Introduction (Updated for the Fourth Edition)

Heather Wilburn, Ph.D

Philosophical Thought: Across Cultures and through the Ages, is an open-educational resource (OER) to be used as a collection of readings for introductory philosophy courses. The objectives for developing and sharing this open resource are three-fold:

  1. to provide a collection of philosophical works that can be used as a foundation for faculty and students to use in undergraduate philosophy courses
  2. to provide a resource that is free to students
  3. to provide a resource that compiles philosophical thought from a variety of cultures and eras

The works included in this book come from a wide range of sources. However, this book is indebted to Henry Imler’s editorial work on Sapientia and Phronesis, both of which are OER texts available on Pressbooks.

This book is organized into the following seven units:

Unit I: What is Philosophy?

Unit II: Metaphysics

Unit III: Epistemology

Unit IV: How Should One Live

Unit V: Justice

Unit VI: Aesthetics

Unit VII: Existentialism

Within each unit, there are a number of chapters. Additionally, you will find a page with online resources in the book to supplement these units as well as various other philosophical content.

This book would not be possible without the technical work of Jamie M. Holmes, MLS, a Reference, Instruction and OER Librarian at Tulsa Community College, and Jennifer Brummett, formerly a student in the University of Oklahoma School of Library & Information Studies program.

Fourth Edition note: The fourth edition, like the third, primarily includes new chapters* intended to bring additional context to help make the original texts more accessible to students of philosophy, and we’ve added more interactivity in a handful of chapters, both existing and new.

One big change to note is that we removed the numbering from the chapters.  We hope this accomplishes a few things:

  • Reduces the possibility of confusion as the book moves through editions; chapter titles won’t change even when content is added, removed, or re-ordered
  • Reinforces and highlights the thematic organization of the book, rather than implying or suggesting a linear path
  • Increases, if even just slightly, familiarity with philosophers, their works, and themes included

*The new chapters are listed below in the “Summer Version” note. While they are no longer numbered as shown below, they do appear in the units as shown below. 

Summary of Changes made in the 3rd Edition to create the “summer version” of the Fourth Edition:

Two chapters were moved from Unit 1 to Unit 2:

  • Selected Reading from St. Augustine’s “The City of God” -was chapter 8, now chapter 25
  • Selected Reading from St. Augustine’s “On the Holy Trinity” – was chapter 9, now chapter 26

Chapters added to this new edition (13):

Unit 2:

  • Ch. 10: A Critical Comparison between Plato’s Socrates and Xenophon’s Socrates in the Face of Death
  • Ch. 16: An Introduction to Self and Atman
  • Ch. 20: An Introduction to “What is a chariot? (What are we?)”
  • Ch. 27: Augustine’s Treatment of the Problem of Evil

Unit 3:

  • Ch 44: Why Time Is In Your Mind
  • Ch. 50: Jean Piaget on Reasoning and Logic
  • Ch. 51: Johnson-Laird on Reasoning & Logic

Unit 4:

  • Ch. 65: Reason and Emotion in Moral Life

Unit 5:

  • Ch. 76: Rousseau’s Social Contract Theory
  • Ch. 77: Selected Readings from Jean-Jacques Rosseau’s The Social Contract & Discourses
  • Ch. 88: Republican Freedom
  • Ch. 89: Contemporary Just War Theory
  • Ch. 90: How Can Punishment be Justified?

Most of the chapters added to this latest revision are made possible by funding from the Tulsa Community College Foundation. You’ll find these chapters marked with the Foundation logo:

TCC Foundation logo



Summary of changes made in the 3rd Edition:

Unit 1:

  • Ch. 4: Philosophy: Who Needs It
  • Ch. 7: Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
  • Ch. 8: Selected Reading from St. Augustine’s “The City of God”
  • Ch. 9: Selected Reading from St. Augustine’s “On the Holy Trinity”

Unit 2:

  • Ch. 11: Plato’s “Simile of the Sun and “The Divided Line”
  • Ch. 15: An Introduction to Aristotle’s Metaphysics
  • Ch. 20: What is a Chariot? (And what are we?)
  • Ch. 24: Aquinas’s Five Proofs for the Existence of God
  • Ch. 29: Selections from Pascal’s Pensées

Unit 3:

  • Ch. 33: Selected Readings from Russell’s The Problems of Philosophy
  • Ch. 37: Selections from A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (Berkeley)
  • Ch. 40: Selected Readings on Immanuel Kant’s Transcendental Idealism

Unit 5:

  • Ch. 67: Original Acquisition
  • Ch. 72: On Marxism and Value
  • Ch. 76: Social Contracts of Exploitation


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Introduction (Updated for the Fourth Edition) Copyright © 2020 by Heather Wilburn, Ph.D is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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