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Thinking it Through: An Introduction to Contemporary Philosophy Paperback – 8 Jan 2004

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Organisation is this book's strong suit. Arranged around eight central concepts - mind, knowledge, language, science, morality, politics, law and metaphysics - this is as clear a horizon as anyone making le tour could wish. (Times Higher Education Supplement)

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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Non-patronising beginners guide to philosophy 20 May 2003
By C. Fisher - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Philosophy is a subject that most people feel intrigued by but for many reasons most people never get involved with. I have been surrounded by philosophy students for many years and I have always wanted to learn more but was put off because I didn't know where to start, there is so much new language to learn and it just seems like an impenetrable academic subject into which would be foolish to venture unguided.
'Thinking it Through' manages to start at the very beginning of the process of philosophy without dumbing down. Each of the nine chapters (covering Mind, Knowledge, Science, Morality, Politics, Law, Metaphysics and a chapter on Philosophy as a subject) begin with the discussion of a premise on which the rest of the chapter is based. In the chapter on the Mind the discussion revolves around whether a computer could ever be considered to have a mind. This initial question is then slowly broken down into the major philosophical arguments. Each is dealt with in turn, in a clear rational manner that is easy to understand. Different arguments are compared and evaluated. By the end of each chapter you have learnt so much and gone through so many arguments and discussions that you have almost forgotten what you read, but the chapter summary springs to the rescue and tells you exactly what you just learnt.
Every new term used, and there are a lot of them, is highlighted in bold print, defined and can be found in the index for future reference. The author has the skill to explain all the ideas and arguments without losing track of the the fundemental purpose of the chapter.
It is layed out clearly and openly and is extremely informative. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I think I may have learned more from it than from almost any book I have ever read. The authors intent in writing this book was to give the reading all the skills and knowledge to enable them to read original philosophical text and I certainly feel well prepared.
A wonderful book for the beginner but a philosophy graduate friend of mine said that 'It covers all the main arguments that are discussed in a philosophy degree, and to be honest most philosphy graduates haven't taken away with them much more the the contents of this book'.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
An intro that requires your commitment 16 July 2009
By Anthony Rodriguez - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It is my belief that this book was marketed very badly and that this contributes to the mixed reviews I find. The book, however, in and of itself is amazing. Appiah is a brilliant philosopher in his own right and has an ability to make complicated concepts lucid and clear without sacrificing the many facets of said concepts. There are parts in this book that are better than others (perhaps because I, myself, tend to drift towards certain branches of philosophy at the expense of others). I thought his chapters on metaphysics, science, and mind were particularly well done, whereas his chapter on philosophy of language was dizzying (though I believe this is due more to the nature of the beast than Appiah himself). Here's where the marketing problem comes in. This book is subtitled an Introduction to Contemporary Philosophy, and it is. However, what is left out is that this requires a COMMITMENT from the reader. I would recommend Sophie's World, Russell's flawed (though enlightening) History of Western Philosophy, or Will Durant's Story of Philosophy for the person with little background in philosophy who wants to start learning about philosophy (meaning if you took a class in college, you're exempt, but they really are still good books). However, keep in mind that, with the exception of this book, there are NO good, clear, beginner level intros to CONTEMPORARY analytic philosophy out there. There are a couple of Continental philosophy one's out there that are good but no Analytic ones (if you take a philosophy class in Britain or 95% of the universities in North America, you are studying Analytic philosophy). Appiah fills that gap. However, the subject matter is daunting. That's where the marketing error comes in. When I first picked up this book, I thought it was a quick read from the way it was advertised. Nope. It is philosophical boot camp (but in a good way). It's not the kind of book you finish and wonder why the author didn't talk about this or that more. Appiah leaves NO gaps and NO stone unturned in contemporary philosophy. When you finish this book you WILL be able to understand the lay of the land (the lay of the city to use Appiah's metaphor) of contemporary philosophy. So, bad news: you will need to prepare to commit to some serious, vein popping thinking (clear your calendar). The good news: when you finish this book you will realize that great big "Keep Out" sign that academic philosophers put up is nonsense and you will be able to step over that boundary with confidence. I think it's a fair trade off. Just remember what you're getting into.
33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Good Introduction 26 May 2003
By J. Miller - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Appiah maps out the basic terrain of philosophical inquiry for beginners. The book is readable and the terminology is accessible--highlighted terms are defined and indexed. Key themes include: Philosophy of Mind, Epistemology, Language, Science, Ethics, Political Theory, Legal Theory, and Metaphysics. If someone said, "So what do contemporary philosophers write about?" I would give them this book.
However, I wouldn't give them this book if they asked, "What makes philosophy interesting?" Appiah is circumspect and unimpassioned, careful to take few defined stands (which is appropriate to the book). But "Thinking It Through" reads like an automobile owner's manual rather than a guide to making key decisions about life. Furthermore, there are some ambiguous structural choices in the book: why are ethics and metaphysics separated? ...why does law now get its own chapter in an introduction to philosophy (previously subsumed under political philosophy)? ...why does political theory include indepth discussion of the two most recent contributions to political philosophy, but no mention of Marx, Locke, or Jefferson? ...why does the philosophy of mind not mention John Searle? ...why no discussion of aesthetics? ...why no existentialism?
Perhaps this is all too much to ask of one book. After all the subtitle is intentionally "An Introduction to Contemporary Philosophy," and Appiah really does go specifically through the who's who of living philosophers. This is an EXCELLENT book for someone who is thinking about majoring in philosophy at University. I wouldn't give it to the curious layreader who suspects philosophy might have to do with the meaning of life.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Good But Challenging Introduction to Contemporary Philosophy 13 May 2011
By bronx book nerd - Published on
Format: Paperback
Over the last year or so I've embarked on an effort to reacquaint myself with philosophy and some of the topics from it that I studied in college. Why? Perhaps because I have reached middle-age and that is the time that this sort of interest kicks in. Part of this undoubtedly is an effort to make sense of the world in ways that may make life's detours and bumps more understandable or acceptable. My studies have focused mostly on works about philosophy, such as introductions or commentaries on philosophical works. I have only dabbled slightly in original works.

Professor Appiah's work is once such introduction, specifically into contemporary philosophy. So, unlike other introductions to philosophy, this one does not start with Thales and then works its way through Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, to then advance to Mill, Hume, Hegel, et al and end somewhere with Quine and other modern philosophers. The earlier philosophers are definitely involved, but the approach is more about how these philosophers have shaped the current conversation ongoing in various topics. For example, current views on political philosophy and the philosophy of law are both influenced and shaped by Hume, Locke, Bentham and Mills, but Appiah gives us the current discussion.

Now, I must admit that I had a tough go with some of the subjects (philosophy is never easy, despite what certain guides for idiots and dummies may claim). This difficulty was a problem since Appiah builds each new chapter, to some degree, on what preceded. I will undoubtedly need to go back and re-read to get a better grasp of the material. My attitude for some sections was to gain exposure and familiarity first and understanding later. Nevertheless, although the book is not written entirely for the common man (or woman), many sections are definitely digestible by lesser lights. Particularly palatable were the chapters on the philosophy of law and the philosophy of science, for example.

I definitely recommend this book for anyone who wants to familiarize themselves with issues in contemporary philosophy. But I suspect that for many non-practitioners of the philosopher's craft, reading this book will be more like wading slowly into the waters of contemporary philosophy to get accustomed to its temperature and get a feel for its depth, rather than a jump into the pool from the deep end.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I like it 6 Sept. 2012
By dan - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am not very knowledgeable on philosophy. The book is readable to me. I enjoy the highlighted terms and Appiah's approach.
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