Philosophy Basics: A Jargon-Free Guide for Beginners

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In Philosophy Basics: A Jargon-Free Guide for Beginners, Dr. Doug Erlandson provides an easy-to-understand general introduction to philosophy. Its simple and non-technical style covers the major topics in philosophy in a way that even someone with no familiarity with philosophy will be able to understand.
Philosophy Basics has grown out of Dr. Erlandson’s twenty-five years of teaching philosophy, eight at the University of Nebraska Lincoln and an additional seventeen at Southeast Community College in Lincoln. Early on he realized that his students would benefit from having a written outline to help them better understand his lectures.

As he notes in the Preface to Philosophy Basics, “what at first was an outline soon became a written summary of these lectures. With each new edition this written summary continued to expand, and over time it took on more and more of the characteristics of a basic introductory philosophy text.” In preparing that summary for a general audience, Erlandson has extensively revised and clarified the material so that the book provides the reader with a self-contained introduction, one that does not depend on listening to a professor’s lectures for explanation or clarification.

Philosophy Basics begins with a brief introduction that defines what philosophy is, describes the major areas of philosophy, and discusses the value and limitations of philosophy. Following this is a section on logic and critical thinking, which includes a discussion of various fallacies and how to avoid them. The section on the theory of knowledge investigates the issue of knowledge and doubt, the origin of knowledge, and the relationship between the mind and the external world. This last topic provides a transition into the philosophy of mind, in which Erlandson presents the views that philosophers have held regarding our knowledge of other minds, the relationship between the mind and the brain, and the age-old problem of causal determinism and human free will.

The section on moral philosophy or ethics begins with a discussion of the difference between the ethics of duty and the ethics of consequences, after which it examines various types of moral relativism (subjectivism, cultural relativism, and situationism) and moral objectivism (intuitionism, good-reasons ethics, Kantianism, and utilitarianism). This section concludes with a discussion of religious ethics and the issue of the motivation to act ethically.

The last section is on the philosophy of religion. In it Erlandson examines the classical arguments for the existence of God, the various positions philosophers have taken on the possibility of miracles, the problem of evil, and the question of survival of death.

At the conclusion of the discussion of each topic Philosophy Basics provides a set of review questions to aid the reader in better understanding the material.

Although Philosophy Basics is organized topically the text makes frequent reference to the views of individual philosophers past and present. Thus, while not a text in the history of philosophy, the book will provide the reader some familiarity with the great thinkers throughout the ages.

What is the ultimate goal of Philosophy Basics? Once again from the preface: “ My hope is that this book will generate enough excitement for philosophy in the reader that he or she will be encouraged to probe these issues in more depth and will continue on in the study of philosophy. For, to the extent that my opinion counts, the study of philosophy is rewarding not only because it serves to sharpen the mind (which it does) but also because it leads its student to a more profound understanding of the world and also (I hope) to a genuine sense of humility as we see how much more there is to know and how little understanding even the greatest minds possess.”

Product Details

  • File Size: 427 KB
  • Print Length: 178 pages
  • Publisher: Doug Erlandson (September 15, 2011)
  • Publication Date: September 15, 2011
  • Sold by:  Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray: Not Enabled
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

Customer Reviews

Good balance between brevity and clarity

7 people found this helpful.
 on July 30, 2013
By G. F.
A really good introduction to the main areas of philosophical inquiry. The title is a bit of a misnomer, since it is not “jargon free”, but it keeps the jargon to a minimum and explains concepts clearly. One of the aspects of the book that I appreciate the most is his excellent use of real-world analogies. You can tell that the author is an experienced teacher. This book is highly recommended as an introduction to philosophical thinking.

Quick and simple philosophy basics

10 people found this helpful.
 on September 6, 2012
By Graeme
A basic introduction to philosophical issues with the standard approaches simply explained. It skims through standard arguments and counter arguments to philosophical problems, which can be good as a brief summary or as a starting point to delve deeper. Experienced philosophers will invariably consider some of the arguments to be poorly represented – which is only to be expected from philosophers.

… Pragmatism and Existentialism) but this is one of the best linking philosophy to actually living a life

4 people found this helpful.
 on July 9, 2014
By Robert R. Reed
There are more comprehensive introductions to philosophy (this one lacks chapters on Pragmatism and Existentialism) but this is one of the best linking philosophy to actually living a life. Well done

Good starter book

One person found this helpful.
 on February 28, 2015
By Old Jim
This is a good beginning philosophy book. It has easy to understand, clear explanations of several concepts and schools of pholosophy. The author has some biases but I suppose that is to be expected with any philosophy book. If you are trying to “get into” the concepts of philosophy this is a good place to start.

Entertaining and informative

One person found this helpful.
 on March 6, 2016
By Elon M
Nicely bridges the chasm between entertaining yet shallow shorts like 8-bit philosophy and “comprehensive” but unreadable philosophy textbooks.

Good Basic

5 people found this helpful.
 on October 30, 2012
By t
I found it easy to follow and easy to understand. The ideas are easy to follow. Great for people in college Philosophy or people who want to learn.

Excellent book on beginning the study of Philosophy.

One person found this helpful.
 on July 12, 2014
By James L. Hawes
This an excellent book for the beginner in the study of Philosophy. Is is very easy to read and understand.

Good starter

 on February 21, 2015
Good book; you can easily get a good idea of several philosophy concepts.

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