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The Great Conversation

A Historical Introduction to Philosophy

Seventh Edition

Norman Melchert

Publication Date - January 2014

ISBN: 9780199999651

784 pages
7-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $97.95

This historically organized introduction treats philosophy as a dramatic and continuous story--a great conversation


Tracing the exchange of ideas between history's key philosophers, The Great Conversation: A Historical Introduction to Philosophy, Seventh Edition, demonstrates that while constructing an argument or making a claim, one philosopher almost always has others in mind. It addresses the fundamental questions of human life: Who are we? What can we know? How should we live? and What sort of reality do we inhabit?

Author Norman Melchert provides a generous selection of excerpts from major philosophical works and makes them more easily understandable to students with his lucid and engaging explanations. Extensive cross-referencing shows students how philosophers respond appreciatively or critically to the thoughts of other philosophers. The text is enhanced by two types of exercises--"Basic Questions" and "For Further Thought"--and numerous illustrations.

Also available to serve your course needs: The seventh editions of The Great Conversation: Volume I: Pre-Socratics through Descartes and The Great Conversation: Volume II: Descartes through Derrida and Quine

New to this Edition

  • An expanded chapter (25) on postmodernism featuring a new section on Michel Foucault and a more extensive discussion of Jacques Derrida and Richard Rorty
  • A new chapter (26) that expands the previous edition's treatment of physical realism and the mind
  • Profiles of Marcus Aurelius and Peter Singer
  • A new translation of selections from Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex
  • A revised Instructor's Manual and Test Bank on CD is available to adopters
  • An updated Companion Website at www.oup.com/us/melchert provides student resources

About the Author(s)

Norman Melchert is Selfridge Professor of Philosophy Emeritus and a former Acting Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Lehigh University.

Previous Publication Date(s)

September 2010
September 2006
July 2001


"This is certainly one of the best introductory texts on the market, possibly the best. For students who will take only one course in philosophy, this is the book that I would recommend; it will give them an excellent overview of more than two thousand years of philosophical debate."--Michael Henry, St. John's University

Table of Contents

    *=New to this Edition
    A Word to Instructors
    A Word to Students
    1. Before Philosophy: Myth in Hesiod and Homer
    Hesiod: War among the Gods
    Homer: Heroes, Gods, and Excellence
    2. Philosophy before Socrates
    Thales: The One as Water
    Anaximander: The One as the Boundless
    Xenophanes: The Gods as Fictions
    Sketch: Pythagoras
    Heraclitus: Oneness in the Logos
    Profile: The Tao
    Parmenides: Only the One
    Zeno: The Paradoxes of Common Sense
    Atomism: The One and the Many Reconciled
    The Key: An Ambiguity
    The World
    The Soul
    How to Live
    3. The Sophists: Rhetoric and Relativism in Athens
    The Persian Wars
    The Sophists
    Physis and Nomos
    Athens and Sparta at War
    Aristophanes and Reaction
    4. Socrates: To Know Oneself
    Is Socrates a Sophist?
    What Socrates "Knows"
    We Ought to Search for Truth
    Human Excellence Is Knowledge
    All Wrongdoing Is Due to Ignorance
    The Most Important Thing of All is to Care for Your Soul
    5. The Trial and Death of Socrates
    Translator's Introduction
    The Dialogue
    Commentary and Questions
    Translator's Introduction
    The Dialogue
    Commentary and Questions
    Translator's Introduction
    The Dialogue
    Commentary and Questions
    Phaedo (Death Scene)
    Translator's Introduction
    The Dialogue
    Commentary and Questions
    6. Plato: Knowing the Real and the Good
    Knowledge and Opinion
    Making the Distinction
    We Do Know Certain Truths
    The Objects of Knowledge
    The Reality of the Forms
    The World and the Forms
    How Forms Are Related to the World
    Lower and Higher Forms
    The Form of the Good
    The Love of Wisdom
    What Wisdom Is
    Love and Wisdom
    The Soul
    The Immortality of the Soul
    The Structure of the Soul
    The State
    Problems with the Forms
    7. Aristotle: The Reality of the World
    Aristotle and Plato
    The Objects of Knowledge
    Human Nature
    Relativism and Skepticism
    Logic and Knowledge
    Terms and Statements
    Reasons Why: The Syllogism
    Knowing First Principles
    The World
    The Four "Becauses"
    Is There Purpose in Nature?
    First Philosophy
    Not Plato's Forms
    What of Mathematics?
    Substance and Form
    Pure Actualities
    The Soul
    Levels of Soul
    Soul and Body
    The Good Life
    Virtue or Excellence (Areté)
    The Role of Reason
    The Highest Good
    8. Epicureans, Stoics, and Skeptics: Happiness for the Many
    The Epicureans
    The Stoics
    * Profile: Marcus Aurelius
    The Skeptics
    9. Jews and Christians: Sin, Salvation, and Love
    The Meaning of Jesus
    10. Augustine: God and the Soul
    Wisdom, Happiness, and God
    God and the World
    The Great Chain of Being
    Human Nature and Its Corruption
    Human Nature and Its Restoration
    Augustine on Relativism
    The Two Cities
    Augustine and the Philosophers
    Reason and Authority
    Intellect and Will
    Epicureans and Stoics
    11. Anselm and Aquinas: Existence and Essence in God and the World
    Anselm: On That, Than Which No Greater Can Be Conceived
    Thomas Aquinas: Rethinking Aristotle
    Sketch: Avicenna (Ibn Sina)
    Philosophy and Theology
    Existence and Essence
    Sketch: Averro:es (Ibn Rushd)
    From Creation to God
    The Nature of God
    Sketch: Maimonides (Moses Ben Maimon)
    Humans: Their Souls
    Humans; Their Knowledge
    Humans: Their Good
    Ockham and Skeptical Doubts--Again
    12. Moving from Medieval to Modern
    The World God Made for Us
    The Humanists
    Reforming the Church
    Skeptical Thoughts Revived
    Copernicus to Kepler to Galileo: The Great Triple Play
    13. René Descartes: Doubting Our Way to Certainty
    The Method
    Meditations on First Philosophy
    Meditation I
    Meditation II
    Meditation III
    Meditation IV
    Meditation V
    Meditation VI
    What Has Descartes Done?
    A New Ideal for Knowledge
    A New Vision of Reality
    The Preeminence of Epistemology
    14. Hobbes, Locke, and Berkeley: Materialism and the Beginnings of Empiricism
    Thomas Hobbes: Catching Persons in the Net of the New Science
    Minds and Motives
    Sketch: Francis Bacon
    The Natural Foundation of Moral Rules
    John Locke: Looking to Experience
    Origin of Ideas
    Idea of Substance
    Idea of the Soul
    Idea of Personal Identity
    Language and Essence
    The Extent of Knowledge
    Of Representative Government
    Of Toleration
    George Berkeley: Ideas into Things
    Abstract Ideas
    Ideas and Things
    15. David Hume: Unmasking the Pretensions of Reason
    How Newton Did It
    To Be the Newton of Human Nature
    The Theory of Ideas
    The Association of Ideas
    Causation: The Very Idea
    The Disappearing Self
    Sketch: The Buddha
    Rescuing Human Freedom
    Is It Reasonable to Believe in God?
    Understanding Morality
    Reason Is Not a Motivator
    The Origins of Moral Judgment
    Is Hume a Skeptic?
    16. Immanuel Kant: Rehabilitating Reason (within Strict Limits)
    Geometry, Mathematics, Space, and Time
    Common Sense, Science, and the A Priori Categories
    Sketch: Baruch Spinoza
    Phenomena and Noumena
    Sketch: Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz
    Reasoning and the Ideas of Metaphysics: God, World, and Soul
    The Soul
    The World and the Free Will
    The Ontological Argument
    Reason and Morality
    The Good Will
    The Moral Law
    Sketch: Jean-Jacques Rousseau
    17. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: Taking History Seriously
    Historical and Intellectual Context
    The French Revolution
    The Romantics
    Epistemology Internalized
    Sketch: Arthur Schopenhauer
    Self and Others
    Stoic and Skeptical Consciousness
    Hegel's Analysis of Christianity
    Reason and Reality: The Theory of Idealism
    Spirit Made Objective: The Social Character of Ethics
    History and Freedom
    18. Kierkegaard and Marx: Two Ways to "Correct" Hegel
    Kierkegaard: On Individual Existence
    The Aesthetic
    The Ethical
    The Religious
    The Individual
    Marx: Beyond Alienation and Exploitation
    Alienation, Exploitation, and Private Property
    19. The Utilitarians: Moral Rules and the Happiness of All (Including Women)
    The Classic Utilitarians
    * Profile: Peter Singer
    The Rights of Women
    20. Friedrich Nietzsche: The Value of Existence
    Pessimism and Tragedy
    Good-bye Real World
    The Death of God
    Revaluation of Values
    Master Morality/Slave Morality
    Profile: Iris Murdoch
    The Overman
    Affirming Eternal Recurrence
    21. The Pragmatists: Thought and Action
    Charles Sanders Peirce
    Fixing Belief
    Belief and Doubt
    Truth and Reality
    John Dewey
    The Impact of Darwin
    Naturalized Epistemology
    Sketch: William James
    Nature and Natural Science
    Value Naturalized
    22. Ludwig Wittgenstein: Linguistic Analysis and Ordinary Language
    Language and Its Logic
    Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
    Sketch: Bertrand Russell
    Thought and Language
    Logical Truth
    Saying and Showing
    Setting the Limit to Thought
    Value and the Self
    Good and Evil, Happiness and Unhappiness
    The Unsayable
    Profile: The Logical Positivists
    Philosophical Investigations
    Philosophical Illusion
    Naming and Meaning
    Family Resemblances
    The Continuity of Wittgenstein's Thought
    Profile: Zen
    Our Groundless Certainty
    23. Martin Heidegger: The Meaning of Being
    What Is the Question?
    The Clue
    The "Who" of Dasein
    Modes of Disclosure
    Idle Talk
    Conscience, Guilt, and Resoluteness
    Temporality as the Meaning of Care
    24. Simone de Beauvoir: Existentialist, Feminist
    Profile: Jean-Paul Sartre
    25. Postmodernism: Derrida, Foucault, and Rorty
    Deconstruction: Jacques Derrida
    * Writing, Iterability, Difference
    * Deconstructing a Text
    * Knowledge and Power: Michel Foucault
    * Archaeology of Knowledge
    * Genealogy
    * Liberal Irony: Richard Rorty
    * Contingency, Truth, and Anti-essentialism
    * Liberalism and the Hope of Solidarity
    * Relativism
    * 26. Physical Realism and the Mind: Quine, Dennett, Searle, Nagel, Jackson, and Chalmers
    Science, Common Sense, and Metaphysics: Willard van Orman Quine
    Ontological Commitment
    Natural Knowing
    The Matter of Minds
    * Intentionality
    * Intentional Systems: Daniel Dennett
    The Chinese Room: John Searle
    Consciousness: Nagel, Jackson, Chalmers
    Appendix: Writing a Philosophy Paper