Cover image for Philosophy for dummies
Philosophy for dummies
Morris, Thomas V.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Foster City, CA : IDG Books Worldwide, [1999]

Physical Description:
xxii, 361 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
General Note:
Includes index.
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
B74 .M67 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
B74 .M67 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
B74 .M67 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Philosophy at its best is an activity more than a body of knowledge. In an ancient sense, done right, it is a healing art. It?s intellectual self-defense. It?s a form of therapy. But it?s also much more. Philosophy is map-making for the soul, cartography for the human journey. It?s an important navigational tool for life that too many modern people try to do without.

Philosophy For Dummies is for anyone who has ever entertained a question about life and this world. In a conversational tone, the book's authornbsp;?nbsp;a modern-day scholar and lecturernbsp;?nbsp;brings the greatest wisdom of the past into the challenges that we face now. This refreshingly different guide explains philosophical fundamentals and explores some of the strangest and deepest questions ever posed to human beings, such as

How do we know anything? What does the word good mean? Are we ever really free? Do human beings have souls? Is there life after death? Is there a God? Is happiness really possible in our world?

This book is chock full of all those questions you may have long wanted to think about and talk with someone about, but have never had the time or opportunity to tackle head on. Philosophy For Dummies invites you to discuss the issues you find in the guide, share perspectives, and compare thoughts and feelings with someone you respect. You'll find lots of material to mull over with your friends or spouse, including thoughts on

When to doubt, and when to doubt our doubts The universal demand for evidence and proof The four dimensions of human experience Arguments for materialism Fear of the process of dying Prayers and small miracles Moral justification for allowing evil

The ancient philosopher Socrates (fifth century, B.C.) thought that, when it comes to the Ultimate Questions, we all start off as dummies. But if we are humbly aware of how little we actually know, then we can really begin to learn. Philosophy For Dummies will put you on the path to wising up as you steer through the experience called life.

Author Notes

Tom Morris, Ph.D., author of True Success and other books, taught philosophy at Notre Dame University for 15 years and currently heads the Morris Institute for Human Values.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
About This Bookp. 2
Conventions Used in This Bookp. 2
What You're Not to Readp. 5
Foolish Assumptionsp. 5
Icons Used in This Bookp. 8
Where to Go from Herep. 9
Part I What Is Philosophy, Anyway?p. 11
Chapter 1 Great Thinkers, Deep Thoughtsp. 13
A Few Nuts Spice the Cakep. 13
Socrates on the Examination that Countsp. 16
The Questions We'll Askp. 18
Chapter 2 Philosophy as an Activityp. 21
Outward Bound for the Mindp. 21
Mapping Our Way Forwardp. 22
The Extreme Power of Beliefp. 23
The image of Plato's Cavep. 25
The philosophical Houdinip. 25
Chapter 3 The Love of Wisdomp. 27
The Triple-A Skill Set of Philosophyp. 27
Paralysis without analysisp. 28
The skill of assessmentp. 29
The use of argumentp. 31
Wisdom Rulesp. 34
The Socratic Quest for Wisdomp. 37
Part II How Do We Know Anything?p. 39
Chapter 4 Belief, Truth, and Knowledgep. 41
Our Beliefs about Beliefp. 41
The Importance of Beliefp. 43
The Ideal of Knowledgep. 44
The truth about truthp. 46
The complete definition of knowledgep. 48
Truth and rationalityp. 49
Chapter 5 The Challenge of Skepticismp. 53
The Ancient Art of Doubtp. 54
Incredible Questions We Cannot Answerp. 56
The questions of source skepticismp. 57
The questions of radical skepticismp. 62
What the skeptics show usp. 65
Doubting Your Doubtsp. 65
Where Do We Go from Here?p. 66
Chapter 6 The Amazing Reality of Basic Beliefsp. 67
The Foundations of Knowledgep. 68
Empiricism and rationalismp. 68
The foundations of knowledgep. 69
Evidentialismp. 70
The Principle of Belief Conservationp. 72
Belief conservation and radical skepticismp. 73
Belief conservation and source skepticismp. 74
The basic status of belief conservationp. 75
Evidentialism refuted and revisedp. 76
William James on Precursive Faithp. 77
Leaps of Faithp. 80
Part III What Is the Good?p. 81
Chapter 7 What Is Good?p. 83
A Basic Approach to Ethics and Moralityp. 84
Defining the Good in the Context of Lifep. 85
Three Views on Evaluative Languagep. 86
The philosophy of noncognitivism: The boo/yay theoryp. 86
Ethical subjectivismp. 88
Moral objectivismp. 90
Objectivism and the moral skepticp. 91
Teleological Target Practicep. 92
Chapter 8 Happiness, Excellence, and the Good Lifep. 95
Memo to the Modern Worldp. 95
The Idea of Good: A Short Course in Optionsp. 96
Divine Command Theoryp. 96
Social Contract Theoryp. 97
Utilitarianismp. 98
Deontological Theoryp. 98
Sociobiological Theoryp. 99
Virtue Theoryp. 100
Four Dimensions of Human Experiencep. 101
The intellectual dimensionp. 102
The aesthetic dimensionp. 105
The moral dimensionp. 107
The spiritual dimensionp. 108
The Ultimate Context of Goodp. 110
Chapter 9 Ethical Rules and Moral Characterp. 111
Commandments, Rules, and Loopholesp. 112
The Golden Rule and what it meansp. 114
The precise role of The Golden Rulep. 115
Character, Wisdom, and Virtuep. 116
Can Goodness Be Taught?p. 120
What am I? -- A test of characterp. 121
What should I do? -- A test of actionp. 121
The answer to our questionp. 122
Part IV Are We Ever Really Free?p. 123
Chapter 10 Fate, Destiny, and Youp. 125
The Importance of Free Willp. 125
Foreseeing the Future: The Theological Challenge to Freedomp. 127
What Will Be Will Be: The Logical Challenge to Freedomp. 131
Robots and Cosmic Puppetry: The Scientific Challenge to Freedomp. 133
Chapter 11 Standard Views of Freedomp. 135
God, Logic, and Free Willp. 135
The Theological Challenge answeredp. 135
The Logical Challenge answeredp. 137
The Modern Scientific Challengep. 138
Scientific Deterministsp. 139
Libertariansp. 139
Compatibilismp. 140
Which approach is the right one?p. 142
Chapter 12 Just Do It: Human Agency in the Worldp. 143
Some Wisdom about Freedomp. 143
The Big Picturep. 144
How to Be an Agent and Get More than 15 Percentp. 146
Part V The Incredible, Invisible Youp. 149
Chapter 13 What Is a Person?p. 151
Guitars, Ghosts, and Peoplep. 151
Glimpses of the Mindp. 152
Philosophical Views of the Personp. 154
Monismp. 155
Dualismp. 155
The Contendersp. 159
Interactionismp. 159
Epiphenomenalismp. 160
Parallelismp. 161
Narrowing the Optionsp. 161
Chapter 14 The Case for Materialismp. 163
The Positive Argumentsp. 164
The man-is-an-animal argumentp. 164
The artificial intelligence argumentp. 166
The brain chemistry argumentp. 167
The Negative Argumentsp. 168
The superfluity argumentp. 168
The mystery objectionp. 170
The problem of other mindsp. 172
A Verdict on the Materialist Casep. 173
Chapter 15 The Case for Dualismp. 175
The Natural Belief in Dualismp. 175
I'm a Soul Manp. 177
The introspection argumentp. 177
The discernibility argumentp. 178
The Cartesian argumentp. 180
The Platonic argumentp. 181
The parapsychology argumentp. 181
The need for evidencep. 184
Part VI What's the Deal with Death?p. 185
Chapter 16 From Dust to Dust: Fear and the Voidp. 187
The Final Exit and the Four Fearsp. 188
Fear of the process of dyingp. 191
Fear of punishmentp. 192
Fear of the unknownp. 194
Fear of annihilationp. 195
Chapter 17 Philosophical Consolations on Deathp. 197
Don't Worry, Be Happyp. 198
The stoic response to fear of the processp. 198
The natural process argumentp. 199
The Necessity Argumentp. 200
The Agnostic Argumentp. 201
The Two Eternities Argumentp. 202
Epicurus' argumentp. 203
Materialist Conceptions of "Immortality"p. 205
Social immortalityp. 206
Cultural immortalityp. 206
Cosmic immortalityp. 207
Scientific immortalityp. 208
Chapter 18 Is There Life After Death?p. 211
Philosophical Doubts and Denialsp. 211
The psychological origin argumentp. 212
The silence argumentp. 214
The trumpet analogy argumentp. 215
The brain damage argumentp. 217
Arguments for Survivalp. 219
Plato's indestructibility argumentp. 219
Then nature analogy argumentp. 220
The argument from desirep. 222
Moral argumentsp. 224
The Light at the End of the Tunnelp. 226
Claims of former livesp. 226
Apparent contact with the deadp. 227
Near-death experiencesp. 227
Part VII Is There a God?p. 231
Chapter 19 Two World Viewsp. 233
The Lost Beach Ballp. 233
The Great Dividep. 236
The mainline theistic world viewp. 239
The naturalistic world viewp. 240
How the two world views comparep. 241
The Great Debatep. 242
Chapter 20 Theistic Visionsp. 243
The Ontological Argumentp. 243
Cosmology and Godp. 246
A Designer Universe?p. 254
Religious Experiencep. 258
Chapter 21 The Problem of Evilp. 261
Expectations of Theismp. 261
The Argument from Evilp. 263
The main argument against theismp. 263
The alleged incompatibility of God and evilp. 264
Moral justification for allowing evilp. 265
Moral justification and the atheist's argumentp. 267
The theist's claimp. 268
The Great Theodiciesp. 269
The punishment theodicyp. 270
The free will theodicyp. 271
The soul-making theodicyp. 273
A fourth combination theodicyp. 277
The Element of Mysteryp. 277
Part VIII The Meaning of Lifep. 279
Chapter 22 What Is the Meaning of Life?p. 281
The Questions We Can Askp. 281
Meaning and This Worldp. 285
Nihilism: The ultimate negativityp. 286
The do-it-yourself-approach to the meaning of lifep. 288
God and Meaningp. 290
Chapter 23 Pascal's Wager: Betting Your Lifep. 293
Blaise Pascal: Philosopher-Geniusp. 293
The Wagerp. 295
Criticisms of the Wagerp. 299
The immorality objectionp. 300
The probability assignment objectionp. 301
The many claimants objectionp. 302
The single case objectionp. 304
Choosing a World View Right for Youp. 305
Chapter 24 Success and Happiness in Lifep. 307
What is Enough? The Race for Morep. 307
True Successp. 311
The Universal Conditions of Successp. 314
A clear conception of what we want, a vivid vision, a goal clearly imaginedp. 315
A strong confidence that we can attain that goalp. 316
A focused concentration on what it takes to reach the goalp. 317
A stubborn consistency in pursuing our visionp. 318
An emotional commitment to the importance of what we're doingp. 318
A good character to guide us and keep us on a proper coursep. 319
A capacity to enjoy the process along the wayp. 320
A Concluding Note on Happinessp. 321
Part IX The Part of Tensp. 323
Chapter 25 Ten Great Philosophersp. 325
Socratesp. 325
Platop. 326
Aristotlep. 327
Saint Thomas Aquinasp. 328
William of Ockhamp. 328
Rene Descartesp. 329
Immanuel Kantp. 330
G.W.F. Hegelp. 331
Soren Kierkegaardp. 332
Bertrand Russellp. 333
Chapter 26 Ten Great Questionsp. 335
Is Philosophy Practical?p. 335
Can We Ever Really Know Anything?p. 336
Is There Ultimately an Objectivity to Ethics?p. 337
Who Am I?p. 338
Is Happiness Really Possible in Our World?p. 339
Is There, After All, a God?p. 340
What Is the Good Life?p. 341
Why Is So Much Suffering in the World?p. 342
If a Tree Falls in the Forestp. 343
Bishop Berkeley speaksp. 344
What's Stronger in Human Life, Rationality or Irrationality?p. 345
Indexp. 347
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