Selecting course materials has become much a much more challenging problem in recent years. As your bookstore manager will tell you, the cost of books has risen dramatically. Textbooks in other subjects frequently cost over $100, and the most popular introductory anthologies in philosophy are almost that much. As a result, students are refusing to buy the assigned books, and instructors are putting more material on the web, which also raises problems about intellectual property and copyrights. In this selection we talk primarily about more mainstream course materials. See also our collection of Non-traditional Resources resources (films, novels, etc.), including anthologies that include more diverse selections.
- Trade paperbacks. Most of the classic texts used in intro courses are available in (relatively) inexpensive editions from publishers such as Hackett, MacMillan and Penguin.
- Course Management Software. With the cost of textbooks going sky high, many faculty members are teaching textless classes, putting all of the material on the classroom management system (such as BlackBoard). There is a great deal of material that is either public domain, on a website, or that can be used under existing copyright laws (which you need to understand). The advantage is that the material is there, as the students need it. The disadvantage is that students often hate to print out material, so they may not have the material available during class time. Or they will want to bring their laptops to class, which can cause other problems.
- Create your own homegrown anthology. TΦ101 has had great luck with creating anthologies of materials that are either public domain or covered under fair use. Before you start this you'll have to have a solid understanding of what materials can be used legally. The anthology is then converted to a pdf file and e-mailed to the student (or put on the course management software). Students are then encouraged to take the pdf to a local print center and make their own book.
- On-line Anthology. Lander University publishes a solid web-based introductory anthology using historical sources and there are a variety of introductory philosophy materials at MERLOT (search under Humanities - Philosophy) including Philip Pecorino's on-line intro textbook.
- Logic Texts.We don't usually discuss logic on this site, but you might want to look at the on-line logic text by Cathal Woods or another by David Marans.
- Anthologies. Many instructors use commercial anthologies, we list some of the more popular ones.
- Latin American Philosophy. With more and more Latin American students enrolled in our courses and with the growing importance of the Spanish speaking world, it is worthwhile looking at Latin American materials. This Latin American Philosophy Homepage is a good place to start.
- Jonathan Bennett's EarlyModernTexts. TΦ101 strongly recommends all intro instructors to seriously consider Bennett's internet source for classical early modern texts including Hobbes, Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, and Mill. Our detailed discussion makes clear some of the pros and cons.
- Contemporary Plato translations. Many of the English language classics are available on line, and Bennett has terrific translations of the early modern classics, but most of the on-line translations of Plato are outdated (e.g., Jowett's translations). Cathal Woods has published contemporary Internet open-source translations of Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, and the Death Scene from Phaedo. Woods also has a translation of selections from Republic. Students can use these at no cost.
- Web sources. There is now a great deal of excellent contemporary material that is available on the Internet. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of pirated material on the Internet. This raises an ethical dilemma for instructors who ask their students to read this material. TΦ101 has discussed this with an intellectual property attorney, and as TΦ101 understands it, the obligation to obtain permission for reproduiing the material lies with the person who creates the website. The professor who requires students to consult such a website is not legally liable. At the same time, we should respect intellectual property. TΦ101 is not your lawyer and does not give any legal advice, so you should confirm this with your own institution's general counsel.
- Coursepacks and custom anthologies. There are a number of sources, such as XanEdu, that will take your material, obtain copyright permission, and produce a custom coursepack or book. Proteus produces custom anthologies primary source texts. Check with your bookstore or local copycenters for details.
- Obtain permission. Obtaining permission to reprint material is actually rather easy, and the Copyrright Clearance Center will also do this for you. Sometimes permission is available at no cost, but often there will be a fee. It is probably not a good idea to be selling materials in your classroom, but your bookstore will sell the materials for you and handle all of the paperwork.
- Audio philosophy texts. Librivox is a source for audio recordings of public domain material. They have recordings of Plato, Hume, Kant, etc. We understand that the recording and reading quality is uneven; those who wish to make recordings may also do so on a volunteer basis.
Early Modern Texts by Jonathan Bennett
As you will see, Bennett's site offers versions of classic early modern texts, including most of the ones used in intro courses. Bennett's theory is that these materials are intellectually difficult enough for students, without also asking intro students to wrestle with such obstacles as "difficulties of syntax, length and complexity of sentences, words that are no longer current, still-familiar words used in meanings that they now do not have, [and] arcane references to other philosophers which today’s students will seldom understand or be required to follow up." In the case of the English texts, he has modernized the originals while attempting to preserve their meaning and philosophical complexity, and he has produced free translations of the non-English texts. Obviously Bennett's project raises serious pedagogic and methodological questions, and only a scholar of Bennett's reputation would have dared to do this. Some critics say that a text cannot be divorced from its original language, and a student who reads Bennett's Hobbes version, for example, is reading Bennett rather than Hobbes. Others agree with Bennett that much of the language and style is a distraction and students will learn more if they can read a modernized version. Bennett's translations of non-English texts are particularly worth considering. The English language classics are, after all, available on the Internet, but the non-English texts are only available in antiquated translations.
Several faculty members have attempted to do some informal experiments to see how students react to Bennett's texts. John Immerwahr gave his intro students a passage of philosophy that they had never seen as an extra credit question on their final examination, and asked them to rewrite it in their own words. Half received the original version (from Hobbes) and the other half received Bennett's version. Without having an opportunity to compare versions, the students were more likely to say that the Hobbes original was difficult to read. However, they did equally well in understanding it. Another faculty member in an e course on early modern philosophy gave one section the original text, and another section the Bennett version and found much higher comprehension among those who worked with Bennett. This implies that, under ideal conditions (plenty of time, and high motivation), students can understand the original without the benefit of Bennett's rewriting. But given the distractions and pressures of students' daily lives, may do better if their text is more readable.
Below we offer some a comparative passage to give a sense of how Bennett works.
| Jonathan Bennett's version of Hobbes
|| Hobbes original text
So that in the nature of man, we find three principal causes of discord. First competition, secondly distrust, thirdly glory.
The first makes men invade for gain; the second for safety; and the third for reputation. The first use violence to make themselves masters of other men’s persons, wives, children, and cattle; the second use it to defend themselves and their families and property; the third use it for trifles -- a word, a smile, a different opinion, and any other sign of a low regard for them personally, if not directly then obliquely through a disrespectful attitude to their family, their friends, their nation, their profession, or their name.
This makes it obvious that for as long as men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in the condition known as ‘war’; and it is a war of every man against every man. For WAR doesn’t consist just in battle or the act of fighting, but in a period of time during which it is well enough known that people are willing to join in battle. So the temporal element in the notion of ‘when there is war’ is like the temporal element in ‘when there is bad weather’. What constitutes bad weather is not a rain-shower or two but an inclination to rain through many days together; similarly, what constitutes war is not actual fighting but a known disposition to fight during a time when there is no assurance to the contrary. All other time is PEACE.
So that in the nature of man, we find three principall causes of quarrel. First, competition; Secondly, Diffidence; Thirdly, Glory.
The first, maketh men invade for Gain; the second, for Safety; and the third, for Reputation. The first use Violence, to make themselves Masters of other mens persons, wives, children, and cattell; the second, to defend them; the third, for trifles, as a word, a smile, a different opinion, and any other signe of undervalue, either direct in their Persons, or by reflexion in their Kindred, their Friends, their Nation, their Profession, or their Name.
Hereby it is manifest, that during the time men live without a common Power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called Warre; and such a warre, as is of every man, against every man. For WARRE, consisteth not in Battell onely, or the act of fighting; but in a tract of time, wherein the Will to contend by Battell is sufficiently known: and therefore the notion of Time, is to be considered in the nature of Warre; as it is in the nature of Weather. For as the nature of Foule weather, lyeth not in a showre or two of rain; but in an inclination thereto of many dayes together: So the nature of War, consisteth not in actuall fighting; but in the known disposition thereto, during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary. All other time is PEACE.
Popular Anthologies. This list was generated from Amazon. TΦ101 searched for books under the keywords "philosophy, introduction, textbook," and then sorted the results by "bestseller." These were drawn from the top 100 responses to that search (most of which were not intro philosophy texts), adding one or two others that didn't come up for some reason or other. They are listed here alphabetically by title. If you have an anthology that you like, or if you have something useful to say about one of these, please send us the name and author with a few sentences about your views.
- Archetypes of Wisdom: An Introduction to Philosophy by Douglas J. Soccio
- Doing Philosophy: An Introduction Through Thought Experiments by Theodore Schick and Lewis Vaughan
- Introduction to Philosophy: Classical and Contemporary Readings by John Perry and Michael Bratman
- Logic and Philosophy: A Modern Introduction by Alan Hausman, Howard Kahane, and Paul Tidman
- Classics of Western Philosophy, ed. Stephen M. Cahn
- Philosophic Classics: From Plato to Derrida (5th Edition) (Philosophic Classics) by Forrest E. Baird and Walter Kaufmann
- Philosophy: An Introduction to the Art of Wondering by James L. Christian
- Philosophy: The Quest for Truth by Louis P. Pojman
- Questions that Matter: An Invitation to Philosophy by Ed L. Miller, and Jon Jensen
- Reason and Responsibility: Readings in Some Basic Problems of Philosophy by Joel Feinberg and Russ Shafer-Landau
- Twenty Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy by G. Lee Bowie, Meredith W. Michaels, and Robert C. Solomon
- The Great Conversation: A Historical Introduction to Philosophy by Norman Melchert
- Voyage of Discovery: A Historical Introduction to Philosophy by William F. Lawhead
Author: John Immerwahr
Update: February 28, 2013