I have this book. It’s a collection of philosophical thought experiments, puzzles, paradoxes and so on, taken from the literature, indexed by topic and by the name of the person originating the thought. It’s a pretty nice book–not perfect, but pretty nice.
I am looking for a book like this to use in an Intro to Philosophy course I’ll be teaching this Summer. I thought I’d be using the book I just described, until I looked it up on Amazon and noticed it costs over $30. Not much for a textbook in general, to be sure, but considering all the other texts I’m assigning are less than $10, and considering I’ll only be using ten to twelve examples out of this book, only for “icebreaking” discussions at the beginning of classes, and don’t plan on making the students actually responsible for any material in it, it seems like too much to ask them to pay.
I found this other book which is constructed around a similar idea, and is only half the cost. From looking around online, I got a positive feeling about it. But I just checked out a copy from my library and… the book sucks. The author tries to be very cute and entertaining throughout, and IMO ends up just getting in the way of comprehension by doing so. Furthermore, he needlessly (intentionally of course) jumbles up names and ideas in an a-historical way which to my mind does a disservice to intro students. It’s not that having a grasp of names and historical connections is necessary to doing Philosophy (IMO certainly not) but you’re not doing someone any good by getting them mixed up about names and history and so on. Furthermore, he basically has an “answers in the back of the book” type section which is not only somewhat inane in places, but also will make it harder to get students to think about the puzzles “on their own” as they say.
So I’m looking for books like this that are cheap and that do a good job of explaining philosophical puzzles in a page or so, and that, if it doesn’t help, at least doesn’t hinder people from subsequently being able to go look up more about an idea or people who have written about it.
You may be wondering why I don’t just ask colleagues of mine about this. Its because most of my colleagues would hate a book like this, esp. as a text in intro to Philosophy. In my dept., we’re all about the classics. We read books, not snippets and puzzles. Hrmph. And that’s what we teach our students. Double hrmph.
(If you’re curious, my other texts, right now I think, are going to be:
Minds, Brains and Science (by Searle) Chapters 1, 2, and 6
Parts of Turing’s “Computing Machinery and Human Thought”
Other (as yet undetermined) short works on thinking machines, free will, and the problem of evil.)
I’m thinking about throwing in a Borges story or two, though I’m not sure this will work with the general pedagogical tenor of the class.)