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Thinking It Through

An Introduction to Contemporary Philosophy

Kwame Anthony Appiah

Publication Date - 06 November 2003

ISBN: 9780195134582

432 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

In Stock

An engaging guide to the central questions of contemporary philosophy by one of today's most respected thinkers


Thinking it Through is a thorough, vividly written introduction to contemporary philosophy and some of the most crucial questions of human existence, including the nature of mind and knowledge, the status of moral claims, the existence of God, the role of science, and the mysteries of language. Noted philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah shows us what it means to "do" philosophy in our time and why it should matter to anyone who wishes to live a more thoughtful life. Opposing the common misconceptions that being a philosopher means espousing a set of philosophical beliefs--or being a follower of a particular thinker--Appiah argues that "the result of philosophical exploration is not the end of inquiry in a settled opinion, but a mind resting more comfortably among many possibilities, or else the reframing of the question, and a new inquiry."
Ideal for introductory philosophy courses, Thinking It Through is organized around eight central topics--mind, knowledge, language, science, morality, politics, law, and metaphysics. It traces how philosophers in the past have considered each subject (how Hobbes, Wittgenstein, and Frege, for example, approached the problem of language) and then explores some of the major questions that still engage philosophers today. More importantly, Appiah not only explains what philosophers have thought but how they think, giving students examples that they can use in their own attempts to navigate the complex issues confronting any reflective person in the twenty-first century. Filled with concrete examples of how philosophers work, Thinking it Through guides students through the process of philosophical reflection and enlarges their understanding of the central questions of human life.


"This book is excellent, one of the best of its kind that I've seen. It accomplishes what few general introductions to philosophy even attempt: to integrate contemporary discussion and argument into a treatment of our perennial problems without losing sight of their roots."--David Sosa, University of Texas at Austin

"The distinguishing mark of this work, which will set it clearly apart from all the best introductory books of this kind, is the way it makes deep and insightful connections among the various topics. It introduces the reader to all the main problems of contemporary philosophy, and makes philosophical concepts come alive in systematic exploration of the deep thoughts and difficult arguments to which Appiah gives lucid access."--Neil Tennant, The Ohio State University

"An extraordinarily successful introduction to philosophy: wise, witty and deeply engaging."--Paul Boghossian, New York University

Table of Contents

    Introduction: A Few Preliminaries
    1.1. Introduction
    1.2. Descartes: The beginnings of modern philosophy of mind
    1.3. The private-language argument
    1.4. Computers as models of the mind
    1.5. Why should there be a functionalist theory?
    1.6. Functionalism: A first problem
    1.7. A simple-minded functionalist theory of pain
    1.8. Ramsey's solution to the first problem
    1.9. Functionalism: A second problem
    1.10. M again
    1.11. Consciousness
    1.12. The puzzle of the physical
    1.13. Conclusion
    2.1. Introduction
    2.2. Plato: Knowledge as justified true belief
    2.3. Descartes' way: Justification requires certainty
    2.4. Locke's way: Justification can be less than certain
    2.5. The foundations of knowledge
    2.6. Ways around skepticism I: Verificationism
    2.7. Ways around skepticism II: Causal theories of knowledge
    2.8. Causal theories contrasted with traditional accounts of justification
    2.9. Epistemology naturalized
    2.10. Conclusion
    3.1. Introduction
    3.2. The linguistic turn
    3.3. The beetle in the box
    3.4. Frege's "sense" and "reference"
    3.5. Predicates and open sentences
    3.6. Problems of intensionality
    3.7. Truth conditions and possible worlds
    3.8. Analytic-synthetic and necessary-contingent
    3.9. Natural language and logical form
    3.10. Using logic: Truth preservation, probability, and the lottery paradox
    3.11. Logical truth and logical properties
    3.12. Conventions of language
    3.13. The paradox of analysis
    3.14. Conclusion
    4.1. Introduction
    4.2. Description and prescription
    4.3. An example: Gregor Mendel's genetic theory
    4.4. Theory and observation
    4.5. The received view of theories
    4.6. The deductive-nomological model of explanation
    4.7. Theory reduction and instrumentalism
    4.8. Theory-ladenness
    4.9. Justifying theories I: The problem of induction
    4.10. Goodman's new riddle of induction
    4.11. Justifying theories II: Popper and falsification
    4.12. Justifying theories III: Inference to the best explanation
    4.13. Laws and causation
    4.14. Conclusion
    5.1. Introduction
    5.2. Facts and values
    5.3. Realism and emotivism
    5.4. Intuitionism
    5.5. Emotivism again
    5.6. Kant's universalizability principle
    5.7. Dealing with relativism
    5.8. Prescriptivism and supervenience
    5.9. Problems of utilitarianism I: Defining "utility"
    5.10. Problems of utilitarianism II: Consequentialism versus absolutism
    5.11. Rights
    5.12. Self and others
    5.13. Conclusion
    6.1. Introduction
    6.2. Hobbes: Escaping the state of nature
    6.3. Problems for Hobbes
    6.4. Game theory I: Two-person zero-sum games
    6.5. Game theory II: The prisoners' dilemma
    6.6. The limits of prudence
    6.7. Rawl's theory of justice
    6.8. The difference principle and inequality surpluses
    6.9. Criticizing Rawls I: The structure of his argument
    6.10. Criticizing Rawls II: Why maximin?
    6.11. Criticizing Rawls III: The status of the two principles
    6.12. Reflective equilibrium
    6.13. Are the two principles right?
    6.14. Nozick: Beginning with rights
    6.15. The entitlement theory
    6.16. Ethics and politics
    6.17. Conclusion
    7.1. Introduction
    7.2. Defining "law" I: Positivism and natural law
    7.3. Defining "law" II: Legal systems and the variety of laws
    7.4. Hart: The elements of a legal system
    7.5. Punishment: The problem
    7.6. Justifying punishment: Deterrence
    7.7. Retributivism: Kant's objections
    7.8. Combining deterrence and retribution
    7.9. Deterrence theory again
    7.10. Why do definitions matter?
    7.11. Conclusion
    8.1. Introduction
    8.2. An example: The existence of numbers
    8.3. "God" as a proper name
    8.4. The necessary being
    8.5. Hume: No a priori proofs of matters of fact
    8.6. Kant: "Existence: is not a predicate
    8.7. A posteriori arguments
    8.8. The argument from design
    8.9. The harmony of nature
    8.10. The necessity of a creative intelligence
    8.11. Hume's argument from design: The argument from experience
    8.12. The problem of evil and inference to the best explanation
    8.13. Conclusion
    9.1. Introduction
    9.2. Traditional thought
    9.3. Arguing with the Azande
    9.4. The significance of literacy
    9.5. Cognitive relativism
    9.6. The argument against strong relativism
    9.7. The argument for weak relativism
    9.8. Philosophy and religion
    9.9. Philosophy and science
    9.10. An example: Free will and determinism
    9.11. Compatibilism and moral responsibility
    9.12. The special character of philosophy
    9.13. Conclusion

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