An Introduction to Philosophy
Russ W. Payne
Copyright Year: 2023
Conditions of Use
An Introduction to Philosophy provides a survey of central themes within the western, analytic tradition of philosophy. The book presents the fundamentals of logic and critical thinking, the Socratic method, and approaches to knowledge based in... read more
An Introduction to Philosophy provides a survey of central themes within the western, analytic tradition of philosophy. The book presents the fundamentals of logic and critical thinking, the Socratic method, and approaches to knowledge based in the Rationalist an Empiricist movements. Through following a historical approach, topics including Plato’s Forms, Cartesian Dualism, Pantheism, and Idealism are introduced in the context of their development. The chapter of Philosophy of Mind further discusses the Mind/Body, while the Philosophy of Science section rounds out the epistemological theme of the initial chapters. The final four chapters focus on Ethics, Metaethics, and Social Philosophy. Utilitarianism, Kantianism, Virtue Ethics, Relativism, Social Contract Theory, and Divine Command Theory are all discussed, either in these final chapters or at points fitting a historical appearance in the early chronologically based chapters. Payne provides a comprehensive introduction to the boarder topics of Epistemology, Metaphysics, Logic, and Ethics as they are studied in the western, analytic tradition.
The survey of western philosophy provided by An Introduction to Philosophy is quite brief. Even within the adopted bounds of this tradition, large jumps over time periods and movements are made for the sake of compactness. For example, discussion of Descartes follows quickly upon Aristotle after a brief 2-page transition glossing over the Roman and Medieval contributions to the story. Kant does not appear until his ethical theory is picked up in the chapters on Metaethics and Right Action. There is little or no discussion of Existentialism, Feminism, movements within a broadly Continental Eurocentric tradition, or of any non-western philosophical traditions.
There is no glossary to the text; however, when viewed electronically the “find” function serves as a proxy tool for locating key words.
In general, the text remains safely within the bounds of established scholarship in its presentation of material. There are a few points where the author interjects some personal commentary into the material, but these are generally presented in a transparent way and can be isolated and treated as one would wish. However, an exception to the safe presentation of ideas occurs in the Meta Ethics chapter. Here, the chapter takes a thinly veiled argumentative approach promoting metaethical realism against anti-realism and relativism. As an introductory text, this approach risks portraying the subject in an overly simplistic and decisive manner to introductory students.
The safe and roughly historical approach of the text ensures that the content will not be dated for some time. The material of the text is highly relevant within the field of philosophy it the perennial issues it addresses, although there is little explicit reference to contemporary and topical issues.
An Introduction to Philosophy proceeds with a clear and approachable tone. The ideas are presented in a language that does not require prior familiarity with philosophical study and should be appropriate to most first-year college students.
The text is consistent throughout in its style, difficulty, and presentation of content.
The text can easily be divided into modular units to be adopted or passed over at an instructor’s discretion without harming the value of any given section’s use. However, the first five chapters do flow together into a historical narrative of ideas that some might find beneficial insofar as it helps provide some added structure to the introduction to the concepts. This beneficial structure would be lost were these early chapters to be taken in isolation. The Philosophy of Mind chapter also utilizes some reference to the prior section on Descartes.
The individual chapters of the text flow from chapter to chapter in a reasonable way. The presentation of material and tone of the text remains structurally consistent throughout. However, the text has detectable sections to its content.
An Introduction to Philosophy begins by providing a subject overview, while the second chapter on critical thinking supplies some methodological sideboards for the student. After this, the text moves through three phases. First, chapters 3-5 present a historical approach of Ancient Philosophy, Rationalism, and Empiricism. Concepts are organized by their association with a particular philosopher and that philosopher’s broad historical context. Chapters 6 and 7 roughly fit into the chronology established by presenting 20th C discussions of the Philosophy of Science and Mind.
Chapters 8-11 break this pattern and focus on ethics. Here, the ideas are presented thematically. Both in the focus ethic and the topical organization, the structure of the book changes. If one wanted to use the entire text for a course but did not want isolate discussion of ethics into one single block, then attempting to reintegrate these following, topic-centered chapters into a sequence parallel to the first would be challenging.
An Introduction to Philosophy is all text. There are no images, figures, or other learning aids. The format of the text functions like a book. The table of contents does not contain internal links. There are some hyperlinks to further readings and materials, but these are often broken. When viewed through a web-browser, the browser’s page selection and “find” features can assist in navigating the material.
There are a few typos or grammatical errors in the text, but generally the text is clean and presented to professional standards.
With some exceptions, the text primarily presents the views of dead, white, male Europeans, and its cultural relevance suffers from faults of omission. As an introduction to philosophy, greater transparency regarding its limited content would have helped the text inform readers that this narrowness reflects a decision for the text rather than speaking to the scope of philosophy itself. There are no explicitly insensitive or offensive remarks in the text. When mentioned explicitly, the few acknowledgements of diversity from the narrow scope of the text are done appropriately, with one minor exception that warrants flagging. Elizabeth Simmern van Pallandt is given due attention for her critical correspondence with Descartes regarding the Mind/Body problem. At this point, Payne provides a well-intentioned interjection to identify and condemn the patronizing nature of some of Descartes’s communications with Pallandt. Payne also suggests that Pallandt, “provides a brilliant illustration of how to deal most effectively with patronizing behavior whether it is of sexist variety or some other kind: just be competent and this will show that you deserve to be taken seriously” (p 72). Rather than place full responsibility and condemnation for patronizing behavior on the perpetrator, some might worry that Payne’s interjection places some responsibility for patronizing behavior upon those who have yet to prove they deserve being taken seriously. This is an issue with the text that people might want to be aware of. I have had to interject on this passage for my students and have repeatedly received thankful comments from students for doing so. However, besides this gaffe and the narrowness of scope, An Introduction to Philosophy remains appropriate in what it does present.
Payne has written a solid introduction to philosophy for students with little to no background in the subject matter. His text covers the core ancient philosophers, basic logical reasoning, explorations in the philosophy of science and mind, and... read more
Payne has written a solid introduction to philosophy for students with little to no background in the subject matter. His text covers the core ancient philosophers, basic logical reasoning, explorations in the philosophy of science and mind, and the main branches of ethics. It is a short text, so therefore Payne has left out some key branches of thought, such as aesthetics, structuralism, or critical theory. Additionally, there is no index or glossary with this text. Still, he does a good job introducing the basics within his limited space.
As far as accuracy is concerned, there were no glaring mistakes, although sometimes the author’s personal views are embedded within the text.
There are some instances within the book that are dated, such as examples that point to public figures at the time the book was written. Additionally, Payne’s lack of Marxist or sociological analysis in his section on social justice is a stark oversight. This omission leaves him struggling to explain atrocities like racism or genocide in individualistic ethical terms, as if these social problems are the cause of individuals with personal bad ethics rather than products of larger-scale structural realities. In light of recent world events and uprisings, this text would be more relevant if it took societal analyses into consideration.
A benefit of Payne’s book is its conversational tone. Too often students new to philosophy can get lost in the jargon. Payne does a good job using natural, easy-to-understand language.
The text is consistent with its organization. Payne keeps most chapters to a reasonable and readable length.
At times, the author refers to his own life as examples. While this tactic works well in a classroom setting, it does not work as well in a textbook that other professors will use. Shifting the textbook to a third-person narrative would solve this issue.
Regardless, Payne has organized his text well, and readers can easily navigate it.
One major problem with this book, however, is its lack of images, charts, etc. Rather than revise charts to fit his text, Payne has included hyperlinks to outside web sources for information. Unfortunately, about half of all links included were either non-secure websites or dead links. The information he linked to could have been easily rewritten into his own book rather than linking outside the text to questionable sites.
While there are some minor grammatical errors, they do not interfere with the overall readability of the text.
Payne makes some references outside of Western philosophy, such as a brief exploration into Confucianism, but mainly this book sticks to the classics of the Western canon. As stated earlier, a main problem is his lack of philosophers who deal with social and cultural problems. Students interested in real-life issues, especially those that deal with race, gender, or class, will not find many solutions in this textbook.
Overall, Payne has written a useable introduction to the basic ideas in philosophy for 100-level students. The book is not organized like a traditional textbook and is lacking some core ideas that should be explored in an introductory philosophy class. Including more real-life examples and illustrations would help students grasp the concepts presented better.
Every introduction to philosophy is a reflection of the author’s opinionated view about what the most important topics are that should serve as a student’s first taste of college level philosophy. As this is often a student’s first taste of... read more
Every introduction to philosophy is a reflection of the author’s opinionated view about what the most important topics are that should serve as a student’s first taste of college level philosophy. As this is often a student’s first taste of philosophy simpliciter, it is an important decision to make. W. Russ Payne’s choices are at once careful to appeal to the interests of students, and comprehensive enough to cover a wide swathe of philosophical landscape. It should be said that the approach is definitely historical; and indeed the progression through philosophical topics follows a roughly chronological order (and often referring back to the ancients for the locus classicus of a particular philosophical view or problem). For some, like me, this works well. I like to give philosophical problems an historical context, and I like to introduce students to the writing of past thinkers. Other teachers, however, might find the historical bent a bit tedious and frustrating, perhaps preferring to introduce problems through more contemporary writers and treatments. At any rate, Payne’s text covers all of the major branches of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind and ethics (normative and meta), and socio-political philosophy, and the main philosophical problems that each branch treats of. The classic problems are presented through the classic texts (but you will not find, for example, much on contemporary epistemology such as the Gettier issues, nor more modern philosophical questions in mereology or personal identity etc.) However, I think that as an introduction to the discipline, the topics covered offer the right level and the right emphasis to furnish the student new to it with a range of philosophical concepts, views and questions that they may move on to more advanced, contemporary topics well prepared. As with any Introduction, it curates topics according to the author's editorial and pedagogical decisions, so it doesn't cover every topic one might be interested in teaching. Nor does it have an index or glossary (but I find these are available everywhere on the web, and can be added to one's class materials separately). I should also mention that the book approaches philosophy from within the analytic tradition, and thus has limited reference to the more 'continental' texts, authors and issues. Many will find this disappointing (but not surprising, as this distinction is unfortunately fairly standard within the discipline itself). Everything I say below about supplementing this basic textbook with the instructors' own choice of topics and materials applies here, of course.
As far as I can see, the content is quite accurate; at least I did not notice any glaring errors. The content is also unbiased; there appears to be nothing in the language or ideas that takes anything but a neutral, inclusive line.
This book will be relevant for some time, as it does take an historical approach and does not pretend to be offering the latest, most cutting-edge views on things. As a solid historical introduction, it has a fairly long shelf-life. As with all textbooks, one should regularly ensure that the material reflects current thought, where it does mention contemporary authors, approaches or views. It is especially important to update with breakthrough work, when it happens. This text is pretty well up to date on the latter, and I would imagine it to stay so for at least 5 - 10 years, at the current pace of philosophical development.
Written very clearly, with a conversational style that is sensitive to the requirement to explain jargon and technical terms, when they arise. The tone is direct and simple, and aimed at the curious and intelligent freshman (so, not overly difficult and not unchallenging or condescending).
The book is consistent, and maintains a sense of flow and direction, and all the parts hang together as a whole.
The chapters, and certain subsections, of the book are easily used as separate modules. There is some self-reference - to a certain degree, this book is written as a course to follow in order. But it is possible to treat each section separately, to mix and match with other topics and materials, and to rearrange the order of presentation of the chapters if one wanted. Some editing or re-writing may be need for this, but not a lot.
I find the topic organization quite logical. Again, the order of topics and philosophical problems and text is ordered along roughly historical lines, and I personally find this arrangement a good one, for introductory purposes. For example, the course begins with a general introduction to to the discipline; then turns to some issues in argumentation and logic, followed by the ancients, rationalism and empiricism, philosophy of science (which connects back to the earlier topics), philosophy of mind; and then it turns to the more normative philosophical topics: philosophy of love and happiness, meta-ethics and normative ethical theories, and finally, to some social and political issues. Of interest here is the inclusion of the chapter on the philosophy of science, and the breadth of normative topics included in the last chapters. Firstly, I have found it rare to find an introduction to philosophy that includes topics in the philosophy of science. This part of philosophy might be passed over in introduction because it is thought too difficult for freshman, or those new to philosophy, or at least that it presupposes a lot of other philosophy before it can be approached. This can be true, but it is also true that this topic is foundational, and it can be introduced in a way as not to confuse students or to have them lose interest. Particularly if it is introduced in the context, as Payne does, of historical empiricism. It is also an area that gestures to more contemporary philosophical issues, and provides a good basis for moving on to those for future students. Secondly, the wide choice of topics in the normative branches of philosophy is a positive, in my view. There are students who are more attracted to these topics, but they are often treated in a very perfunctory fashion i.e. often just he meta-ethics part, or just some quick treatment of normative ethical theories. The four chapters here go together quite well, and give a more complete exploration of the issue that can arise in these parts of philosophy.
The pdf version is not 'clickable' throughout, meaning that one has to scroll through to find parts of the text. Of course, it could be printed and used simply as a traditional book. There are links in the text to other open-source materials and texts, which is very helpful (although the links should always be checked regularly). It might have helped to make at least the table of contents clickable, to navigate directly to chapters.
No grammatical errors that I detected, although there are a few typos throughout.
The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way that I could detect. I found the examples used were culturally diverse, as well as gender-neutral and appropriate. Here is probably the place to mention that this textbook fails to include many examples of female or other minority philosophers or texts. As a discipline, we all need to do more to undermine this view of the philosophical canon as white, western, male and privileged. I would be supplementing this textbook with readings from female philosophers, and I would consider introducing a topic from a non-traditional perspective such as asian or african philosophy. No textbook can include everything, but introductions to a discipline need to be at the forefront in making sure students don't think the subject is only for white, male people and interests.
This textbook takes an interesting introductory route through philosophy. It is both fairly traditional in terms of its topic range, and yet also a bit fresher in its inclusion of the philosophy of science, and a more extensive than usual treatment of the normative areas of philosophy. In my view, this is a solid, reliable introductory text for freshman philosophy. As a CC license, one can use this as one prefers, which might mean editing in or out certain topics and rearranging the order etc. I would definitely supplement it with topics I think need to be included. Dealing as it does with historical texts might require the teacher to create more readable excerpts of the longer, difficult texts. It might also be supplemented with a choice of further readings, or even other kinds of media like podcasts ( at least one is mentioned, and linked, by Payne), discussions, interviews, videos, blogs etc. But overall, this textbook is terrific and if it means a student can have access to the materials need for a class without being sent broke, then it is a great choice.
Please see overall review below. read more
Please see overall review below.
Please see overall review below.
Please see overall review below.
Please see overall review below.
Please see overall review below.
Please see overall review below.
Please see overall review below.
Please see overall review below.
Please see overall review below.
Please see overall review below.
This is a highly usable and economical introduction to philosophy textbook. It covers the definition, branches and application of philosophy as well as the major theories and issues of epistemology, metaphysics and ethics in the history of Western philosophy from the Ancient Greeks to Rawlsian theories of justice and Chalmers’ contributions to the philosophy of mind. Such a textbook always requires making difficult decisions regarding topical inclusion, and the author does an excellent job tracing the evolution of major philosophical thought to help students see the connections and influences between prominent thinkers as well as the relevant differences and departures. The chapters are succinct, clear, while rigorously dense which both novice and intermediate students will appreciate. While the author employs college-level vocabulary and subject-specific terminology throughout, he often will present numerous relevant examples to help contextualize the more abstract concepts. A great example of this is in the section on critical thinking and logical argumentation. The author provides ample homework exercises as well as an external link to a great resource on learning logical fallacies replete with everyday examples. Indeed, each chapter contains external links to primary readings and supplemental resources for students to access and dig deeper into content. Instructors would be wise to preview all of the externally linked resources and determine which they would like to feature in their course. For example, there are links to entire Socratic dialogues and essays when assigning only a particular section might be sufficient for the needs of the course. Additionally, there are links to encyclopedic biographies of particular thinkers that may have particular sections worth reading; one suggestion for the author is to be more consistent in linking thinkers’ biographies as there doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason why some are included and others aren’t. Overall, the inclusion of external links provides flexibility that is a tremendous asset of this textbook since it allows for instructors to curate content to fit their syllabus. Furthermore, a few of these links are currently broken, and the author has asked readers to let him know which ones need repair so that he can fix them (which I will do) The discussion questions and possible quiz questions found at the end of each chapter are excellent tools for both instructor and student. . Moreover, I would recommend that instructors who wish to supplement these chapters with additional resources do so to enrich the experience for their students and add their personality and particular areas of expertise and interest to the curriculum.
Some other feedback for the author is that the text lacks significant inclusion of minoritized and culturally relevant thinkers. There are several female philosophers, including an excellent section on Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia are her devastating critiques of Descartes’ substance dualism. However, the text would benefit from an inclusion of more female philosophers, thinkers of color and from the eastern hemisphere. Also, the text lacked visual aids aside from those included in the external links. Including more pictures
It is an excellent foundational source that when combined with other OER material is sufficient for an introductory philosophy course.
There are different ways of introducing philosophy to newcomers, one is to present it as a living discipline defined by problems made more intelligible and relevant by tracing their historical roots. W. Russ Payne’s An Introduction to Philosophy... read more
There are different ways of introducing philosophy to newcomers, one is to present it as a living discipline defined by problems made more intelligible and relevant by tracing their historical roots. W. Russ Payne’s An Introduction to Philosophy takes this approach and does a good job at it. The first two chapters describe the nature of philosophy and the place of logic and concepts like ‘truth’, while subsequent chapters focus on two key periods in the history of philosophy (Ancient Greece and Early Modernity), and core themes in the philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, love, happiness, metaethics, and the question of social justice in political philosophy. Although exclusively from an Analytic perspective, the textbook does provide a fairly comprehensive and sound overview of what it does covers. It does not have a glossary or an index. The first chapter lists some undefined key terms, but this convention is abandoned thereafter. The book does provide review and discussion questions at the end of each chapter, which can be used in a variety of different ways.
The textbook is fairly accurate in its presentation and definition of key issues, concepts, and themes, but again, it strictly follows an analytic approach to the discipline, which means that Continental thinkers, feminist perspectives, and non-European traditions are excluded. Unless it is complemented with material from these non-Analytic traditions, this textbook by itself will be of little use to someone planning to teach philosophy in a more global or pluralistic manner.
The textbook presents classic theories, arguments, and examples that should stand the test of time. Its content shouldn't require much updating. The book’s format and organization allows for easy incorporation of revisions and updates.
Explanations are clear and concise. The author uses technical jargon sparingly and defines technical terms well. Adding a glossary would help, however.
The textbook's narrative flows consistently. It moves from historical roots to the present in ways that helps readers see the historical and contemporary relevance of the issues being covered.
The textbook is divided into chapters and sections that stand on their own, and thus lend themselves to easy revision, reorganization, remixing, and so on. It can be used as a whole or only in part. Chapters can be read in different orders and still be understood.
The textbook is well organized. Key concepts are explained and material is appropriately divided into easily digestible units. The examples given in each chapter illustrate well their concepts. Transitions are easy to follow and allow the reader to make important connections within and between chapters.
Students have access to PDF copies. Printed copies of the whole or parts can be made easily. The textbook is published under a CC By license, which permits the greatest freedom to retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute its contents. Most chapters contain links to readings, but they must be checked to avoid broken hyperlinks.
No recognizable grammatical errors, but typographical errors were found throughout the text. For example, page 6 says, “the reality” rather than “reality”.
The author does not use offensive or culturally insensitive language. However, the exclusion of continental, feminist, and non-European approaches can arguably be construed as insensitive to these traditions.
Overall this is a good textbook and may be combined with other sources to deal with its limitations.
As with most disciplines, philosophy comes with its own vast array of key terms, concepts, and vocabulary, which introductory students must learn in order to make sense of the discipline’s contributions and key debates (both past and present). The... read more
As with most disciplines, philosophy comes with its own vast array of key terms, concepts, and vocabulary, which introductory students must learn in order to make sense of the discipline’s contributions and key debates (both past and present). The text does not contain an index or glossary. The reader must sort through the chapter/s in order to find the relevant definitions or explanations. In Chapter 1, four vocabulary words are listed at the end of the chapter (which is helpful), but that convention is not repeated in other chapters, which introduce additional vocabulary.
The content that is covered is represented accurately. However, it should be noted that the text does not contain the entire breadth or history of the discipline. For instance, one will not find coverage of global or world traditions in philosophy, feminist philosophy (apart from very brief mention of care ethics in Chapter 10), or contributions of the continental tradition in philosophy. The treatment of the text (and themes) is predominately representative of the analytic tradition in philosophy. Of course, this does not mean that an introductory text must cover everything, but merely that the reader should be aware of its approach.
The text is up-to-date, and may easily be updated as needed.
The text is written in a clear and accessible style geared toward introductory students; the use of any relevant jargon (when present) is commonly followed by a definition and/or explanation of the key term, movement, or theory.
The text is internally consistent, in its terminology/ies and framework/s.
The book’s individual chapters may easily be assigned individually and out of order, without reliance on referential material that might come before or after any specific chapter. It is thus possible to both build on knowledge base acquired within a specific chapter (by covering supplementary chapters from this text or another), as well as covering one or more standalone chapters without assigning the entire text.
To some readers, it might seem confusing that the text features four chapters devoted to ethical issues (Chapters 8-11), while one chapter might more clearly and succinctly address the leading range of problems and questions in moral philosophy. There is also the concern that since they come at the end of the book, a beginning student might get the impression that the content in those chapters is less significant or less central to the study of philosophy, which would certainly not be the case. Additionally, Chapter 11 might be better titled “Political Philosophy” or “Social and Political Philosophy,” as the range of issues covered there are not exclusively social justice topics.
No interface issues recognized; although it might be a good idea to check the hyperlinks that refer the reader to live websites (to avoid sending the reader to a broken/outdated link).
No recognizable grammatical errors; however, typographical errors may be found in the text. For example, in Chapter 9, the spelling of “Divine” shifts to “Devine” throughout the chapter, and on page 104, one finds both spellings in that section. Another example, see page 93 for “mght” and “constrasting.” Also, in the book’s description, there’s an extra “first” (“Students are first invited first”).
The text is not culturally insensitive. The text does make use of examples that are inclusive to gender (this may be observed by reviewing examples and exercises used in Chapter 2).
Terrific text! Its versatility allows for coverage of standalone chapters as well as building on knowledge acquired in previous chapters. The embedded links to online primary source texts provide the reader with a valuable opportunity to explore the original texts that frame the discussion and background material to the topics and themes of the book.
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1: What Philosophy Is
- Chapter 2: Critical Thinking I, Being Reasonable
- Chapter 3: Critical Thinking II: Logic
- Chapter 4: Ancient Philosophy
- Chapter 5: Rationalism
- Chapter 6: Empiricism
- Chapter 7: Philosophy of Science
- Chapter 8: Philosophy of Mind
- Chapter 9: Love and Happiness
- Chapter 10: Meta Ethics
- Chapter 11: Right Action
- Chapter 12: Social Justice
About the Book
The goal of this text is to present philosophy to newcomers as a living discipline with historical roots. While a few early chapters are historically organized, the goal in the historical chapters is to trace a developmental progression of thought that introduces basic philosophical methods and frames issues that remain relevant today. Later chapters are topically organized. These include philosophy of science and philosophy of mind, areas where philosophy has shown dramatic recent progress. This text concludes with four chapters on ethics, broadly construed. Traditional theories of right action is covered in a third of these. Students are first invited first to think about what is good for themselves and their relationships in a chapter of love and happiness. Next a few meta-ethical issues are considered; namely, whether they are moral truths and if so what makes them so. The end of the ethics sequence addresses social justice, what it is for one's community to be good. Our sphere of concern expands progressively through these chapters. Our inquiry recapitulates the course of development into moral maturity. Over the course of the text, the author has tried to outline the continuity of thought that leads from the historical roots of philosophy to a few of the diverse areas of inquiry that continue to make significant contributions to our understanding of ourselves and the world we live in.
About the Contributors
W. Russ Payne, Bellevue College