Title: Philosophy: A Student Text for VCE (Victoria Education
Certificate, Australia) Units 1 & 2.
Authors: Robinson-McCarthy, L & Symes, A.
Material type: Book.
Publisher/Date: David Barlow Publishing (2010).
Format: Paperback: 312 pages.
Area and Topic: General philosophy (key subject matter and topics, phil history, phil
methods and tools) Student text book.
Reading level: The intended level of study is years 12 and 13 (NZ).
Purchasing and info: See ‘pactiss.org/’ (an Australian website dedicated primarily to
philosophy in high schools).
Synopsis and additional information:
“Philosophy: A Student text ... [is] ... specifically designed for students and teachers of VCE
Philosophy. [The text] invites students … to do philosophy while at the same time providing
them with a comprehensive grounding in each of the six areas of Study” (from the back
cover). Specifically, the areas covered are: logic and reasoning, epistemology, metaphysics,
ethics, a chapter titled ‘Other Great Questions in Philosophy’ which covers political
philosophy, philosophy of religion and ‘Other Traditions of Thought’ e.g. Hinduism and
Australian indigenous philosophy. In addition, there is a chapter on advice for teachers and
Each chapter includes: highlighted key terms and definitions, profiles of major philosophers,
explanations of philosophical concepts and theories, small group and individual activities,
discussion questions, written exercises, guided analyses of primary texts, visual material and
discussions of film, literature and contemporary issues, suggested tips for assessment, tasks
and resources and, advice on course design and planning.
The book covers nearly every area of philosophy that one would expect to find in any standard
introduction to philosophy book/course at stage 1 (and 2) university level. In addition to a
comprehensive coverage of the main subject areas of philosophy the book is written and
structured specifically with high school study and assessment in mind. A notable strength of the
book is the ‘dovetailing’ of the four standard approaches to introducing general philosophy i.e. 1)
by subject matter (Epistemology, Ethics etc), 2) as a historical survey of the leading names in
philosophy and their influential ideas, 3) as a set of enduring problems 4) as a toolkit for critical
thinking and conceptual analysis.
The book is very formal in style, fairly dense and is structured in a manner that is little different
from a first year university course. Given this, those inclined towards a more flexible (liberal?)
plan – who intend to incorporate philosophy into other units/subjects, or to adopt an approach
more in line with the PFC (Philosophy for Children) programme may find aspects of the text
structure and content at odds with their intentions. There is also a tendency towards breadth of
information at the expense of depth. Although this makes the material more accessible to school
age children, it tends to simplify some of the material to the point where the historical and/or
contemporary significance/vitality/relevance of the issue/s in question aren’t expressed as fully
as could be.