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by Katherine C. Evans,Jenny Teichman

Philosophy: a Beginner's Guide is unique in its approach to introducing philosophy. Its succinct and self-contained chapters make this jargon-free text accessible to people who have had little or no previous contact with philosophy.
Download Philosophy: A Beginners Guide epub
ISBN: 0631213201
ISBN13: 978-0631213208
Category: Other
Subcategory: Humanities
Author: Katherine C. Evans,Jenny Teichman
Language: English
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 3 edition (November 22, 1999)
Pages: 284 pages
ePUB size: 1482 kb
FB2 size: 1134 kb
Rating: 4.5
Votes: 965
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My review:

Jenny Teichman and Katherine Evans have written an introduction to philosophy (analytical) for the general reader and new undergraduates. It is written in a clear and fluent style and is well organized and engaging. I do however have reservations about the content and perspective particularly in the science and logic sections.

The bias towards empiricism and inductivism is subtle but like the force of gravity it exerts a relentless dogmatic pull in the analytic philosophy tradition.

It starts with the prime example used in many textbooks, including this one, to illustrate deductive logic, the "modus ponens" argument

1. All men are mortal
2. Socrates is a man
3. So Socrates is mortal.

Deduction consists in drawing conclusions which follow resolutely from their premises.

Induction, in contrast, generalizes beyond the evidence e.g. if we observe only white swans we generalize (with no firm logical basis) that all swans are white. A problem for induction is that such generalization involves infinite regress. There have been attempts to preserve inductive inference by saying that the generalizations are only probably true.

Karl Popper had the temerity to base scientific inference not on the "modus ponens" but rather on the "modus tollens" argument:

If Socrates is a God, then Socrates is immortal
Socrates is not immortal,
Therefore Socrates is not a God.

And in more familiar terms in science:

If the theory is true, then such and such will follow
Such and such do not follow
Therefore the theory is not true.

Falsifiability is a logical property of a proposition that is vulnerable to refutation by a true existential statement. Thus the propositions of concern to Popper were universal laws in the form "all swans are white". This is falsified by the statement (if true) "here is a black swan".

Falsification is the process of demonstrating that a proposition has been falsified. Unlike the decisive logic of the process, the real-world process of falsification can never be decisive due to the Duhem problem, the uncertainty of observations and the many more or less disreputable ways that people can protect their views.

Even though falsification cannot be decisive it is still an essential mode of criticism. There are also various other forms of criticism that address questions such as: does the theory solve the problem, is it internally consistent, is it consistent with other well-tested theories.

The subtlety is that for Karl Popper, rather than the observation or sensation being primary it has to be the theory or hypothesis. Thus one starts off with a guess or theoretical hunch and then tests it against the evidence. You do not derive theories from observations as is claimed in induction. The guessing is in-the-main unconscious, for example the egg or embryo begins with the genetic codes and thence metabolic and neurological pathways that become tested and modified against experience. Even the instruments that are used to photograph the earth or human cells, and indeed the unassisted eye, function due to programs or coding. These are "theories". No matter how hard we try we can not get away from a theoretical basis for perception - what is DNA if not a collection of molecular codes? The statement "all swans are white" is true only and if only all swans are white. The beauty of Popper's world view, if we can speak of such as beautiful, is that it removes the subjective dogma e.g. "I know" or "I think" from knowing. Knowledge can be and is primarily non-tacit.

Extending to science, when also through speech and writing, knowledge is made objective and thus open to criticism from multiple sources, the Baconian fantasy of knowledge being derived from observation is turned on its head. I find it frustrating in this technological age, when primary school aged pupils understand the notion of programming in computers, that the old ordered empirical chestnut as a model for science, as quoted by Teichman and Evans, is still rolled out:


"1. Collecting observations, perhaps also conducting experiments, and recording the data and results.
2. Careful scrutinizing,i.e. thinking about, the data and the results.
3. Acknowledging that if a large body of facts turns out to be inconsistent with the current theory then everything, including the theory itself, will have to be checked.
The overall method described is obvious and rather banal. Its generality means it fits many branches of science."

What is banal is that even after Karl Popper's many books on the matter this is still rolled out. Popper tipped this on its head. What comes first is the hunch.

Unfortunately the analytic, and even more so the phenomenological, tradition cannot let go of the security blanket of inductivism. Is there a doctor in the house to help wean us from the myth that probably-certain knowledge can be obtained, probably, by generalising from uncertain observations?

My objections to Teichman's and Evan's otherwise well written book may appear to be quirky but I would suggest to give credit to Kuhn's notion of paradigms or more rigorously to Popper's Metaphysical Research Programs that textbook authors and curriculum developers are so wedded to inductivism that they don't even realize they are trapped in unhappy wedlock.

Popper's legacy has unfortunately been that he is brushed off in a few paragraphs as a naïve falsificationist and then summarily executed by Kuhn, Lakatos and Feyerabend. It is a pity he has been relegated to straw man status.

Objectivity cannot rest on being free of preconceptions but rather on one's readiness to test them and to listen to arguments against them. Living beings are not blank slates, nor are scientists. Singular observation statements should be used to criticize theories rather than trying to justify them.

A Guide to The Logic of Scientific Discovery (The Popular Popper)

Reason and Imagination (Critical Rationalist Papers)
I picked up this book only a month after taking an introductory philosophy class. The class, unfortunately, was dumbed down. This book is not. The book covers all aspects of philosophy that are of any consequence to anyone today. The three basic branches of philosophy (metaphysics, epistomology, and ethics) are given adequate coverage drawing from a multitude of philosophers. There's even an interesting chapter on the philosophy of science which I thought was very well written. At the end of the book is an appendix filled with brief commentary on philosophers of different eras. I am, at this time, going through the appendix and picking up texts on philosophers which interest me.
I recommend this book to anyone who has either been completely lost with philosophy, or cannot find a book that is neither too complex or simple. This book strikes a perfect balance and helps the reader carry on with their study of philosophy.
The only shortcoming of this book is that it tends to cover so much that it is spread too thin in some areas. For example, I found no mention of the Kalam argument in the chapter on the existance of god. Regardless of the merits of the argument, it is
i picked up this book at the library as i am interested in this subject and wants to know some stuffs about it but really..some of the arguments/discussions about some stuffs like god/reincarnation are really stupid.. i gave up reading the book halfway... mainly the book is about what some particular philosoper says and why everything is sort of like a introduction to the topic but the introduction doesnt really interest the reader to find out more...instead it bore the readers with stupid whys to the question.....i thought a beginner guide should interest and give good information....
There are many introductory texts on philosophy available and I urge the prospective reader to stay away from this one. The section on Nietzsche is appallingly bad and does no justice to his thought whatsoever. If you are an intelligent person and want a good introduction to philosophy then look no further than Bryan Magee's books, also available on Amazon.