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The Philosopher's Toolkit: A Compendium of Philosophical Concepts and Methods

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Philosopher's Toolkit

The Philosopher's Toolkit: A Compendium of Philosophical Concepts and Methods

If you spend much time discussing religion, politics, and philosophy, you'll quickly find that if you want to get anywhere you'll need to acquire some skill when it comes to analyzing, understanding, and refuting basic arguments - and that's all before you learn how to properly construct your own. But just where do you go to get such skills?

Summary

Title: The Philosopher's Toolkit: A Compendium of Philosophical Concepts and Methods
Author: Julian Baggini and Peter S. Fosl
Publisher: Blackwell Publishers
ISBN: 0631228748

Pro:
•  Well-written, explaining complex subjects in an understandable way
•  Covers a great deal of ground in a relatively short space
•  Great text for introductory logic and philosophy classes

Con:
•  Not exhaustive on any one topic, but it also wasn't designed to be

Description:
•  Basic resource on concepts fundamental to arguments, reasoning, logic, and philosophy
•  Laid out in an encyclopedic fashion with numerous cross-references
•  Includes suggestions for further reading with every topic

 

Book Review

As with so many other things in life, and especially the closely related skill of basic writing itself, the two best teachers are observation and practice. First, you need to spend time watching others do it, and second, you need to spend lots of time doing it yourself. The more of both that you do, the better you'll be - but this doesn't mean that there aren't any resources that can help you along the way.

Recently published by Blackwell, a company that specializes in a lot of very good philosophy works, The Philosopher's Toolkit is an introduction to basic philosophy, reasoning, and arguments from Julian Baggini and Peter S. Fosl. Both Baggini and Fosl have extensive experience bringing philosophy to a wider audience than just philosophy specialists, and this work is no exception to that.

This is not a book that can be described as "riveting," except perhaps to someone who specializes in logic - but that isn't its purpose. It's laid out more like an encyclopedia or other reference work, and the title is quite apt because the book is divided into sections, with each section a "tool" for philosophers in understanding the world, analyzing arguments, and engaging in sound reasoning. To some, many of these tools may sound picky, and they are. That's the point, in fact:

The reason philosophers are nit-pickers is that they are concerned with the way in which beliefs we have about the world are or are not supported by rational argument. Because their concern is serious, it is important for philosophers to demand attention to detail. People reason in a variety of ways using a number of techniques, some legitimate and some not. Often one can discern the difference between good and bad arguments only if one scrutinizes their content and structure with supreme diligence."

Philosopher's Toolkit

The Philosopher's Toolkit: A Compendium of Philosophical Concepts and Methods

So, if you would like to be able to do a better job at scrutinizing arguments, it should be obvious that Baggini and Fosl had you in mind when they wrote this book - and I don't think that you will be disappointed. Some people may want to just read it through, but as I noted above this isn't the most engaging read that will hold one's attention. At the same time, though, the authors do a very good job at not loading the reader down with a great deal of technical jargon or complex language.

Thus, the average person who is interested in arguments and logic but who doesn't have much background in philosophy would certainly find this book useful, as would anyone teaching a course on arguments, logic, and reasoning. Even introductory courses on philosophy in general might benefit because the book lays out so many of the conceptual "tools" which will prove necessary over students' careers.

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