanced sense of personal well being. In this regard, its claimed that philosophy may in fact turn out to be the most important and practical subject the student will ever study—truly a startling claim for many. As part of the introduction to philosophy, we also cover the major sub-disciplines and discuss the various approaches to philosophy that have been taken in the past.

Chapter 2 is titled "Philosophies of Life." In order to immediately engage students with the practical "existential relevance" of philosophy, they are invited to reconsider their own personal philosophies in light of some others that have been developed throughout the ages. We learn in this section how differing philo­sophical ideas and worldviews are captured by hedo­nism, stoicism, existentialism, and Buddhism—four starkly contrasting visions of reality. We also see how life takes on different value priorities, depending on which philosophical worldview is adopted. In this chapter, students are encouraged to reflect on their own goals and perceptions of the world. An aware­ness is generated of how people's unconscious philo­sophical assumptions can have real life consequences.

In Chapter 3, we find a coverage of logic and its place in philosophical thinking. So many introduc­tory textbooks often make the point that philoso­phy is more of a method of thinking than a body of knowledge and then, surprisingly, neglect to deal with the method or forget to give students a chance to practice it. In this book, students are indeed encouraged to "do" philosophy, especially when com­pleting reasoning exercises and evaluative critiques. Focusing on the human side of philosophy, I also underscore`the necessity of making certain attitude adjustments if people M are to "do," or engage in, phi­losophy properly. I discuss the benefits of philo­sophical argument and explain how arguing is dif­ferent from opinionating. In this chapter, we look at inductive and deductive logic, learning the differences between validity, soundness, and truth. We also go on to examine a number of informal logical fallacies that make use of emotional and psycholog­ical appeals. Students are given opportunities here to practice their logical reasoning skills necessary for further philosophical analysis and debate.

Once students understand what philosophy is all about, once they can begin to think as philosophers using valid logic and sound reasoning, and having engaged in a preliminary examination of their own personal philosophies, we move ahead full-steam in Chapter 4 to explore epistemology and metaphysics, including a section on God. A coverage of Plato, Descartes, the British empiricists, and Immanuel Kant reveals how claims regarding the nature of knowledge (epistemology) are often based on beliefs and assumptions about reality and the physical universe (metaphysics). Discussing rational proofs for the existence of God will help students on a personal level, especially if they are grappling with religious questions at this time in their lives.

In Chapter 5, we proceed to the study of ethics and moral philosophy. Perspectives to be covered include: Character Ethics, Utilitarian Ethics, Deontological Ethics, Feminine Ethics, Existentialist Ethics and Ethical Egoism. This coverage will expose students to ancient and modern thinkers, to male and female theorists, and to rational and nonrational approaches. A segue feature in this chapter will also introduce students to the relationship between reli­gion and ethics. Upon successful completion of this chapter, students will be able to make better informed and rationally justifiable moral decisions—certainly an important practical life skill.

Chapter 6, the final one, takes us into the territory of political philosophy. Plato's`utopian society is discussed as are the social contract theorists—Hobbes and Locke—thinkers whose collective works reflect the philosophical foundations of Western liberal democracy. In addition, a perspective critical of capitalist liberal democracy, namely Marxism, is also cov­ered. Marx works very effectively as an intellectual alarm clock waking us from our dogmatic capitalist slumbers. A coverage of Chapter 6 should enable stu­dents to better appreciate alternative political systems. It should also help to inject a dose of calm rational objectivity when discussing political issues and ide­ologies. Successful efforts in this regard will have the effect of liberating`students from political bias or ethnocentric dogmatism and thereby enable them to function better as citizens of the world.

In selecting the content to be dealt with in this introductory textbook, I was very cognizant that not all important subjects and thinkers could be covered. Not only does the writing of a book impose its own time and space limitations, but twelve- to sixteen-week college semesters determine how much materi­al can be meaningfully covered by anyone using any book. Courses designed to be massive "information-dumps" and little else have proven to be pedagog­ically suspect. It seemed to me, then, that the objec­tive in textbook writing should not be to present absolutely everything but to select topics and to develop skills that will prepare students for real-life philosophical reflection and for further studies in the field of philosophy. It is my firm belief that Experiencing Philosophy does this and that it does it in a way that is student-centered, both interesting and useful for neophyte philosophers. I wish you well in your teaching endeavors and hope that this book enriches your professional experience in the class-room or lecture hall. It constitutes a labor of love to be offered to all those who truly enjoy sharing philoso­phy with others! 

Philosophical Questions: Readings and Interactive Guides by James Fieser, Norman Lillegard (Oxford University Press) This topically arranged text covers the major writings in Eastern and Western philosophy intended for introduction to philosophy courses. It combines commentary, primary texts, and study questions that guide students to better understand the philosophical works, ask focused questions, and ultimately spark in-depth discussions about the works.

In Philosophical Questions: Readings and Interactive Guides, James Fieser and Norman Lillegard make classic and contemporary philosophical writings genuinely accessible to students by incorporating numerous pedagogical aids throughout the book. Presenting the readings in manageable segments, they provide commentaries that elucidate difficult passages, explain archaic or technical terminology, and expand upon allusions to unfamiliar literature and argumentsn In addition, opening "First Reactions" discussion questions, study questions, sidebar analyses, logic boxes, and chapter summaries require students to delve more deeply into important issues and to reconstruct arguments in their own words. Some study questions test for minimal comprehension, while others are designed to provoke analysis and independent philosophical reflection. This extensive pedagogical support enables students to more easily comprehend and engage with challenging material by establishing an interactive dialogue with the philosophers. This topically organized anthology and textbook includes numerous excerpts from contemporary philosophers, as well as from Western classics and major Eastern texts, encouraging students to explore connections between works from the Western and Eastern traditions and from different time periods. Topics covered include the philosophy of religion; human nature and the self; souls, minds, bodies, and machines; epistemology; ethics; and political philosophy. A glossary, portraits of philosophers, title pages of famous works, and twelve specially commissioned cartoons are also included. Philosophical Questions: Readings and Interactive Guides is a rich and flexible volume ideal for introduction to philosophy courses. An Instructor's Manual with Test Questions will be available to adopters of the book. 

Classic Philosophical Questions, 11th Edition edited and annotated by James A. Gould, Robert J. Mulvaney (Prentice Hall) A proven classic, this anthology stimulates readers' interest in philosophy through an innovative “sides of the argument” presentation, representing positions on each of the fundamental philosophical principles. Each reading contains a biographical sketch of the author, with a group of further readings for those wishing to pursue issues in further depth. Using debate and argument as a vehicle, the eleventh edition of Classic Philosophical Questions simultaneously gives readers the fundamentals of philosophy while demonstrating that philosophy is a discourse that has spanned centuries. Topics covered include knowledge, metaphysics, religion, ethics, social and political philosophy, aesthetics, and the meaning of life. This anthology offers both classic and contemporary selections that challenge readers with the basic inquiries that philosophers have discussed throughout the`ages.

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