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Nietzsche's The Gay Science (1882/1887) is a deeply personal book, yet also an important work of philosophy. Nietzsche conceives it as a philosophical autobiography, a record of his own self-transformation. In beautifully composed aphorisms he communicates his central experience of overcoming pessimism and recovering the capacity to affirm joyfully the tragedy of life. On the basis of his experiments in living, Nietzsche articulates his most famous philosophical concepts and images: the death of God, the exercise of eternal recurrence, and the ideal of self-fashioning. This book explains the ancient and modern philosophical contexts that shape Nietzsche's central concern with the affirmation of life. It surveys Nietzsche's philosophy as a whole, explains the pivotal place of The Gay Science as the source of his ideal of tragic joy, and shows how he revives an ancient conception of philosophy as a way of life and the philosopher as physician.
George Berkeley's Principles of Human Knowledge is a crucial text in the history of empiricism and in the history of philosophy more generally. Its central and seemingly astonishing claim is that the physical world cannot exist independently of the perceiving mind. The meaning of this claim, the powerful arguments in its favour, and the system in which it is embedded, are explained in a highly lucid and readable fashion and placed in their historical context. Berkeley's philosophy is, in part, a response to the deep tensions and problems in the new philosophy of the early modern period and the reader is offered an account of this intellectual milieu. The book then follows the order and substance of the Principles whilst drawing on materials from Berkeley's other writings. This volume is the ideal introduction to Berkeley's Principles and will be of great interest to historians of philosophy in general.
If the greatness of a philosophical work can be measured by the volume and vehemence of the public response, there is little question that Rousseau's Social Contract stands out as a masterpiece. Within a week of its publication in 1762 it was banished from France. Soon thereafter, Rousseau fled to Geneva, where he saw the book burned in public. At the same time, many of his contemporaries, such as Kant, considered Rousseau to be 'the Newton of the moral world', as he was the first philosopher to draw attention to the basic dignity of human nature. The Social Contract has never ceased to be read and debated in the 250 years since its publication. Rousseau's Social Contract: An Introduction offers a thorough and systematic tour of this notoriously paradoxical and challenging text. David Lay Williams offers readers a chapter-by-chapter reading of the Social Contract, squarely confronting these interpretive obstacles. The book also features a special extended appendix dedicated to outlining Rousseau's famous conception of the general will, which has been the object of controversy since the Social Contract's publication in 1762.
The Crisis of the European Sciences is Husserl's last and most influential book, written in Nazi Germany where he was discriminated against as a Jew. It incisively identifies the urgent moral and existential crises of the age and defends the relevance of philosophy at a time of both scientific progress and political barbarism. It is also a response to Heidegger, offering Husserl's own approach to the problems of human finitude, history and culture. The Crisis introduces Husserl's influential notion of the 'life-world' – the pre-given, familiar environment that includes both 'nature' and 'culture' – and offers the best introduction to his phenomenology as both method and philosophy. Dermot Moran's rich and accessible introduction to the Crisis explains its intellectual and political context, its philosophical motivations and the themes that characterize it. His book will be invaluable for students and scholars of Husserl's work and of phenomenology in general.
David Hume's A Treatise of Human Nature (1739–40) presents the most important account of skepticism in the history of modern philosophy. In this lucid and thorough introduction to the work, John P. Wright examines the development of Hume's ideas in the Treatise, their relation to eighteenth-century theories of the imagination and passions, and the reception they received when Hume published the Treatise. He explains Hume's arguments concerning the inability of reason to establish the basic beliefs which underlie science and morals, as well as his arguments showing why we are nevertheless psychologically compelled to accept such beliefs. The book will be a valuable guide for those seeking to understand the nature of modern skepticism and its connection with the founding of the human sciences during the Enlightenment.
A Theory of Justice, by John Rawls, is widely regarded as the most important twentieth-century work of Anglo-American political philosophy. It transformed the field by offering a compelling alternative to the dominant utilitarian conception of social justice. The argument for this alternative is, however, complicated and often confusing. In this book Jon Mandle carefully reconstructs Rawls's argument, showing that the most common interpretations of it are often mistaken. For example, Rawls does not endorse welfare-state capitalism, and he is not a 'luck egalitarian' as is widely believed. Mandle also explores the relationship between A Theory of Justice and the developments in Rawls's later work, Political Liberalism, as well as discussing some of the most influential criticisms in the secondary literature. His book will be an invaluable guide for anyone seeking to engage with this ground-breaking philosophical work.
Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morality (1887) is a forceful, perplexing, important book, radical in its own time and profoundly influential ever since. This introductory textbook offers a comprehensive, close reading of the entire work, with a section-by-section analysis that also aims to show how the Genealogy holds together as an integrated whole. The Genealogy is helpfully situated within Nietzsche's wider philosophy, and occasional interludes examine supplementary topics that further enhance the reader's understanding of the text. Two chapters examine how the Genealogy relates to standard questions in moral and political philosophy. Written in a clear, accessible style, this book will appeal to students at every level coming to read the Genealogy for the first time, and a wider range of readers will also benefit from nuanced interpretations of controversial elements in Nietzsche's work.
Immanuel Kant's Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals of 1785 is one of the most profound and important works in the history of practical philosophy. In this introduction to the Groundwork, Sally Sedgwick provides a guide to Kant's text that follows the course of his discussion virtually paragraph by paragraph. Her aim is to convey Kant's ideas and arguments as clearly and simply as possible, without getting lost in scholarly controversies. Her introductory chapter offers a useful overview of Kant's general approach to practical philosophy, and she also explores and clarifies some of the main assumptions which Kant relies on in his Groundwork but defends in his Critique of Pure Reason. The book will be a valuable guide for all who are interested in Kant's practical philosophy.
This book introduces Hegel's best-known and most influential work, Phenomenology of Spirit, by interpreting it as a unified argument for a single philosophical claim: that human beings achieve their freedom through retrospective self-understanding. In clear, non-technical prose, Larry Krasnoff sets this claim in the context of the history of modern philosophy and shows how it is developed in the major sections of Hegel's text. The result is an accessible and engaging guide to one of the most complex and important works of nineteenth-century philosophy, which will be of interest to all students and teachers working in this area.
In Being and Time Heidegger gives an account of the distinctive features of human existence, in an attempt to answer the question of the meaning of being. He finds that underlying all of these features is what he calls 'original time'. In this clear and straightforward introduction to the text, Paul Gorner takes the reader through the work, examining its detail and explaining the sometimes difficult language which Heidegger uses. The topics which he covers include being-in-the-world, being-with, thrownness and projection, truth, authenticity, time and being, and historicity. His book makes Being and Time accessible to students in a way that conveys the essence of Heidegger's project and remains true to what is distinctive about his thinking.
In this introductory textbook to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, Jill Vance Buroker explains the role of this first Critique in Kant's Critical project and offers a line-by-line reading of the major arguments in the text. She situates Kant's views in relation both to his predecessors and to contemporary debates, explaining his Critical philosophy as a response to the failure of rationalism and the challenge of skepticism. Paying special attention to Kant's notoriously difficult vocabulary, she explains the strengths and weaknesses of his arguments, while leaving the final assessment up to the reader. Intended to be read alongside the Critique (also published by Cambridge University Press as part of The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant in Translation), this guide is accessible to readers with little background in the history of philosophy, but should also be a valuable resource for more advanced students.
Spinoza's Ethics is one of the most remarkable, important, and difficult books in the history of philosophy: a treatise simultaneously on metaphysics, knowledge, philosophical psychology, moral philosophy, and political philosophy. It presents, in Spinoza's famous 'geometric method', his radical views on God, Nature, the human being, and happiness. In this wide-ranging 2006 introduction to the work, Steven Nadler explains the doctrines and arguments of the Ethics, and shows why Spinoza's endlessly fascinating ideas may have been so troubling to his contemporaries, as well as why they are still highly relevant today. He also examines the philosophical background to Spinoza's thought and the dialogues in which Spinoza was engaged - with his contemporaries (including Descartes and Hobbes), with ancient thinkers (especially the Stoics), and with his Jewish rationalist forebears. His book is written for the student reader but will also be of interest to specialists in early modern philosophy.
This is an engaging and accessible introduction to the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle's great masterpiece of moral philosophy. Michael Pakaluk offers a thorough and lucid examination of the entire work, uncovering Aristotle's motivations and basic views while paying careful attention to his arguments. The chapter on friendship captures Aristotle's doctrine with clarity and insight, and Pakaluk gives original and compelling interpretations of the Function Argument, the Doctrine of the Mean, courage and other character virtues, Akrasia, and the two treatments of pleasure. There is also a useful section on how to read an Aristotelian text. This book will be invaluable for all student readers encountering one of the most important and influential works of Western philosophy.
Ludwig Wittgenstein's 'Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus' is one of the most important books of the twentieth century. It influenced philosophers and artists alike and it continues to fascinate readers today. It offers rigorous arguments but clothes them in enigmatic pronouncements. Wittgenstein himself said that his book is 'strictly philosophical and simultaneously literary, and yet there is no blathering in it'. This introduction, first published in 2005, considers both the philosophical and the literary aspects of the 'Tractatus' and shows how they are related. It also shows how the work fits into Wittgenstein's philosophical development and the tradition of analytic philosophy, arguing strongly for the vigour and significance of that tradition.
In this new introduction to a classic philosophical text, David Stern examines Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations. He gives particular attention to both the arguments of the Investigations and the way in which the work is written, and especially to the role of dialogue in the book. While he concentrates on helping the reader to arrive at his or her own interpretation of the primary text, he also provides guidance to the unusually wide range of existing interpretations, and to the reasons why the Investigations have inspired such a diversity of readings. Following closely the text of the Investigations and meant to be read alongside it, this survey is accessible to readers with no previous background in philosophy. It is well-suited to university-level courses on Wittgenstein, but can also be read with profit by students in other disciplines.
In this introduction to a classic philosophical text, Catherine Wilson examines the arguments of Descartes' famous Meditations, the book which launched modern philosophy. Drawing on the reinterpretations of Descartes' thought of the past twenty-five years, she shows how Descartes constructs a theory of the mind, the body, nature, and God from a premise of radical uncertainty. She discusses in detail the historical context of Descartes' writings and their relationship to early modern science, and at the same time she introduces concepts and problems that define the philosophical enterprise as it is understood today. Following closely the text of the Meditations and meant to be read alongside them, this survey is accessible to readers with no previous background in philosophy. It is well-suited to university-level courses on Descartes, but can also be read with profit by students in other disciplines.
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