What is this thing called Philosophy?: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

What is this thing called Philosophy?

1st Edition

Edited by Duncan Pritchard


394 pages

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What is this thing called Philosophy? is the definitive textbook for all who want a thorough introduction to the field. It introduces philosophy using a question-led approach that reflects the discursive nature of the discipline. Edited by Duncan Pritchard, each section is written by a high-profile contributor focusing on a key area of philosophy, and contains three or four question-based chapters offering an accessible point of engagement.

The core areas of philosophy covered are:

  • Ethics
  • Political Philosophy
  • Aesthetics
  • Epistemology
  • Philosophy of Mind
  • Metaphysics
  • Philosophy of Science
  • Philosophy of Religion
  • The Meaning of Life.

The accompanying Routledge companion website features valuable online resources for both instructors and students including links to audio and video material, multiple-choice questions, interactive flashcards, essay questions and annotated further reading. This is the essential textbook for students approaching the study of philosophy for the first time.


What Is This Thing Called Philosophy? is an impressive book. The range of topics is excellent and covers much that is both humanly engaging and philosophically important. There is great clarity and intellectual commitment in the writing – a fine resource for anyone new to philosophy.’

Stephen Hetherington, University of New South Wales, Australia

"What is this thing called Philosophy? is an excellent, wide ranging and stimulating textbook, written by first rate academics. Both deep and lively, it introduces the main contemporary issues in the major areas of philosophy and will no doubt be of great service to anyone approaching the field for the first time."

Claudine Tiercelin, Collège de France and Institut Jean Nicod, France

"This is a wonderful book! A collection of short, engaging and surprisingly accessible chapters, written by leading authors in the field. This is a welcome development – a non-technical introduction to philosophy's central questions."

John Greco, Saint Louis University, USA

Table of Contents


What is philosophy?

1. Ethics

What is ethics?

What is metaethics?

What is normative ethics?

What is applied ethics?

2. Political Philosophy

What is freedom?

What is justice?

What is global justice?

3. Aesthetics

What is art?

What is aesthetic experience?

What is aesthetic judgement?

4. Epistemology

What is knowledge?

Is knowledge valuable?

Do we have any knowledge? 

5. Philosophy of Mind

What is consciousness?

What is perception?

What are emotions?

6. Metaphysics

What is metaphysics?

How do we do metaphysics?

Is our world structured?

7. Philosophy of Science

What is science?

Can we trust scientific models?

Is science getting closer to the truth?

8. Philosophy of Religion

What are God’s properties?

Is belief that God exists reasonable?

Is faith in God reasonable?

9. The Meaning of Life

Must God exist for your life to be meaningful?

Must your life never come to an end for it to be meaningful?

How might a meaningful life be possible in a purely physical world? 


Glossary of Key Terms


About the Authors/Editor

Duncan Pritchard FRSE is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, UK. His main research area is epistemology, and he has published widely in this field, including the monographs Epistemic Luck (2005), The Nature and Value of Knowledge (with A. Millar & A. Haddock, 2010), Epistemological Disjunctivism (2012), and Epistemic Angst (2015). In 2007 he was awarded a Phillip Leverhulme Prize for his research. In 2011 he was elected to a Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Michael Brady is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Glasgow.

Berit Brogaard is Professor and Director of the Brogaard Lab for Multisensory Research at the University of Miami.

Thom Brooks is Professor of Law and Government at Durham University.

Axel Gelfert is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the National University of Singapore.

Tim Mawson is Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at Oxford University.

Thaddeus Metz is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Johannesburg.

Kristie Miller is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sydney.

Kathleen Stock is Reader in Philosophy at the University of Sussex.

About the Series

What is this thing called?

The Routledge Philosophy What is this thing called? series of concise textbooks have been designed for use by students coming to a core area of the discipline for the first time. Each volume explores the relevant central questions with clear explanation of complex ideas and engaging contemporary examples. Features to aid study include text boxes, chapter summaries, study questions, further reading and glossaries.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings: