The Handy Philosophy Answer Book
The Handy Answer
Author: Naomi Zack, PhD
Table of Contents
1. INTRODUCTION: WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? 2. ANCIENT PHILOSOPHY 3. NEOPLATONISM,
MEDIEVAL PHILOSOPHY AND RENAISSANCE HUMANISM 4. SKEPTICISM, NATURAL
PHILOSOPHY, AND MEDICINE 5. EARLY MODERN PHILOSOPHY 6. ENLIGHTENMENT
PHILOSOPHY 7. NINETEENTH CENTURY PHILOSOPHY 8. EXISTENTIALISM, PHENOMENOLOGY,
CRITICAL THEORY, AND STRUCTURALISM 9. AMERICAN PHILOSOPHY 10. ANALYTIC
PHILOSOPHY 11. NEW PHILOSOPHY Glossary…………………………………….……….. Bibliography
…………….....……………………….. Index ………………………………………………..
What is philosophy? Why do I need to know about such-and-such or so-and-so? And what about those
famously odd philosophers? From the introduction: "In Greek, which was the first language of Western
Philosophy, “philosophy” means love of wisdom. One loves wisdom by trying to figure out what it is. So
philosophy is an activity of seeking wisdom. There are many ways human beings seek wisdom, which
include art, religion, and lived experience. Philosophy is distinct because it seeks wisdom through the
systematic use of reason. Philosophers focus on ideas, the meaning of ideas, and beliefs, by analyzing
them." The Handy Philosophy Answer Book explores various truths and wisdoms, the history of
philosophy, schools of thought, and the background and quirks of famous philosophers. Plus, how
changing philosophical thought effected the history of civilization. How philosophy effects pop culture,
politics and government, and our everyday lives. You’ll learn answers to such questions as . . . Why did
the Pythagorians avoid fava beans? What were Socrates’ most influential Philosophical Beliefs? How was
skepticism related to the scientific revolution? What were the most noteworthy advances in medicine
during the scientific revolution? Was Kierkegaard “cursed”? What was Nietzsche’s idea of a “gay
science?” What was the Enlightenment? Who was David Hume? How did A. J. Ayer defeat Mike Tyson?
What is racism? What are the philosophical issues about racial identity? What is Native American
Philosophy? How is Confucianism relevant to contemporary Western philosophy?
What is philosophy?
Philosophy is the activity of seeking wisdom. In Greek, which was the first language of
Western philosophy, “philosophy” means love of wisdom. One loves wisdom by trying
to figure out what it is. There are many ways human beings seek wisdom, including
art, religion, and lived experience. Philosophy is distinct because it seeks wisdom
through the systematic use of reason.
Philosophers focus on ideas, the meaning of ideas, and beliefs by analyzing them.
They break them down into their parts and then build them back up again and combine
them in new ways. In addition to analysis, philosophers reflect on what goes on
in the mind and the world; they seek wisdom through intuitions of whole structures
of thought or experience.
When did philosophy begin?
In the West, the scientific aspect of philosophy, or abstract general thought about the
natural and human worlds, began in ancient Greece in the seventh century B.C.E., with
inquiry about the earth and the cosmos by the so-called Pre-Socratic philosophers,
many of whom continued to flourish in Socrates’ time. Between the Pre-Socratics and
Socrates, the Sophists were the first to focus on the human world, although their methods
were adversarial and perhaps unethical. They were paid for their arguments, without
concern about their truth or the justice of what they were arguing for. With Socrates’
activities in the fifth century B.C.E., and his student Plato’s dramatization of Socrates’
style of discourse in written dialogues in the fourth century B.C.E., the true humanistic
side of philosophy was founded. The two big subjects of the natural world and the
human world endured as the concerns of philosophers, well after the physical and social
sciences branched out on their own. These subjects are also perennial in ordinary life.
How is philosophy different from other intellectual pursuits?
Generally, the kind of wisdom philosophers love consists of answers to questions,
which have to be worked out in the mind instead of discovered through microscopes,
telescopes, surveys, or measurement. For example, a sociologist will study what people
believe, but a philosopher will ask if those beliefs are true or justified by what is true.
Because philosophical questions cannot be answered with facts, their answers are
largely a matter of opinion. But the opinions are special, because reasons are always
given for them. Still—and this is what some people find so enjoyable about philosophy—
much of philosophical activity is a conversation or dialogue between and among
philosophers. And they almost never agree!
Naomi Zack, PhD
Naomi Zack received her PhD in Philosophy from Columbia University, NY. She has taught at the
University at Albany, State University of New York and is now Professor of Philosophy at the University of
Oregon. Professor Zack regularly teaches courses in the History of Philosophy, Ethics, Feminism,
Existentialism, Philosophy of Science, and Race, and she has published widely in these fields. Her
scholarly book publications include: Inclusive Feminism (Rowman and Littlefield, 2005); Philosophy of
Science and Race (Routledge, 2002);Bachelors of Science: Seventeenth Century Identity, Then and Now
(Temple, 1996);Race and Mixed Race (Temple, 1993) <br/>
"Naomi Zack introduces the world of philosophy to young readers and general readers in an easy-to-use
question-and-answer format. The book is recommended for high school libraries and public libraries. It
would be of interest to the casual reader with a general interest in philosophy."
Written to be an accessible reference book . . . [t]he material is presented via brief answers to a series of
"With a wide range of information suitable for various knowledge bases—from junior high to junior
college—this is an ideal resource for anyone looking to get a better grasp of the history of thought."