Monday, March 21, 2011

Review "Philosopher's Tool Kit" by Aspenson

A quick overview of "The Philosophers Tool Kit" by Steven Aspenson . This article does not address wheather or not philosophy should be understood as method, but rather if a method is assumed would this be useful to a philosopher. If not useful to a philosopher, could it be a useful teaching tool.

I. Some thoughts
II. Pro/con summery
III. Overall

I. Some Thoughts

  1. Primarily useful in the analytic spectrum of philosophy, but could also be useful in a metaphysics class.
  2. Uses concept maps, graphs and other visual tools to help the student asses arguments.
  3. Useful in assessing arguments in a similar way to the taxonomy of logical fallacies (HERE), in the sense that once one has run through the argument, one can go back and apply his sections on "assessing claims" and "assessing inferences".
  4. It attempts to let the layman or new student to philosophy apply a unrigorous logical analysis and yet still create a conclusion that is not completely without merit.
  5. No student would create a ground breaking paper because of this book, but might avoid many mistakes. 
  6. Is well organized, It can be read though cover to cover or used as a reference tool.
  7. While being almost embarrassingly unexhaustive of philosophical methodology, it is conceivable that an undergraduate student may finish the book if assigned as a companion (only 112 pages).
  8. While we wish every undergraduate had a firm grounding in the advanced logic and argumentation, this is rarely the case. This may provide a quick way to enhance their arguments. 
  9. Could be understood as a short guide to critical thinking within philosophy.

II. Pro/Con Summery: 
For anyone who has decided on philosophy as a career or major life goal, this book has little worth.

The only possible use of this book for a philosopher would be as a check list for mistakes, but because it is not exhaustive, it seems to have little value.

The short length and breadth of topics covered does not allow for any sophisticated use.

The first chapter "Categories, Classification, and Definition", would be of great help to an undergraduates first introduction to the metaphysics of ancient philosophy, particular Aristotle. At only 26 pages it is short and would provide a grounding for thinking about Aristotle's metaphysics.

It could help undergraduates make better arguments. 

It may help undergraduates with little experience in logic or critical thinking understand how to asses arguments. 

It is short enough to work as a companion for a intro course on ancient philosophy, metaphysics or philosophical argumentation.

It is organized in such a way that it can be read cover to cover (rather haltingly) or as a simple reference.

The definitional way in which it is written would allow for simple quizzes.

Could be used as a companion to an intro class merely to help students understand why their argument has failed, and thus you did not give them an A.

The book may be used in other undergraduate classes, and so has some lasting value.

III. Overall:
Could be useful at the undergraduate level for some students, close to useless at any higher level of philosophical analysis.

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