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Philosophical Dilemmas

A Pro and Con Introduction to the Major Questions and Philosophers

Fourth Edition

Phil Washburn

Publication Date - 30 August 2013

ISBN: 9780199920402

496 pages
6-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Introducing philosophy topically and historically, this text clearly outlines the positions of the major philosophers and offers pro and con essays on the main problems they discuss


Philosophical Dilemmas: A Pro and Con Introduction to the Major Questions and Philosophers, Fourth Edition, outlines the classic arguments made by philosophers through the ages. It features sixty-three brief topical essays by author Phil Washburn organized around thirty-one fundamental philosophical questions like "Does God exist?" "Is morality relative?" and "Are we free?" Each essay takes a definite stand and promotes it vigorously, creating a sharp contrast between the two positions and giving each abstract theory a more personal and believable "voice." The accessible writing style and conflicting answers encourage students to examine the different positions and to think carefully about which essay makes the stronger case.

This fourth edition, a major revision, now enriches the discussion of each philosophical question by adding fifty-four brief essays--two in each chapter--on great philosophers who held conflicting viewpoints on the issues covered. Additionally, the chapters have been rearranged so that these essays and the philosophers discussed appear in approximate chronological order, from Plato and Protagoras to Wittgenstein and Searle. The text is enhanced by numerous pedagogical features including an introduction to each issue, key terms, chapter summaries, study questions after each essay, chronologies, a glossary, and an appendix on how to write an essay.

A Companion Website at www.oup.com/us/washburn contains online sources and self-test questions for students and numerous instructor resources: introductions to the issues; summaries of the topical essays; summary points, PowerPoint-based slides, and test questions for the historical essays; answers to the critical questions that follow each essay; test questions on the topical essays; suggestions for class discussions; and a list of online resources.

New to this Edition

  • A major revision: Fifty-four new, brief essays (two in each chapter) on great philosophers who held conflicting viewpoints on the issues covered enrich the discussion of each philosophical question
  • The volume has been reorganized so that these essays and the philosophers discussed appear in approximate chronological order, from Plato and Protagoras to Wittgenstein and Searle

About the Author(s)

Phil Washburn is Master Teacher in the Liberal Studies Program at New York University. He is the author of The Vocabulary of Critical Thinking (2009) and the editor of The Many Faces of Wisdom (2003).

Previous Publication Date(s)

December 2007
December 2000
September 1996


"Washburn's style is clear, concise, engaging, and fair. He is able to defend both pro and con positions so well that you cannot judge a bias or personal preference. This is commendable, since both sides are argued passionately and accurately. I have found no comparable or superior text."--William Rodriguez, Bethune Cookman University

Table of Contents

    "Critical Questions" follow each essay, and an "Understanding the Dilemma" section ends each chapter.
    1. Philosophy and Socrates
    1.1 Is Morality Relative?
    2. Protagoras and the Sophists
    3. Plato
    Yes: Relativist. "Moral Relativism"
    No: Absolutist. "Right for You, Wrong for Me?"
    1.2 Can We Understand Happiness?
    4. Aristotle
    5. The Hellenistic Age and Skepticism
    Yes: Definer. "Happiness"
    No: Critic. "The Elusive Dream"
    1.3 Is Pleasure the Only Value?
    6. Epicurus
    7. Marcus Aurelius
    Yes: Hedonist. "Hedonism"
    No: Pluralist. "A World of Values"
    1.4 Is Society the Source of Values?
    8. Confucius
    9. Christianity
    Yes: Functionalist. "An Objective Basis for Morality"
    No: Moral Theist. "The Current Crisis and Its Solution"
    1.5 Is Happiness the Standard of Morality?
    10. Kant and the Age of Reason
    11. Mill and Happiness
    Yes: Utilitarian. "Utilitarianism"
    No: Formalist. "The Principle of Morality"
    1.6 Are We Always Selfish?
    12. Hume and the Moral Sense
    13. Nietzsche
    Yes: Psychological Egoist. "No Free Lunch"
    No: Psychological Altruist. "Is Love Selfish?"
    1.7 Current Controversy: Should Doctors Ever End People's Lives?
    No: Protector. "Having Reasons for Moral Decisions"
    Yes: Euthanizer. "The Complex Issue of Euthanasia"
    2.1 Is the Soul Immortal?
    14. Plato and the Immortal Soul
    15. Lucretius
    No: Mortalist. "Immortality"
    Yes: Survivor. "For and Against an Afterlife"
    2.2 Is Faith An Answer?
    16. Augustine
    17. Abelard
    Yes: Believer. "Accepting Limits"
    No: Questioner. Faith and Its Consequences"
    2.3 Is It Necessary that God Exists?
    18. Anselm
    19. Ockham
    Yes: Logical Theist. "Possible and Impossible"
    No: Scientist. "It Ain't Necessarily So"
    2.4 Is There Evidence that God Exists?
    20. Ockham
    21. Machiavelli
    22. Galileo
    Yes: Causal Theist. "In the Beginning"
    Yes: Design Theist. "Design or Chance?"
    No: Atheist. "The Retreat of the Gods"
    2.5 Can God Allow Innocent Suffering?
    23. Leibniz
    24. Voltaire
    No: Contradictor. "There Is No God"
    Yes: Reconciler. "Character and Contentment"
    2.6 Current Controversy: Is Buddhism Philosophy?
    Yes: Buddhist. "The Philosophy of Buddhism"
    No: Specialist. "The Difference Between Religion and Philosophy"
    3.1 Is Certainty the Standard of Knowledge?
    25. Bacon
    26. Descartes and Certainty
    Yes: Foundationalist. "Certainty"
    No: Pragmatist. "The Test of Knowledge"
    3.2 Is Experience the Source of All Knowledge?
    27. Locke and Experience
    28. Spinoza
    Yes: Empiricist. "The Source of Knowledge"
    No: Rationalist. "The Strange Case of the Mathematician"
    3.3 Can We Know About the External World?
    29. Berkeley
    30. Reid
    No: Internalist. "Knowledge of the External World"
    Yes: Perceiver. "The Limits of Ignorance"
    3.4 Is It Possible that We Know Nothing At All?
    31. Hume and Skepticism
    32. Kant's Copernican Revolution
    No: Predictor. "Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made Of"
    Yes: Skeptic. "Past and Future"
    3.5 Does Science Give Us Real Knowledge?
    33. Comte
    34. Schopenhauer
    Yes: Positivist. "Science as Knowledge"
    No: Romantic. "What Kind of Understanding?"
    3.6 Current Controversy: Does Truth Exist?
    Yes: Representationalist. "True Belief and False Beliefs"
    No: Postmodernist. "Ten Theses on Language"
    4.1 Is Equality the Highest Social Value?
    35. More
    36. Burke
    Yes: Egalitarian. "Society and Property"
    No: Elitist. "What Elitists Believe"
    4.2 Is Society Based On A Contract?
    37. Locke and the Social Contract
    38. Hegel
    Yes: Contractor. "The Social Contract"
    No: Organicist. "The Social Organism"
    4.3 Is Liberty the Highest Social Value?
    39. Rousseau
    40. Mill and Liberty
    Yes: Libertarian. "Liberty, the Supreme Social Value"
    No: Paternalist. "Empty Phrases"
    4.4 Is Capitalism Just?
    41. Marx
    42. Spencer
    Yes: Capitalist. "Capitalism, Democracy, and Justice"
    No: Socialist. "Capitalist Society"
    4.5 Do Individuals Have Absolute Human Rights?
    43. Rawls
    44. Singer
    Yes: Rights Defender. "The Foundation of Human Rights"
    No: Rights Skeptic. "A Confused Idea"
    4.6. Current Controversy: Is Race Essential To Identity?
    Yes: Essentialist. "The Meaning of Being Black"
    No: Nonessentialist. "Race and Identity"
    5.1 Is the Mind Nothing But the Brain?
    45. Descartes and Dualism
    46. Hobbes
    Yes: Materialist. "Body and Soul"
    No: Dualist. "The Inner Life"
    5.2 Are We Free?
    47. Holbach
    48. Kierkegaard
    No: Hard Determinist. "One World, Not Two"
    Yes: Metaphysical Libertarian. "Free Will and Common Sense"
    5.3 Are Scientific Laws Compatible With Free Will?
    49. Hume and Free Will
    50. James
    Yes: Soft Determinist. "Verbal Disputes, Facts, and Free Will"
    No: Incompatibilist. Caused Actions Are Not Free"
    5.4 Are We Responsible For Our Actions?
    51. Freud
    52. Sartre
    No: Excuser. "Rejecting Responsibility"
    Yes: Judge. "No Excuse"
    5.5 Can Computers Think?
    54. Searlenstein
    Yes: Mechanist. "Can Computers Think?"
    No: Mentalist. "People vs. Machines"
    5.6 Current Controversy: Are the Differences Between Men and Women Philosophically Significant?
    No: Unifier. "Men, Women, and People"
    Yes: Complementer. "Who's Afraid of Difference?"
    Appendix: How to Write an Essay
    Glossary of Contrasting Positions

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