Questions that Matter: An Invitation to Philosophy 6th Edition
The publication of this sixth edition of Questions That Matter comes 24 years after its initial printing and over a quarter century since the manuscript was fi rst completed. This provides a sort of landmark because for the fi rst time the book is older than many of the students likely to be enrolled in a traditional introduction to philosophy course. Obviously much has changed in the world in the past twenty plus years, and the book has evolved in response to these changes. But the majority of the material has not changed. It is a hallmark of philosophy that most of the “questions that matter” are timeless and remain as pressing today as they were more than 2,000 years ago when Socrates and his contemporaries were debating the nature of existence. The attempt throughout the life of this textbook has been to sustain the timeless while adapting to changing times. Hopefully we have succeeded in this attempt.
While maintaining the basic structure and approach, two major changes mark this sixth edition. First, the book is shorter by three chapters than previous editions. We responded to feedback from teachers and reviewers that the text was simply too long for the one-semester introduction to philosophy courses in which it is used. Three chapters have been cut from this editon to make a leaner, more user-friendly text. In each case, some key elements of the old have been adapted into neighboring chapters, so the basic questions are not lost even as the treatment is condensed signifi cantly. Although we recognize that anything cut from the fi fth edition will be missed by some users, we have listened to feedback in deciding where to trim the text. We hope you will agree that the benefi ts of a slightly shorter text outweigh the loss of important material. The second major change comes in the fi nal section of the book, “The Question of Society,” which deals with issues in social and political philosophy. Here a new chapter on democracy and a reworking of the material on liberalism update this area of philosophy that changes the most because of its inherent ties to our society and the real world of politics. We have attempted to make this section more relevant to our contemporary world while remaining firmly committed to a historical approach to the subject matter.
In addition to these changes, we have, of course, made minor adjustments throughout in the interest of accuracy, readability, and updating. Some new sections have been added and the whole has been enhanced by some new boxed material. We have continued the ongoing attempt to do justice to recent philosophical developments, especially the philosophical role and contributions of women. Beyond these improvements the book remains basically unchanged—which we take to be a plus.
As stated in previous prefaces, the book is intended as an introductory text for students whose college experience may not include a subsequent course in philosophy. We have endeavored to make lucid a very diffi cult and often confusing subject and, at the same time, to do justice to its history and importance. We hope that the integrity of the subject has survived our efforts at simplifi cation and abbreviation.
In the pursuit of this goal we have been mindful of the classroom setting: (a) The instructor’s task. The best way of showing respect and concern for the goals and methods of the individual instructor is to provide a text that is not confi ning or burdensome. Instead, it provides instructors with a point of departure that will enhance and strengthen their personal approaches to the subject and their goals for their students. (b) The student’s task. Most of the students using this text will have no background in philosophy and are likely to be baffl ed by their fi rst encounter with the subject’s language, distinctions, concepts, and the like. This fi rst encounter is likely to be the student’s best (and for many, only) opportunity to master a subject that really does pose the questions that matter. A student can be cheated of that mastery but can never avoid the questions. Thus we have been guided throughout by a concern to represent and discuss the issues in a coherent, readable, and stimulating style. Furthermore, we have attempted to organize the content so that the students will be able to appreciate for themselves that there really are coherence and direction amid the twists and turns. We have also been guided by a conviction that explanatory aids can be utilized to promote understanding in an often diffi cult subject. Our attempts to present the material in a way that will most profi t the student and the classroom are evident in the following:
• Major historical thinkers have been discussed, but not to the exclusion of contemporary contributions.
• Appropriate and extended selections from primary sources have been included, interspersed throughout the discussions, making it possible for students to read the major thinkers for themselves.
• Major fi elds in philosophy have been included, as well as the major issues and traditions in those fi elds.
• No topic or issue has been excluded on the grounds that it was too difficult.
• The book seeks to accommodate the instructor’s creative use of the primary materials, thus allowing him or her to develop self-designed exchange with the students.
• Fields and issues have been chosen that are most likely to be relevant to the student’s mastery of elementary philosophy.
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