/ What philosophy books for a school library?

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Dave Kerr - on 26 Apr 2013


I'm thinking a dictionary of philosophy and at least one general guide pitched at the younger reader.

What would folks suggest for those two and what texts would you consider indispensable over and above that?

Ta.
winhill - on 26 Apr 2013
In reply to Dave Kerr:

checkout Stephen Law.

proper philosophy, not Alain de Bottom crap.

And he has done a bit of climbing.
Dave Kerr - on 26 Apr 2013
In reply to Dave Kerr:

I wasn't aware of him. The Philosophy Gym looks good. Do you think it will be suitable for school level?
Dave Kerr - on 26 Apr 2013
In reply to Dave Kerr:
> (In reply to Dave Kerr)
>
> Do you think it will be suitable for school level?

Well obviously you do because you suggested it...

dr_botnik - on 26 Apr 2013
In reply to Dave Kerr: Calvin and Hobbes.
stroppygob - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to Dave Kerr:


The "For Beginners" series is very good.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Philosophy-for-Beginners/lm/RZQH8MYSTMBE
nufkin - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to dr_botnik:
> (In reply to Dave Kerr) Calvin and Hobbes.

Along with Winnie the Pooh
Gordon Stainforth - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to Dave Kerr:

Depends what you mean by younger reader. I'm presuming you mean upwards of about 16 years old. The Philosophy Gym is quite good, as far as it goes, as a very basic introduction to the way philosophy tackles various subjects. A classic, entertaining short introduction for the slightly older reader is Bertrand Russell's The Problems of Philosophy. But better still, in giving a brilliant lightning tour of the whole of western philosophy, is Through the Rearview Mirror by John Macnamara, though pitched really at an undergraduate level. There is some very, very poor recent work by the likes of A C Grayling, Julian Baggini, John Gray, Bruce Hood, Sam Harris and Alain de Botton, which I would really advise anyone of any age to steer clear of (examples of how philosophy has lost its rigour and clarity since, say, the 1950s, when the general standard was stunning by comparison).

Perhaps the very best introduction of all, albeit very oblique, is the novel, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig.
Dave Kerr - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> (In reply to Dave Kerr)
>
> Depends what you mean by younger reader.

I should have specified. Scottish secondary so 11-18
Trangia - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to Dave Kerr:

Youyr library MUST include the "Collective Wisdom of UKC"

Soon to be published :)
Double Knee Bar - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to Trangia: It would make an interesting 4 page leaflet.
AdrianC - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to Dave Kerr: This might be a little outside what you're looking for but what about some of the Radiolab podcasts?
Siward on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
>
>
> Perhaps the very best introduction of all, albeit very oblique, is the novel, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig.

In which case perhaps include The Snow Leopard by Matthiesen- but hey, I'm getting sidetracked here...
Morty - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to Dave Kerr:
I'll second stephen law. His two books 'The Philosophy Files' and 'The Philosophy Files 2' are both excellent. I've used them with Years 7-11 and pupils have found the concepts very accessible.
anonymouse - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to Dave Kerr:
Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder is how I first got a bit interested in Philosophy. It's not philosophy itself, but it is all about Philosophy. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is another book that stands proudly besides philosophy whilst having an intriguingly groovy title.
dr_botnik - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to Gordon Stainforth: I would second Bertrand Russells Problems of Philosophy, very accessible to read. I would also suggest Satre's Being and Nothingness and Camus' The Outsider; not because either of these are particularly rounded or complete examples of philosophy, they are just stunningly good literature, and very readable.
anonymouse - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to dr_botnik:
> I would also suggest Satre's Being and Nothingness

Yes, I suppose a good laugh might help.
seankenny - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to dr_botnik:

Yes to Camus, but perhaps The Plague would be a bit better choice?

It would be ace to see a school library with ZATAMM. Suspect it won't get taken out much mind.
John Foster - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to Dave Kerr:

I very much enjoyed Jules Evans's 'Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations'.

Hopefully it doesn't fall into Gordon's category of 'very very poor recent work'!

I suspect my philosophy is sub-GCSE level, so I probably wouldn't recognise it if it does!

Nevertheless this is my recommendation - very enjoyable and good entry level stuff in my view.

John.
Tim Chappell - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to Dave Kerr:

Rather like Gordon, I am somewhat underwhelmed by the recent tidal wave of pop philosophy books. The very idea of "Wittgenstein in 60 minutes" etc. strikes me as close to oxymoronic. (Wittgenstein himself keeps saying "I want to be read slowly".) The aim of many of these books seems to be to enable people to bullshit at pretentious parties, not to set people on the way to genuine understanding.

Also, it's good to get back from all this essentially second hand activity to the primary sources.

So when I teach beginner students, I usually give them short bits of classic philosophers--Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Mill, Nietzsche, Russell, Wittgenstein. This works well.

Will your students have access to all the internet resources? There's loads of stuff out there, including, to plug my own institution, lots of OU courses (on Open Learn, on iTunes, and elsewhere). There's the authoritative online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, though this is probably a bit hard for schoolchildren.

If it comes to popular books, I think John Cottingham and Peter Cave are two of the best popularisers. There's also my own foray into this market--

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3960766-the-inescapable-self#other_reviews

--though I suspect that's not right for such a young age-group.
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John Doe-Smith - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to Dave Kerr:

Maybe Bertrand Russell's "A History of Western Philosophy" would make good background and supplementary reading? It is well regarded.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/History-Western-Philosophy-Routledge-Classics/dp/0415325056/ref=sr_1_1?s=boo...
Gordon Stainforth - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to John Doe-Smith:
> (In reply to Dave Kerr)
>
> Maybe Bertrand Russell's "A History of Western Philosophy" would make good background and supplementary reading? It is well regarded.
>

It's quite heavy, actually - in every sense... and rather unbalanced. He's very dismissive of Aquinas, for example.


Gordon Stainforth - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to Dave Kerr:

Another remarkably good one, done in cartoon style, is 'Introducing Philosophy' by Dave Robinson and Judy Groves. Very suitable for 'younger reader'.
sleeplessjb - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to Trangia: ha 'philosophy in focus' series are the best I have found for teaching - but member not for a library (jones, cardinal and Hayward)....
sleeplessjb - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to Gordon Stainforth: ye totally - I'd go the Kenny route for a book like that....
anonymouse - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> It's quite heavy, actually - in every sense... and rather unbalanced. He's very dismissive of Aquinas, for example.

That's part of the joy of it. The catankerousness glows through.
Gordon Stainforth - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to anonymouse:

That's quite a nice way of putting it.
winhill - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to Dave Kerr:
> (In reply to Dave Kerr)
>
> I wasn't aware of him. The Philosophy Gym looks good. Do you think it will be suitable for school level?

Which age - that's the question. The philosphy Gym isn't aimed at children so much, the scoend question is What's Wrong with Gay Sex? So maybe a bit stiff (ooer) for primary school.

The Philosophy Files is aimed at younger readers, the problems are told with involving Stories, certainly 12 years and above. The Outer Limits and The Philosophy Files 2 are the same book, I've got a spare copy of that for some reason.

Almost all the intros mentioned are aimed at older readers and are less of an involving read for raising general questions but of those Mary Warnock's An Intelligent Person's Guide to Ethics is pretty good.
Jimbo W on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to Dave Kerr:

I'd agree with those proffering Camus as a suggestion.. ..Camus helped me to start thinking about reality. I started with the stranger, then moved onto the plague, then the myth of sisyphus and finally the rebel, which I read when I was about 18. They are all approachable, but provocative works, which inspire new thought, questioning, and reappraisal of reality, what it is to us and we to it.. ..I've never been much of a fan of introductory works, or the requirement to digest formal philosophical schools of thought. The fundamental questions of philosophy are approachable by anyone, and truly fundamental concepts can be constantly rediscovered and articulated de novo. I may well as a result be ill disciplined in my philosophical thought.. ..but if we are really talking about introductions to philosophy, then any literature that can upset a cosy childhood worldview into a critical appraisal of reality, knowledge, belief etc is the literature that is worth putting forward.
anonymouse - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to Dave Kerr:
I was just thinking that for angsty teenagers, there's lots of good philosophy. Schopenhauer is ideal for those of a gloomy mindset. Camus has been mentioned above. The novels of Sartre are good - better than his philosophical tomes.

I hesitate to suggest Godel, Escher, Bach, because it never did much for me. But there are many who swear by it.
Jimbo W on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to Dave Kerr:

Another suggestion would be that everyone should read or see:

Rhinoceros.

Just thought I'd put that one out there.
Dave Kerr - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to winhill:
> (In reply to Dave Kerr)
> [...]
>
> Which age - that's the question. The philosphy Gym isn't aimed at children so much, the scoend question is What's Wrong with Gay Sex? So maybe a bit stiff (ooer) for primary school.

It all depends on how it's handled. Matron.

Thanks for all the suggestions folks. Philosophy isn't on the formal curriculum but there is a club.

There's been a few suggestions already but what texts by philosphical big guns would people choose? By big guns I mean thinkers of the stature of Hume, Aristotle, Descarte and that ilk.

Cheers.
anonymouse - on 27 Apr 2013
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> That's quite a nice way of putting it.

Further to that, it's good to see that there are disagreements over whether the 'greats' actually were.
winhill - on 28 Apr 2013
In reply to Dave Kerr:

Big guns depends on what you want to teach them, classical stuff or modern critical thinking stuff.

Essentials for anyone would be:

Rights of Man - Thomas Paine
Utilitarianism - JS Mill
The Story of Art - Gombrich

The rest, mere pastimes.
John Doe-Smith - on 10 May 2013
In reply to Dave Kerr:

Also, I would make a pitch for anything logically oriented. Logic seems to be looked down upon as mundane or too narrow or whatever by the more speculatively oriented folks, but I've had SO many nightmares dealing with people who just can't think, even with the mundane day to day stuff, as I'm sure we all have. I wish completion of a course on it were a high school graduation requirement.

Something with both formal and informal coverage would be great.

All my books on it are college level, but I found one, good for "Age Range: 9 and up" on Amazon. It seems just focused on part of informal logic, but perhaps it's a start: http://www.amazon.com/The-Art-Argument-Aaron-Larsen/dp/1600510183/ref=pd_sim_b_2

Haven't read it, so can't vouch for it, but it can be previewed. It's also available at Amazon's U.K. site: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1600510183/
sleeplessjb - on 10 May 2013
In reply to John Doe-Smith: the Routledge one by Peggy tittle is the one you want for that
ena sharples - on 11 May 2013
In reply to Dave Kerr: essays of Montaigne would be a nice intro, Spinoza's ethics should keep them quiet for a bit and anything by Kierekegard for a laugh.
Ben Sharp - on 11 May 2013
In reply to Dave Kerr: Second what someone said about just getting texts instead of introductions, we have wikipedia and the internet now which limits the value of "introductions to..." to a large extent.

Ethics and 20th C existentialism are the most accessible to that age imo.

Definitely go with The Stranger/Outsider if you're getting a Camus book, it's short and really readable, the plague slightly less so. Whoever said Myth of Sisyphus was approachable must have been a very bright 11-18 year old!

The big guns you asked about, Descartes would obviously be the meditations but I'd be inclined not to go down that road. It was my first taste of philosophy and while the content is fundamental it's got to be the worst possible intro imo.

Again with Hume, is a teenager really going to stick it, he's very formal and the style is dated. I'm not slagging him but I wouldn't have enjoyed reading it before I went to uni.

If you want something greek maybe a collection of greek philosophy might be more useful than plunging someone into a complete work.

I'd fill the shelves with 20th century existentialism because as a teenager, that's what I'd have enjoyed most. Sartre, Camus, Celine, Nietche, Kafka, Kierkegaard.

Also cover ethics because it's easy to get into and always gets people debating. It's not abstract, it's not complicated, it's not dated, but it sparks an interest and that's what you want I guess. You start by talking about abortion and then before you know it you've skipped past consequentialism and are in the depths of a meta-ethical crisis!

Do get something by mill though, utilitarianism or on liberty.

The penguin great ideas is a good collection of short works as well.
FrJ on 12 May 2013
In reply to Dave Kerr:

Honderick's Oxford Companion to Philosophy is a good dictionary.
Palmer, Looking at Philosophy is a very accessible historical treatment, with interesting cartoons.

The Philosophy in Focus series used to be quite useful pitched at A-Level/Highers.

I agree that Russells' Problems is a good canonical text, and Sophie's world is a good way in. Contains nice short intros of useful length to younger students.
Other ones that might be stimulating are Martin Buber's I and Thou, Plato's Republic and Sartre's Existentialism is a Humanism (much more accessible sub-degree than Being and Nothingness).

There are a wide range of materials produced as part of Philosophy for Children ("P4C") and some of that might be of interest for the younger age range.
FrJ on 12 May 2013
In reply to Dave Kerr:

The DVD series "The Examined Life: An Introduction to Philosophy", (Velasquez, Chalmers and Beaty) could be a very good resource. 26 programmes at 30mins.
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