Ultimate Questions: Thinking about Philosophy / Edition 3

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This inexpensive and brief text examines the main problems in contemporary philosophy and uses more than 100 “Food for Thought” exercises to promote critical thinking and help students become active learners of philosophy. The book is intended for use by professors teaching a problems-oriented course, but is structured to appeal to any reader willing to explore subjects such as free will, personal identity, existence of God, and more.

Ultimate Questions explores how the timeless problems of Western philosophy are located inside our ordinary ways of thinking and being. It encourages readers to think about philosophy first-hand by using vivid and engaging examples. It also introduces readers to prominent up-to-date theories being applied to the same problems encountered by contemporary analytic philosophers. After reading this text, students will gain a better sense of how mysterious their own natures really are.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780205731978
  • Publisher: Pearson
  • Publication date: 11/4/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 89,173
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

In This Section:

I. Author Bio

II. Author Letter

I. Author Bio

Nils Ch. Rauhut studied philosophy and history at the University of Regensburg (Germany). He received an M.A. degree in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Washington in Seattle. He taught at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, and he is currently teaching at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina.

Website: http://ww2.coastal.edu/nrauhut/

II. Author Letter

Dear Colleague,

I have taught Introduction to Philosophy in various class sizes and at various academic institutions for more than fifteen years. I enjoy it tremendously but I also know that teaching the course is challenging.

A genuine introduction to philosophy requires a conversation between us, the students, and the content. However, students are often reluctant to engage in genuine conversations about great ideas. Why think, argue, or speak in class if listening to lectures seems so much more convenient? My textbook, Ultimate Questions: Thinking about Philosophy 3e, is constructed to get students actively engaged in doing philosophy together with you in the classroom. More than 100 Food for Thought Exercises in the text are designed to generate lively classroom discussions and sharpen critical thinking. The exercises are designed to make the philosophy classroom more interactive and they help students realize whether they have grasped important concepts clearly.

My text does not presuppose that students already have a natural curiosity to think and talk about great philosophical questions. Instead, it is designed to awaken such curiosity by showing them how the great questions arise naturally in our ordinary ways of being. The book is an invitation for students to realize that the great questions of philosophy are invariably intertwined with the way all of us live every day. To study the great questions then, is ultimately an attempt to get to know ourselves.

Students read much less than we instructors hope. I have tried to write Ultimate Questions such that students are seduced into reading. I have tried to write clearly without oversimplifying any philosophical position or problem. My hope is that the book can provide for students partly what a lecture normally provides, so that instructors have more freedom to use class time for discussions, group work, role play or any other form of active learning.

I would be delighted to hear from anyone using this book in their classes, and would especially value any suggestions for improvement, my e-mail is nrauhut@coastal.edu.


Nils Rauhut

Coastal Carolina University

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Table of Contents

CHAPTER ONE: What is Philosophy?

Making Sense of the World

The Relationship between Philosophy and Science

The Main Branches of Philosophy

CHAPTER TWO: Philosophical Tools

Logical Consistency

A Demand of Reason: Avoid Contradictions

Logical Possibility


Lexical and Real Definitions

Challenging Definitions: Counterexamples and Thought Experiments

The Basic Structure of Arguments

Putting Arguments into Standard Form

Deductive and Inductive Argument

Evaluating Deductive Arguments: Validity and Soundness

Evaluating Deductive Arguments: Logical Form

Evaluating Inductive Arguments: Probability


What is Knowledge? .

Three Different Theories of Knowledge


The Case for Skepticism

Descartes’ Quest for Certainty


The Case for Empiricism

Problems with Perception

The Problem of Induction


The Case for Rationalism

Problems for Rationalism

Final Remarks on Epistemology


Why is there a Problem with Free Will?

The Case for Hard-Determinism

Can Indeterminism save Free Will?


Traditional Compatibilism

Deep-Self Compatibilism

A Fundamental Problem for Compatibilism


The Case for Libertarianism

Problems for Libertarianism

Final Remarks on the Problem of Free Will


What is the problem?

The Persistence Question

The Illusion Theory of Personal Identity

The Case for the Illusion Theory

Problems for the Illusion Theory

The Body Theory of Personal Identity [Animalism]

The Case for the Body Theory

Problems for the Body Theory

The Soul Theory of Personal Identity

The Case for the Soul Theory

Problems for the Soul Theory .

The Memory Theory of Personal Identity

The Case for the Memory Theory

Problems for the Memory Theory

Final Remarks on Personal Identity


What is the Problem

Possible Solutions to the Mind/Body Problem

Substance Dualism

Arguments for Substance Dualism

Near-Death Experiences

The Conceivability Argument


Arguments against Substance Dualism

The Problem of Interaction

Do Dualists commit a Category Mistake?

Varieties of Physicalism


Logical Behaviorism

Arguments against Logical Behaviorism

The Identity Theory .

Evidence for the Identity Theory

Arguments against the Identity Theory


Functional Concepts and “Stuff” Concepts

Functionalism: Mind as Software

Functionalism and Artificial Intelligence: The Turing Test

Arguments against Functionalism .

The Chinese Room Argument

Problems with Qualia

Eliminative Materialism

Final Remarks on the Mind Body Problem


God, Faith, and Reason

What do we mean by the word “God”?

Arguments in Defense of a Classical Theistic God

Arguments from Religious Experiences

Cosmological Argument

Design Arguments

The Ontological Argument

Pascal’s Wager

What is the Effect of these Arguments?

Arguments against the Existence of a Classical Theistic God

The Logical Problem of Evil

The Evidential Problem of Evil

Final Remarks on the Problem of God’s Existence


Moral Intuitions and Moral Principles

A Fundamental Challenge: Relativism

The Case for Subjective Relativism

Problems for Subjective Relativism

The Case for Cultural Relativism

Problems for Cultural Relativism

Final Remarks on Cultural Relativism

Some Important Ethical Theories

Divine Command Theory

The Case for the Divine Command Theory

Problems for the Divine Command Theory.


The Basic Idea

Pleasure and Happiness .

Problems for Utilitarianism

Duty Based Theories

The Importance of a Good Will

Advantages of Kant’s Ethics

Problems for Kant’s Ethics

Virtue Based Theories

The Importance of Moral Character

Advantages of Virtue Ethics

Problems for Virtue Ethics

Final Remarks on the Problem of Morality

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