Philosophy: An Innovative Introduction: Fictive Narrative, Primary Texts, and Responsive Writing

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This new book features a unique, engaging approach to introduce students to philosophy. It combines traditional readings and exercises with fictive narratives starring central figures in the history of the field from Plato to Martin Luther King, Jr. The book makes innovative use of compelling short stories from two writers who have prominently combined philosophy and fiction in their work. These narratives illuminate pivotal aspects of the carefully selected classic readings that follow. This gives students two ways to understand the philosophical positions: through indirect argument in fiction and through direct, deductive presentations. Study questions and writing exercises accompany each set of readings and help students grasp the material and create their own arguments.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Boylan and Johnson return philosophy to its original home—the story. By blending narrative with other philosophical discourses, they create an approach that engages ambiguity in order to attain wisdom.” —Marc Conner, Washington and Lee University

Philosophy: An Innovative Introduction is an exciting book that promises to invigorate courses in philosophy, ethics, and the humanities. Building on the categories of direct and indirect discourse, the authors offer a robust conception of ‘fictive narrative philosophy’—one that treats seriously the power of fiction in philosophical discourse. The authors’ innovative approach pairs the philosophies of major figures such as Plato, Kant, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with short stories that engage those figures in thought-provoking ways. The result is that the philosophical tradition is brought to life for students as abstract ideas become vivid and compelling.” —Linda Furgerson Selzer, Penn State University
“This unusual introduction to philosophy has broad appeal without sacrificing intellectual rigor.” —Felicia Nimue Ackerman, Brown University
“In the acknowledgements Charles Johnson quotes Camus, ‘If you want to be a philosopher, write novels.’ While an extravagant claim, Boylan and Johnson have conceived and brought to life an ‘innovative’ new introductory philosophy text that richly demonstrates what Camus calls for. The text’s historical approach supplements the usual philosophers with multicultural, more inclusive works by Buddha, Arendt, Murdoch and M. L. King. It offers numerous helpful aids for the classroom, but most importantly it uniquely blends traditional philosophical argumentation with provocative fictive narratives (stories) that promise to engage students more fully, thus bringing philosophy alive in ways more traditional texts can only approximate.” —Richard E. Hart, Bloomfield College

“This book is a tour de force. . . . Designed not only to inform but also to stimulate our feelings and imagination, the creative imagery of the fictional stories accompanying the philosophical texts succeed in instantly transporting us to the everyday lives of these famous philosophers. We walk with Socrates as he struts around the Agora of Athens animated in the midday sun talking about justice. We wait in Kant’s living room as he changes his tie before answering the door to welcome guests to yet another of his Friday dinner soirées. Like Platonic dialogues, this wonderful and timely book works not only with words but with powerful, visceral imagery.” —Edward Spence, Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Charles Sturt University

"A thoroughly inventive and demanding study that any student or reader should find insightful and rewarding." —Library Journal

Library Journal
Boylan (philosophy, Marymount Univ.) and Johnson (English, Univ. of Washington in Seattle) have here indeed produced an innovative introduction to philosophy, having done so by designing and arranging a unique selection and presentation of the material. The book is divided into three parts. In the first, the student—or the reader, who may be so inclined—deals with writing direct and indirect responses to philosophical arguments. The second part pertains to key figures in ancient and medieval philosophy—Plato, Aristotle, Buddha, and Aquinas. In the final part—devoted to modern and contemporary philosophy—the thinking of Descartes, Kant, Marx, Heidegger, Hannah Arendt, Iris Murdoch, and Martin Luther King Jr. is considered. Throughout the book, the authors, primarily Boylan, include interesting and detailed fictive essays on each of the noted thinkers. This all reads like a collegiate study guide to philosophy, with "exercises," a "mid-term project," and a "final project," which encourages the student—and the reader—to think more deeply about and understand the material. VERDICT This is a thoroughly inventive and demanding study that any student or reader should find insightful and rewarding.—Leon H. Brody, Falls Church, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813344485
  • Publisher: Westview Press
  • Publication date: 2/23/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Boylan received a Masters in English and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and is professor of philosophy at Marymount University. He is the author of numerous articles and books on philosophy and literature, including The Extinction of Desire; The Good, the True, and the Beautiful; and Critical Inquiry (Westview Press).

Charles Johnson earned a Ph.D. in Philosophy and is the S. Wilson and Grace M. Pollock Professor of English at the University of Washington in Seattle. He is a 1998 MacArthur Fellow and the 2002 recipient of an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature. He received the 1990 National Book Award for his novel Middle Passage.

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Acknowledgments xiii

Glossary xv

Part 1 Direct and Indirect Discourse in Philosophy

Chapter 1 Direct and Indirect Discourse in Philosophy 3

Reading and Discussion Questions 13

Chapter 2 How Can I Respond to Claims Using Direct Logical Discourse? 15

Reading and Discussion Questions 24

Chapter 3 How Can I Respond to Claims Using Indirect Fictive-Narrative Discourse? 25

Reading and Discussion Questions 32

Part 2 Ancient and Medieval Philosophy

Chapter 4 Plato 35

Short Story

"The Cynic," Charles Johnson 36

Reading and Discussion Questions 42

Fictive-Narrative Philosophy Feedback 43

Primary Texts

Plato, "The Myth of the Charioteer," 44

Reading and Discussion Questions 49

Class Exercises 49

Plato, "Crito," 50

Reading and Discussion Questions 60

Class Exercises 60

Chapter 5 Aristotle 61

Short Story

"Aristotle the Outsider," Michael Boylan 62

Reading and Discussion Questions 72

Fictive-Narrative Philosophy Feedback 72

Primary Text

Aristotle, "On the Soul," 73

Reading and Discussion Questions 81

Class Exercises 81

Chapter 6 Buddha 83

Short Story

"Prince of the Ascetics," Charles Johnson 84

Reading and Discussion Questions 90

Fictive-Narrative Philosophy Feedback 90

Primary Text

Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, Dhammapada 91

Reading and Discussion Questions 98

Class Exercises 98

Chapter 7 Aquinas 99

Short Story

"The Murder of Thomas Aquinas," Michael Boylan 100

Reading and Discussion Questions 109

Fictive-Narrative Philosophy Feedback 110

Primary Text

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica: "On the Natural Law," 111

Reading and Discussion Questions 113

Class Exercises 113

Midterm Project 115

Part 3 Modern and Contemporary Philosophy

Chapter 8 Descartes 119

Short Story

"The Queen and the Philosopher," Charles Johnson 120

Reading and Discussion Questions 125

Fictive-Narrative Philosophy Feedback 125

Primary Text

Ren? Descartes, "Finding a Foundation for Knowledge," 126

Reading and Discussion Questions 136

Class Exercises 137

Chapter 9 Kant 139

Short Story

"Kant Awakened," Michael Boylan 140

Reading and Discussion Questions 147

Fictive-Narrative Philosophy Feedback 147

Primary Texts

Gottfried Wilhelm Freiherr von Leibniz, "On Geometrical Method and the Method of Metaphysics," 148

Reading and Discussion Questions 151

Class Exercises 152

"Three Types of Human Knowledge: History, Philosophy, and Mathematics," Christian Wolff 153

Reading and Discussion Questions 163

Class Exercises 163

"Of the Academical or Skeptical Philosophy," David Hume 164

Reading and Discussion Questions 174

Class Exercises 174

"The Possibility of Metaphysics," Immanuel Kant 175

Reading and Discussion Questions 186

Class Exercises 187

Chapter 10 Marx 189

Short Story

"A Game of Chess in Paris," Michael Boylan 190

Reading and Discussion Questions 197

Fictive-Narrative Philosophy Feedback 197

Primary Texts

"Preface," G. W. F. Hegel 198

Reading and Discussion Questions 205

Class Exercises 205

"Lordship and Bondage," G. W. F. Hegel 206

Reading and Discussion Questions 213

Class Exercises 214

"Morality and the Ethical Community," G. W. F. Hegel 215

Reading and Discussion Questions 217

Class Exercises 218

"Alienated Labor," Karl Marx 219

Reading and Discussion Questions 227

Class Exercises 227

"Private Property and Labor," Karl Marx 228

Reading and Discussion Questions 231

Class Exercises 231

Chapter 11 Heidegger and Arendt 233

Short Story

"Eichmann and Heidegger in Jerusalem," Michael Boylan 234

Reading and Discussion Questions 245

Fictive-Narrative Philosophy Feedback 245

Primary Texts

"The Exposition of the Question of the Meaning of Being," Martin Heidegger 246

Reading and Discussion Questions 253

Class Exercises 254

"An Expert on the Jewish Question," Hannah Arendt 255

Reading and Discussion Questions 270

Class Exercises 271

Chapter 12 Murdoch 273

Short Story

"An Accidental Woman," Michael Boylan 274

Reading and Discussion Questions 280

Fictive-Narrative Philosophy Feedback 281

Primary Text

"Ludwig's Conundrum," Iris Murdoch 282

Reading and Discussion Questions 294

Class Exercises 294

Chapter 13 King 295

Short Story

"Dr. King's Refrigerator," Charles Johnson 296

Reading and Discussion Questions 300

Fictive-Narrative Philosophy Feedback 301

Primary Text

"Letter from a Birmingham Jail," Martin Luther King Jr. 302

Reading and Discussion Questions 315

Class Exercises 316

Final Project 317

Appendix: Some Philosophy Games 319

Credits 327

About the Authors 331

Index 333

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