Bowell, Tracy and Kemp, Gary, and . Critical Thinking: A Concise Guide

2014, Routledge; 4 edition.

Publisher’s note: We are frequently confronted with arguments. Arguments are attempts to persuade us – to influence our beliefs and actions – by giving us reasons to believe this or that. Critical Thinking: A Concise Guide will equip students with the concepts and techniques used in the identification, analysis and assessment of arguments. Through precise and accessible discussion, this book provides the tools to become a successful critical thinker, one who can act and believe in accordance with good reasons, and who can articulate and make explicit those reasons.
Key topics discussed include:

  • Core concepts in argumentation.
  • How language can serve to obscure or conceal the real content of arguments; how to distinguish argumentation from rhetoric.
  • How to avoid common confusions surrounding words such as ‘truth’, ‘knowledge’ and ‘opinion’.
  • How to identify and evaluate the most common types of argument.
  • How to distinguish good reasoning from bad in terms of deductive validly and induction.

Comment: Appropriate for complete beginners to logic and philosophy. Adequate for an introduction to critical thinking. It doesn't presuppose any previous knowledge of logic. Moreover, there is an interactive website for the book which provides resources for both instructors and students including new examples and case studies, flashcards, sample questions, practice questions and answers, student activities and a test bank of questions for use in the classroom.

Brown, Jessica, and . Anti-individualism and knowledge

2004, MIT Press.

Publisher’s note: Contemporary philosophy of mind is dominated by anti-individualism, which holds that a subject’s thoughts are determined not only by what is inside her head but also by aspects of her environment. Despite its dominance, anti-individualism is subject to a daunting array of epistemological objections: that it is incompatible with the privileged access each subject has to her thoughts, that it undermines rationality, and, absurdly, that it provides a new route to a priori knowledge of the world. In this rigorous and persuasive study, Jessica Brown defends anti-individualism from these epistemological objections. The discussion has important consequences for key epistemological issues such as skepticism, closure, transmission, and the nature of knowledge and warrant.

According to Brown’s analysis, one main reason for thinking that anti-individualism is incompatible with privileged access is that it undermines a subject’s introspective ability to distinguish types of thoughts. So diagnosed, the standard focus on a subject’s reliability about her thoughts provides no adequate reply. Brown defuses the objection by appeal to the epistemological notion of a relevant alternative. Further, she argues that, given a proper understanding of rationality, anti-individualism is compatible with the notion that we are rational subjects. However, the discussion of rationality provides a new argument that anti-individualism is in tension with Fregean sense. Finally, Brown shows that anti-individualism does not create a new route to a priori knowledge of the world. While rejecting solutions that restrict the transmission of warrant, she argues that anti-individualists should deny that we have the type of knowledge that would be required to use a priori knowledge of thought content to gain a priori knowledge of the world.

Comment: A very interesting defense of anti-individualism. Contains interesting discussion on the topics of semantic externalism and introspection. Sections of it could be taught in any epistemology course covering these topics.

Egan, Frances, and . Wide Content

2009, In A. Beckerman, B. McLaughlin & S. Walter (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind. Oxford University Press.

Summary: The author presents an overview of the main argument in favour and against content externalism, namely, roughly put, the thesis that the content of our thought is partly individuated by feature of the external environment. After providing a good survey of the debate, the author argues that the content that individuates a subject’s thought in the explanation of her behavior is wide.

Comment: The first half of the paper is very useful as an introduction on the topic of semantic and content externalism in the philosophy of mind. The remainder is an interesting and well-presented argument in favour of wide content. The first part could be used on its own for an overview of the debate; the remainder could be used for a more in-depth discussion of the positions and the arguments for them, or could serve as an option for a student essay topic.

Olberding, Amy, and . It’s not Them, it’s You: A Case Study in the Exclusion of Non-Western Philosophy

2015, Comparative Philosophy 6(2): 14-34.

Abstract: My purpose in this essay is to suggest, via case study, that if Anglo-American philosophy is to become more inclusive of non-western traditions, the discipline requires far greater efforts at self-scrutiny. I begin with the premise that Confucian ethical treatments of manners afford unique and distinctive arguments from which moral philosophy might profit, then seek to show why receptivity to these arguments will be low. I examine how ordinary good manners have largely fallen out of philosophical moral discourse in the west, looking specifically at three areas: conditions in the 18th and 19th centuries that depressed philosophical attention to manners; discourse conventions in contemporary philosophy that privilege modes of analysis not well fitted to close scrutiny of manners; and a philosophical culture that implicitly encourages indifference or even antipathy toward polite conduct. I argue that these three areas function in effect to render contemporary discourse inhospitable to greater inclusivity where Confucianism is concerned and thus, more broadly, that greater self-scrutiny regarding unexamined, parochial western commitments and practices is necessary for genuine inclusivity

Comment: This article provides an excellent look at the reasons for the exclusion of Confucian philosophy from the Western tradition. It would be useful as a set-up in a course or part of a course on Asian or Confucian philosophy, or in the context of metaphilosophy or a discussion about race and culture in philosophy.

Sullivan, Meghan, and Peter Van Inwagen. Metaphysics

2016, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Introduction: It is not easy to say what metaphysics is. Ancient and Medieval philosophers might have said that metaphysics was, like chemistry or astrology, to be defined by its subject matter: metaphysics was the ‘science’ that studied ‘being as such’ or ‘the first causes of things’ or ‘things that do not change’. It is no longer possible to define metaphysics that way. First, a philosopher who denied the existence of those things that had once been seen as constituting the subject-matter of metaphysics – first causes or unchanging things – would now be considered to be making thereby a metaphysical assertion. Second, there are many philosophical problems that are now considered to be metaphysical problems (or at least partly metaphysical problems) that are in no way related to first causes or unchanging things – the problem of free will, for example, or the problem of the mental and the physical.

The first three sections of this entry examine a broad selection of problems considered to be metaphysical and discuss ways in which the purview of metaphysics has expanded over time. The central problems of metaphysics were significantly more unified in the Ancient and Medieval eras. Which raises a question – is there any common feature that unites the problems of contemporary metaphysics? The final two sections of the entry discuss some recent theories of the nature and methodology of metaphysics, including those that consider metaphysics as an impossible enterprise.

Comment: Essential article for introducing metaphysics to undergraduete students.The article offers a clear overview of the main problems of metaphysics as well as of the historical evolution from antient to contemporary metaphysics.