Central Issues of Philosophy
Shand (John)
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Amazon Book Description

  1. Comprising 20 free–standing chapters written by specialists in their respective fields, Central Issues of Philosophy provides novice readers with the ideal accessible introduction to all of philosophy′s core issues.
    • An accessible introduction to the central issues of philosophy
    • Organized around key philosophical issues – ranging from truth, knowledge and reality to free will, ethics and the existence of God
    • Provides beginning students with the information and skills to delve deeper into philosophical fields of study
    • Each chapter is written by an experienced teacher
  2. Back Cover Blurb: This accessible and comprehensive introductory text provides a solid foundation for understanding the core topics at the heart of philosophical inquiry. Each of the 20 chapters focuses on a single philosophical issue – ranging from truth, knowledge, perception, and free will to ethical choice, aesthetic value, the existence of God, and the nature of the state – and is written by a specialist on that topic. Contributors employ a carefully balanced, reader–friendly approach to these core issues, explaining the nature and parameters of the topic at hand in concise, non–technical language. Central Issues of Philosophy is an indispensable companion to study, familiarizing the beginning student with the full range of issues they are likely to encounter, and offering an excellent springboard for more advanced study.
  3. John Shand: is Associate Lecturer in Philosophy at The Open University. He is the author of Philosophy and Philosophers: An Introduction to Western Philosophy (1993, 1994, 2002) and Arguing Well (2000). He has also edited six books, including Fundamentals of Philosophy (2002) and the five–volume Central Works of Philosophy (2003-6).


Wiley-Blackwell; 1st edition (8 May 2009)

"Shand (John) - An Essay on Philosophy and the Four Philosophical Virtues"

Source: Shand (John) - Central Issues of Philosophy, Introduction

Author’s Four Philosophical Virtues
  1. Think for yourself and allow your views to be guided by critically assessing the range of genuine arguments for and against them, and by learning from what others have said who have thought deeply about the issues.
  2. Be prepared to question views even when they seem obvious, are believed by many others, have been believed for a long time, or are beliefs that you hold dear or through habit.
  3. Keep a truly open mind by being willing to change your views according to the merits of the arguments and don't be driven into a comer in defending a position dogmatically even when you feel the argument is running against you.
  4. Acknowledge that an intelligent and honest person may hold views different or opposed to yours.

"Ketland (Jeffrey) - Truth"

Source: Shand (John) - Central Issues of Philosophy, Chapter 1

"Pritchard (Duncan) - Knowledge"

Source: Shand (John) - Central Issues of Philosophy, Chapter 2

"Restall (Greg) - A Priori Truths"

Source: Shand (John) - Central Issues of Philosophy, Chapter 3

"Stoljar (Daniel) - Perception"

Source: Shand (John) - Central Issues of Philosophy, Chapter 4

"Eklund (Matti) - Reality and Thought"

Source: Shand (John) - Central Issues of Philosophy, Chapter 5

"LePoidevin (Robin) - Existence"

Source: Shand (John) - Central Issues of Philosophy, Chapter 6

"Nolan (Daniel) - Modality"

Source: Shand (John) - Central Issues of Philosophy, Chapter 7

"Frankish (Keith) & Kasmirli (Maria) - Mind and Consciousness"

Source: Shand (John) - Central Issues of Philosophy, Chapter 8

"Snowdon (Paul) - The Self and Personal Identity"

Source: Shand (John) - Central Issues of Philosophy, Chapter 9
Write-up Note1

Author’s Introduction: Selves and Persons
  1. Philosophers are described, and describe themselves, as offering theories of the self and of personal identity. It can be asked: what are such theories about? We need to pick out the objects that such questions concern so that we can at least try to test the theories. We can begin by dividing what is in the world in to three broad categories2.
    1. The broadest category is that of what we might call purely physical things. Examples are the tree at the end of your garden, the air, the earth - and so on. We might say that this category is the category of things with physical properties and which, considered in themselves, have no psychological properties at all3. Within this category there is massive variation in size, from the very small, individual subatomic particles, to the very large, an object like the sun. In this group, as I mean it, will fall inanimate objects and also plants, and simpler organisms.
    2. The second, much smaller category, comprises objects which of course have physical properties, such as shape, size and weight, but which also have what we would recognize as psychological features, such as perceptual capacities, plus broad, and also environmentally directed, goals and a capacity to act, but which lack the advanced psychological capacities that we, typical humans, possess. Examples falling in this category are dogs, cats, and other middle sized and large animals.
    3. Finally, there is the even smaller category of creatures like us. We have (or seem to have) physical properties, and we share the basic psychological capacities possessed by ordinary animals, but we also, at least characteristically, possess an array of considerably more advanced psychological capacities - including the ability to think, imagine, reason, remember, develop theories and solve intellectual problems. We can think about individual objects in our environment, and determine what kind of objects they are. In particular we can think, in a variety of ways, about ourselves, and we recognize ourselves as creatures with that very capacity, the capacity, as we might say, for self-knowledge. It is helpful to have an abbreviated way of expressing this vague and vaguely specified battery of advanced psychological capacities. I shall simply call these advanced powers – self-consciousness4.
    We can now say that when philosophers discuss the topic of the self and of personal identity they are theorizing about aspects of self-conscious entities5.
  2. Although it might be premature, given the imprecision of the conditions that the term "self-conscious" picks out, there is a temptation to select a noun to stand for things which are self-conscious. Some philosophers use the term "self" and so would formulate questions as about the nature of a self or of selves. Others employ the term "person." I shall at this stage use both nouns interchangeably6.
  3. There are three aspects of these nouns worth noting immediately.
    1. The first is that as initially introduced they apply, not to some special or perhaps strange type of object which is part of us (as, perhaps, sometimes it is assumed7 the word "self” does) but rather to us, as one might say, as whole complex things. You are a self, just as you are a person8. (This contrasts with the term "mind"; you9 are not a mind, rather you have a mind. Mind-talk is thus talk about some restricted aspects of you.)
    2. Second, since10 you are a self and a person, we can say that the thing that you pick out when you use the word "I" is the self or person that you are. Hence the question – what is a self or person? – can be formulated by you in these words: what sort of thing am I? what nature do I have?
    3. Third, the way I have introduced or explained these nouns it is not being assumed at all that, as one might put it, these nouns express or pick out what we fundamentally or basically are. Consider this analogy. The noun phrase "students of philosophy" applies to you and to me; that complex noun expresses some condition that we fall under, which is to say that we all are students of philosophy. But even though you are a student of philosophy if someone were to ask – what sort of thing are you fundamentally? – I would not say – "a student of philosophy" – but would rather say – perhaps – a human being11. This is surely linked to the fact that you could cease to be a student of philosophy, while undoubtedly remaining in existence. It can, therefore, hardly amount to what you fundamentally12 are.
    So, although it is agreed that we are selves and persons as those terms have been interpreted, that does not mean that we should say that what we fundamentally are is a self or a person. Maybe we are fundamentally a different sort of thing which given the way we have developed amount to selves or persons. The introduction and application to us of these nouns does not settle the question as to what we are13, or what nature we fundamentally have14.
  4. This leads to a question: when philosophers raise issues about selves or about what they call personal identity, are they raising questions about us, about ourselves, the things which happen to be selves and persons, or are they raising questions about us only in so far as we qualify as selves and persons, or perhaps, as one might say, about the class of selves and persons? This is an important question, but it would stall proceedings too much if I discuss it here. Rather, I shall dogmatically affirm what I think the correct answer is, which is that they are raising questions about us, about the nature we fundamentally have. The reason15 for saying that is that philosophers express their answers in claims about themselves, and also argue about the truth of claims about selves (and persons) by considering whether the claims apply to themselves.

  1. Selves and Persons
  2. Some Questions
  3. The Self-Body Problem
  4. Personal Identity
  5. Further Reading

COMMENT: For a write-up, Click here for Note.

In-Page Footnotes ("Snowdon (Paul) - The Self and Personal Identity")

Footnote 2:
  • Anyone uncorrupted by philosophy encountering the three categories I shall sketch will surely feel happy (or at least fairly happy) with them. An implication of some philosophical theories to be considered here would be that the list is either overly restricted or confused. The list does though provide a useful way into the discussion, whatever the ultimate outcome.
Footnote 3:
  • When defining a category of thing in terms of its properties in such a general way care needs to be taken. Thus consider the book you are reading. I think that we would consider a book a physical thing, and hence something that belongs to the first highly general category. But in being a book it has what one might call semantic properties – it says things, or contains features which say things. Saying things is not itself on any ordinary understanding a purely physical property. This indicates that it counts as having solely physical properties only so far as it is considered in itself. The semantic features belong to it in virtue of its relation to people who wrote it and the languages they possess.
  • Note: The claim in the last sentence is interesting. Compare it with the claim made by Lynne Rudder Baker – a supporter of the Constitution View – that a statue is what it is – a statue as distinct from the piece of marble that constitutes it – because of its relation to an art-world.
Footnote 5:
  • Two caveats need entering at this point.
    1. We may think that we know that only we humans are self-conscious, but we should be cautious about excluding all other creatures. The careful study of other animals is in its infancy.
    2. Second, we should not assume the third category can be sharply distinguished from the second. Creatures who are not fully self-conscious may get very close to it!
  • Note:
    1. Some higher animals (eg. chimpanzees & dolphins) clearly pass the mirror test while others that you might expect to on this basis (eg. gorillas) don’t. Others – like elephants – might or might not, it seems.
    2. Personhood may also be a matter of degree, in that the qualities required for being a person may be had to differing degrees.
Footnote 6: Note:
  • We need to watch out here! Both are philosophers’ terms of art, but
  • A Person (Click here for Note) may have a stronger moral claim on us than a Self (Click here for Note)
  • See the above Notes, and the following footnote by Snowdon, for further discussion.
Footnote 7: Note:
  • Is it really?
  • More likely, it’s assumed to be you, full stop.
  • Some have claimed that the whole idea of a self is a bewitchment of grammar, from the reflexive pronoun “myself”.
  • Mind you, one might split “myself” into “my self”, and deduce therefrom that we have selves, but I don’t think people do that.
Footnote 8:
  • There is a contrast between the term "person" and the term "self".
  • It is not really a matter for dispute that each of us is a person. The term "person" just applies to us. So we can test any claim about persons by asking whether the claim applies to each of us.
  • In contrast, the term "self” is sometimes used in a technical way, which means that it is not automatic that each of us is a self. An example of someone who defines it in such a way is Galen Strawson:
      "I will restrict myself to the human case and take it that if anything is to count as a self then it must be a subject of experience and must be non-identical with a human being considered as a whole."
  • Such a definition is of course perfectly legitimate, though I am not adopting any such usage myself Those who speak in some such way face two questions
    1. Why suppose that there are selves in your sense?
    2. Why be interested in that notion?
  • Notes:-
    1. I have “bulleted” Snowdon’s complex footnote to segregate its various claims.
    2. I don’t know why Snowdon states as he does above that the term "person" just applies to us. He knows the philosophical usage of “person”, and that the term can and does come apart from “human animal” – it’s one of the alternative answers to the question “what are we?” to the animalist one he espouses.
    3. Maybe there’s some hidden agenda – much as when Olson uses “people” for the plural of “person”, but does so self-consciously, and tendentiously (it seems to me) and notes that other philosophers would not do so (preferring “persons”, with “people” the term for “us”).
    4. His preference for the “non-standard” use of “Self” is odd. Normally, it would be said that someone with advanced Alzheimer’s would be a Self, but maybe not a Person. Also, I think Frankfurter claimed that those he called Wantons (those without second-order desires) are not Persons (but Self-ish, if not Selves).
    5. Maybe Snowdon’s just read "Strawson (Galen) - The Self?" or "Strawson (Galen) - The Self" and been challenged by it? He doesn’t make clear where his quotation from Galen Strawson is from.
    6. Snowdon’s final two questions could apply just as well to “Person” used as an alleged substance-term.
Footnote 9: Note:
  • Well, substance dualists would disagree.
  • After all, it was obvious to Descartes that he was a mind, rather than had one. He clearly and distinctly perceived himself to be a thinking thing. So there!
  • Of course, he was wrong, but that’s no reason to ignore him completely.
Footnote 10: Note:
  • The initial proposition is false, or question-begging, so the rest of this is a muddle.
Footnote 11: Note:
  • I agree: “human being”, rather than “human animal”.
  • While both Snowdon and I think we are (identical to / most fundamentally) human animals, this is too theoretical an identifications.
  • However, it’s not too clear what a “human being” is: Click here for Note, at least in a philosophical context.
Footnote 12: Note:
  • Yes: a “philosophy student” is a phase sortal.
  • The same is true (I claim) for persons and selves.
Footnote 14: Note:
  • I agree entirely.
  • We have to discover – or at least agree on – what sort of thing we are before we can even start talking about our persistence conditions and raise questions of “personal identity”.
Footnote 15: Note:
  • I think (and I think Olson thinks / thought) that the two questions are run together by most pre-animalist philosophers.
  • They don’t even ask the “what are we?” question, because it’s so obvious – they think – that we are persons or selves.
  • So, the only questions of interest – for them – are what is it that makes this person (or self) – viewed as a fundamentally psychological entity – the same person or self as that one (speaking loosely – the “entities” are picked out by different descriptions, or exist at different times; but, obviously, if they are the very same thing, there is only one of them!).

"Ferrero (Luca) - Action"

Source: Shand (John) - Central Issues of Philosophy, Chapter 10

"Steward (Helen) - Free Will"

Source: Shand (John) - Central Issues of Philosophy, Chapter 11

"Sainsbury (Mark) - Language and Meaning"

Source: Shand (John) - Central Issues of Philosophy, Chapter 12

"Lange (Marc) - Scientific Inquiry"

Source: Shand (John) - Central Issues of Philosophy, Chapter 13

"Dainton (Barry) - Causation and Laws of Nature"

Source: Shand (John) - Central Issues of Philosophy, Chapter 14

"LeBar (Mark) - Ethical Value"

Source: Shand (John) - Central Issues of Philosophy, Chapter 15

"Stratton-Lake (Philip) - Ethical Choice"

Source: Shand (John) - Central Issues of Philosophy, Chapter 16

"Lamarque (Peter) - Artistic Value"

Source: Shand (John) - Central Issues of Philosophy, Chapter 17

"O'Grady (Peter) - Existence of God"

Source: Shand (John) - Central Issues of Philosophy, Chapter 18

"Huemer (Michael) - The State"

Source: Shand (John) - Central Issues of Philosophy, Chapter 19

"Zwolinski (Matt) - Liberty"

Source: Shand (John) - Central Issues of Philosophy, Chapter 20

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