Little Debates About Big Questions
Philosophy asks questions about the fundamental nature of reality, our place in the world, and what we should do. Some of these questions are perennial: for example, Do we have free will? What is morality? Some are much newer: for example, How far should free speech on campus extend? Are race, sex and gender social constructs? But all of these are among the big questions in philosophy and they remain controversial.
Each book in the Little Debates About Big Questions series features two professors on opposite sides of a big question. Each author presents their own side, and the authors then exchange objections and replies. Short, lively, and accessible, these debates showcase diverse and deep answers. Pedagogical features include standard form arguments, section summaries, bolded key terms and principles, glossaries, and annotated reading lists.
The debate format is an ideal way to learn about controversial topics. Whereas the usual essay or book risks overlooking objections against its own proposition or misrepresenting the opposite side, in a debate each side can make their case at equal length, and then present objections the other side must consider. Debates have a more conversational and fun style too, and we selected particularly talented philosophers—in substance and style—for these kinds of encounters.
Debates can be combative—sometimes even descending into anger and animosity. But debates can also be cooperative. While our authors disagree strongly, they work together to help each other and the reader get clearer on the ideas, arguments, and objections. This is intellectual progress, and a much-needed model for civil and constructive disagreement.
The substance and style of the debates will captivate interested readers new to the questions. But there’s enough to interest experts too. The debates will be especially useful for courses in philosophy and related subjects—whether as primary or secondary readings—and a few debates can be combined to make up the reading for an entire course.
We thank the authors for their help in constructing this series. We are honored to showcase their work. They are all preeminent scholars or rising-stars in their fields, and through these debates they share what’s been discovered with a wider audience. This is a paradigm for public philosophy, and will impress upon students, scholars, and other interested readers the enduring importance of debating the big questions.
Tyron Goldschmidt, Fellow of the Rutgers Center for Philosophy of Religion, USA
Dustin Crummett, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany
Is Political Authority an Illusion? A Debate
Is There a God? A Debate
Do We Have Free Will? A Debate
By Steven McMullen, James R. Otteson
December 20, 2022
A central contested issue in contemporary economics and political philosophy is whether governments should redistribute wealth. In this book, a philosopher and an economist debate this question. James Otteson argues that respect for individual persons requires that the government should usually not...
By Michael Huemer, Daniel Layman
November 10, 2021
What gives some people the right to issue commands to everyone else and force everyone else to obey them? And why should people obey the commands of those with political power? These two key questions are the heart of the issue of political authority, and, in this volume, two philosophers debate ...
By Graham Oppy, Kenneth L. Pearce
October 13, 2021
Bertrand Russell famously quipped that he didn’t believe in God for the same reason that he didn’t believe in a teapot in orbit between the earth and Mars: it is a bizarre assertion for which no evidence can be provided. Is belief in God really like belief in Russell’s teapot? Kenneth L. Pearce ...
By Robert H Kane, Carolina Sartorio
September 30, 2021
In this little but profound volume, Robert Kane and Carolina Sartorio debate a perennial question: Do We Have Free Will? Kane introduces and defends libertarianism about free will: free will is incompatible with determinism; we are free; we are not determined. Sartorio introduces and defends ...