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The Big Questions: A Short Introduction to Philosophy 9th Edition

Robert C. Solomon, Kathleen M. Higgins

  • Published
  • Previous Editions 2010, 2006, 2002
  • 464 Pages


Solomon and Higgins's engaging text covers philosophy's central ideas in an accessible, approachable manner. Through an exploration of timeless "big questions" about the self, God, justice, and other meaningful topics, the authors provide students with the context they need for an understanding of the foundational issues, while giving them the impetus and confidence to establish their own informed positions on these "big questions." To give you the flexibility to fit the book to your course, the authors have designed each chapter with self-contained discussions, thus making it easy for you to choose your preferred topics and presentation order. Available with InfoTrac® Student Collections

Robert C. Solomon, University of Texas, Austin

Robert C. Solomon (1942-2007) was internationally renowned as a teacher and lecturer in philosophy. He was Quincy Lee Centennial Professor and Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Texas at Austin. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and over the course of his career taught at numerous institutions, including Princeton University, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Auckland, and the University of California, in addition to the University of Texas. He authored more than 40 books, including Introducing Philosophy, A Short History of Philosophy (with Kathleen Higgins), The Passions, In the Spirit of Hegel, About Love, Above the Bottom Line, Fourth Edition (with Clancy Martin), Ethics and Excellence, The Joy of Philosophy, and True to Our Feelings, and he was co-editor of Twenty Questions, Fifth Edition (with Lee Bowie and Meredith Michaels), and Since Socrates (with Clancy Martin).

Kathleen M. Higgins, University of Texas, Austin

Kathleen M. Higgins is professor at the University of Texas at Austin. She received her Ph.D. from Yale University and has taught at the University of Auckland and the University of California, Riverside, in addition to the University of Texas. She is the author of several books, including Nietzsche's "Zarathustra," The Music of Our Lives, Comic Relief: Nietzsche's "Gay Science," The Music between Us: Is Music the Universal Language? and co-author of What Nietzsche Really Said, A Short History of Philosophy, and A Passion for Wisdom (with Robert C. Solomon). She has edited or co-edited numerous books, including Aesthetics in Perspective and Thirteen Questions in Ethics and Social Philosophy, Second Edition (with Lee Bowie and Meredith Michaels).
  • In the new edition, the author has summarized the general layout of each chapter toward the beginning of each chapter.
  • InfoTrac® Student Collections are specialized databases expertly drawn from the Gale Academic One library. Each InfoTrac® Student Collection enhances the student learning experience in the specific course area related to the product. These specialized databases allow access to hundreds of scholarly and popular publications - all reliable sources - including journals, encyclopedias, and academic reports. Learn more and access at:
  • The boxes found throughout the text have been put into three categories: "Quotations/Excerpts" offer a wide variety of excerpts from key philosophical writings, as well as relevant popular sources. "Biographical" boxes provides a glimpse into the lives of many of the philosophers covered in the main text. "Informational" boxes set forth the beliefs of individuals and philosophical movements and point out links between philosophical theory and its application to societies worldwide.
  • Chapter 10 is now exclusively about non-Western philosophy, and the coverage of African American philosophy and feminist philosophy has mostly been shifted to Chapter 9 (the chapter on justice), except for the discussion of feminist ethics, which is now in Chapter 8 (the chapter on the good life).
  • The author has expanded a number of topics throughout the book, including Berkeley's arguments against material substance (Chapter 4); Descartes's argument for the existence of God and the external world (Chapter 5); feminist ethics (Chapter 8); and (to some extent) artistic censorship (Chapter 11).
  • Some topics that were not or were barely discussed in the previous edition have been included: the non-traditional conceptions of God of Karl Rahner and Marcus Borg (Chapter 3); string theory (Chapter 4); Descartes's wax argument (Chapter 5); two of Derek Parfit's teleporter cases (Chapter 6); eliminative materialism (Chapter 6); Benjamin Libet's empirical basis for denying free will (Chapter 7); Harry Frankfurt's critique of the of the Principle of Alternative Possibilities as a basis for moral responsibility (Chapter 7); the trolley problem (Chapter 8); Plato's account of the Ring of Gyges and the question of piety in the Euthyphro (Chapter 8); the morality of patriotism and partiality more generally(Chapter 9); just war theory (Chapter 9); cosmopolitanism (Chapter 9); contemporary art and debates over what makes something art (Chapter 11).
  • This engaging text is organized around a series of timeless "big questions" such as the meaning of life, God, and morality, giving students of all backgrounds and interest levels a useful, relevant context to approach key philosophical concepts, explore their own ideas, and form their own opinions as they examine each topic.
  • By starting the discussion in each chapter from the positions and opinions often held by typical first- and second-year students, the authors engage the students in "doing" philosophy right from the start and then, using their signature conversational style, guide students Socratically through an analysis of the issues surrounding each of the big questions.
  • Throughout the text, special boxed features present excerpts from primary sources to expose students to fundamental works in the history of philosophy, allowing them to benefit from a more informed perspective without the need to confront difficult or intimidating texts in their entirety.
  • Biographical descriptions of famous philosophers and their views help students recognize philosophical ideas and texts as the work of real people with experiences and struggles relevant to students' own lives, providing an invaluable human connection to help them understand and appreciate even difficult course material.
Beyond Buzzwords, Articulation and Argument: Two Crucial Features of Philosophy, Concepts and Conceptual Frameworks, Doing Philosophy with Style, A Little Logic, Deduction, Induction, Criticizing Arguments, Closing Questions, Suggested Readings.
What is Philosophy?, Opening Questions, Suggested Readings.
Opening Questions, What Kind of Meaning?, The Meanings of Life, Closing Questions, Suggested Readings.
3. GOD.
Opening Questions, Believing in God, Gods and Goddesses, The Traditional Western Conceptions of God, The Problem of Evil, Faith and Reason: Grounds for Believing , Religious Tolerance: Ritual, Tradition and Spirituality, Doubts, Closing Questions, Suggested Readings.
Opening Questions, The Real World, What is Most Real?, The First Metaphysicians, Early Nonphysical Views of Reality, Plato’s Forms , Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Mind and Metaphysics, Idealism, Taleology, Metaphysics and the Everyday World, Closing Questions, Suggested Readings.
Opening Questions, What is True?, Two Kinds of Truth, Rationalism and Empiricism, Three Presuppositions of Knowledge, Skepticism, Knowledge, Truth, and Science, The Nature of Truth, Rationality, Subjective Truth and the Problem of Relativism, Closing Questions , Suggested Readings.
6. SELF.
Opening Questions, The Essential Self, The Self and Its Emotions, The Egocentric Predicament, The Mind-Body Problem, Other Theories of the Self, Closing Questions, Suggested Readings.
Opening Questions, Freedom and the Good Life, Free Will and Determinism, Closing Questions, Suggested Readings.
Opening Questions, Moral Philosophy, The Good Life, Egoism Versus Altruism, Morality and Theories of Morality, Duty-Defined Morality, Consequentialist Theories, Aristotle and the Ethics of Virtue, Feminist Ethics: The Ethics of Care, Morality – Relative or Absolute?, Friedrich Nietzsche and the Attack on Morality, Closing Questions, Suggested Readings.
Opening Questions, Morals and Society, The Nature of Society, Who Should Rule? The Question of Legitimacy, Anarchism, the Free Market, and the Need for Government, What is Justice?, The Meaning of Equality, The Origins of Justice and Social Contract, Justice Beyond Our Borders, Rights and the Self, Justice Denied: The Problem of Race, Sexual Politics: The Rise of Feminist Philosophy, Closing Questions, Suggested Readings.
Opening Questions, Beyond the Western Tradition, The Challenges of Broadening Our Horizons, Other Cultures, Other Philosophies, Closing Questions, Suggested Readings.
Opening Questions, Aesthetics, Beauty and Truth, Enjoying Tragedy, Arguing About Taste, Art, Ethics, and Religion, Why is Art?, The Aesthetics of Popular Culture, Closing Questions, Suggested Readings.
Appendix A: Writing Philosophy.
Opening Questions, The Rules of Good Writing in Philosophy, Indirect Styles, Suggested Readings.
Appendix B: Deductive Logic Valued Argument Forms.
Appendix C: Common Informal Falacies.
Informal Fallacies .

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  • STARTING AT $14.49

  • ISBN-10: 1285683110
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  • ISBN-10: 1133610641
  • ISBN-13: 9781133610649
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"THE BIG QUESTIONS could serve well as the backbone for almost any introductory philosophy course you might offer. . . . The table of contents is admirably comprehensive, clear, and structured. It covers practically every topic that someone might wish to discuss in an introductory course for philosophy, and by going into a fair amount of depth it provides the reader with an overall picture of the topics canvassed."

"Reading this text is like listening to a pair of learned, witty, and altogether fascinating lecturers."

"The author's writing is superbly clear and accessible, perfectly pitched to the freshman and introductory student to capture his/her imagination and intellect."

"Teachable and topically engaging for students."

"Engaging. Very thought-worthy information is presented in this book, such as issues about feminism, metaphysics, and the self. The authors are obviously knowledgeable about a wide range of topics, philosophers, and the history of philosophy, both Eastern and Western, that makes this book a worthy read and worth keeping in one's own library of philosophy books."

"Much the best of the introductory texts that I have seen."

Cengage provides a range of supplements that are updated in coordination with the main title selection. For more information about these supplements, contact your Learning Consultant.


Instructor's Companion Website

ISBN: 9781305956261
Everything you need for your course in one place! This collection of product-specific lecture and class tools is available online via the instructor resource center at

Cengage Learning Testing, powered by Cognero® Instant Access

ISBN: 9781337288026
Cengage Learning Testing, powered by Cognero® is a flexible, online system that allows you to import, edit, and manipulate content from the text’s test bank or elsewhere, including your own favorite test questions; create multiple test versions in an instant; and deliver tests from your LMS, your classroom, or wherever you want.