General Discussion: Introduction to Philosophy


  • administrators

    Hi all,

    Our first order of business is to come up with a TOC, then figure out who will do what.

    So we are starting with a very, very skeletal Table of Contents (“developed” by @clhendricksbc and me) which you can find here:
    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1a71X6Qs45W0W8_oM7p3zdEQdFTNd5VRJ4zMzaEEHefM/edit#gid=0

    (this should be editable).
    UPDATE: this is a proposed TOC, but is not set in stone.

    Roughly speaking, we are trying to fill out the following sections:

    • Metaphysics
    • Logic
    • Epistemology
    • Aesthetics
    • Politics
    • Ethics

    (Should we add anything? Take anything away? This is your book to shape!).

    I think in an ideal world we would get a “section editor” for each section, who would be responsible for:

    • writing one chapter
    • helping to find some more contributors to fill out the section (note we can help with this).

    So: any volunteers? ;-)

    Also note: in discussions with @clhendricksbc we agreed that adapting or repurposing existing OER chapters/sections would be perfectly fine.

    You will notice the second tab in that Google Sheet, there is a list of people who have posted here, with a stab at filling in some info about institutions, domain expertise, and what people have volunteered to do. Please correct any errors I have made in there (it should be editable).

    If I understood the posts above correctly, we have the following willing to contribute:

    So, we seem to have lots of expertise in Ethics! A bit light elsewhere.

    But given our group here, are there volunteers to take on “editorship” of a section listed above? We can work out together exactly what that means.

    OK… over to all of you. Thoughts?



  • I do want to say that I think this draft ToC is negotiable. It’s a first step but I’m not saying this has to be exactly what we do. This is based on some other philosophy textbooks’ ToC’s.

    A couple of questions:

    1. We don’t have sections for some of the expertises listed here, e.g. existentialism, Phil of Mind, others. Should we? How should we decide what should be included and what not?

    2. There are several great logic open textbooks out there (see links in this post: http://blog.apaonline.org/2016/12/06/open-educational-resources-in-the-philosophy-classroom/) . Maybe the logic section should be somewhat of a basic overview with links out to other works for more detailed stuff?


  • administrators

    Agreed. This is in no way set in stone! It’s up for discussion definitely.

    Another note: this textbook needn’t be considered “set in stone” … we could, for instance, focus on a subset of sections, and consider each section as stand-alone, with a the overall book being made up of a collection of sections that could continue to expand long into the future.

    And, perhaps, profs in the future could select from a subset of sections they want to teach, & produce a “tailored” textbook based on their particular needs.


  • administrators

    You can count me in on helping out on the technical side of things, especially on the ebook which I know from experience can occasionally be quite tricky.


  • administrators

    thanks @baldur!



  • I would be interested in helping out with aesthetics–maybe even taking on the editorship of the section, depending on what is involved in that.


  • administrators

    @cliftows Excellent! So … we’re not quite sure what is involved in editorship of a section of collaborative Open Textbook. That’s part of what we are discovering, together!

    But I think it’s probably along the lines of:

    • outlining roughly what we’d want in that section
    • probably contributing an intro or chapter
    • helping wrangle one or two other contributions … (we will work with you on this!)

    …So, I propose we sign you as the Editor of the Aesthetics section (with the understanding that we don’t quite know how things will play out, and there is always, if absolutely necessary, an escape hatch!).

    NOTE: as mentioned above, we are OK with this project to incorporate existing OER content, so that everything needn’t be original or unpublished.

    What do you say?



  • @cliftows Just a quick question; trying to find out who everyone is! I did a search on your username and also “philosophy” and came here: http://www.wscottclifton.com/

    Is that you? :slight_smile:


  • administrators

    @clhendricksbc note on the TOC google sheet there is a second tab/page with “People” …that includes some of my spelunking!



  • @hugh Sounds good to me. And yes, that is my website and me. :)


  • administrators

    Hi @joll.nicholas, agreed, we need to hash out a clearer vision for what the book is, and what its purpose is. And this is something I think we as a group need to agree on broadly.

    I can take a stab at a more robust proposal of objectives for the book, as a non-domain expert involved in the project … as a starting point. Let me see if I can get something up today, again, meant only as a starting point.



  • @joll.nicholas Yes, good questions. Mostly I wanted to create something that could be broadly usable by lots of people, and the main thing was to make it free and openly licensed so it can be revised by others to take out what they don’t want, add what they do, etc.

    I think these broader questions do need to be hashed out by us. My own thoughts are to make it just some basic introductions to various fields that are aimed at students entirely new to philosophy. When we do that, we inevitably make some arguments, at least about what we think the fields are like, the main questions, etc. But I’m not thinking of this as a place to create entirely original arguments as if we were writing chapters for an anthology, for example.

    Just a couple of quick thoughts…



  • @clhendricksbc Sorry–replied to the wrong message. Yes–that is me.


  • administrators

    I promised @joll.nicholas and @clhendricksbc a (draft! up for discussion!) brief proposal for “what is this book supposed to be.”

    I have one below, but before I talk about this specific book, I want to quickly talk about our vision at the Rebus Community for Open Textbooks, and what we are trying to do.

    About the Rebus Philosophy to Open Textbooks

    At Rebus, we believe in the value of books, of textbooks and especially of Open Textbooks. However, we do not consider Open Textbooks as static, finished things. Things that just get read for free.

    Rather we see Open Textbooks as building blocks for further intellectual explorations — and the “Open” part makes that building much, much more interesting.

    In particular, we see Open Textbooks not simply as “free” books.

    The “costless” aspect of an Open Textbook is in some ways its least important freedom-attribute, compared with the other freedoms that come with Open Textbooks: the freedom to build upon, to remix, to reuse, to revise, redistribute.

    Open Textbooks — if created and published at scale — can serve as basic framework for an “intellectual public resource”, a resource that can and should be built upon, used and elaborated upon, repurposed and repackaged in many different ways.

    (For more writing about our thoughts on books, and Open Textbooks, see here here and here.)

    So thinking about that context broadly, our vision is, eventually, to have a complete “map of the basic building blocks of knowledge” available as Open Textbooks. (Yes! We recognize that such an ambition is, of course, epistemologically impossible! But it’s still a mental model when we are thinking about what we are trying to do: Providing the source code of knowledge, that can built upon).

    This ambition means not just that these Open Textbooks/building blocks are free, but even more important that these building blocks can be used to build new educational experiences, new books, new iterations.

    So, while we are excited about any Open Textbook we can help usher into the world — regardless of how specific or obscure its subject or approach — we have a particular interest in laying down the basic frameworks of knowledge. So that, for instance, the “Introduction to X” might be most useful as a basic introduction to the ideas of, for want of a better term, “the cannon of X,” with an expectation that future iterations, or versions, or companion works can build on this starting point, criticize it and question it.

    This is not to say that we hope a Rebus Community-supported “Intro to X” is a dull, personality-free reporting of the history of “X.” But rather that such an “Intro to X” covers the aspects generally agreed to be important to know about “X” … while still leaving space for more idiosyncratic explorations within the text.

    And, we hope that, once published, a Rebus supported “Introduction to X” can become a starting point for new explorations and iterations, building on the text itself.

    All of that is a preamble to a DRAFT! FOR DISCUSSION! proposal about this specific project. Note that this book needn’t go this direction.

    About The “Introduction to Philosophy”

    (DRAFT PROPOSAL! TO DISCUSS!): Brief Project Scope

    This Open Textbook “Introduction to Philosophy” should be, firstly, an accessible introduction to philosophy, suitable for college or university students taking a philosophy class for the first time.

    As such, the book should:

    • cover a broad range of the fundamental ideas in philosophy
    • present these fundamental ideas in a clear and accessible way
    • focus (first) on presenting existing arguments, rather than making novel arguments

    As an Open Textbook, this Introduction should be considered the starting point: a reasonably complete (eventually), and relatively accessible “map” of the important intellectual traditions of philosophy.

    But it should also be considered a framework upon which further (open) explorations could easily be built, further sections or additional materials added, by a professor for a particular class, by students as part of course work, or by future contributors (or current contributors) to the project itself.

    While the “unified” nature of a collection of contributions from different authors is a challenge, it should be an ambition of the project (though how we achieve that ambition is open to discussion!).



  • I have recently graduated with a master’s degree in philosophy. I mostly focused on epistemology and philosophy of mind, but had also done philosophy of science, and a bit of ethics. The first two I could contribute the most about. My bachelor’s degree was in a technical field, so maybe I could help with a chapter on symbolic logic.


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