In this era of the commodification of academic books, one must be suspicious of anthologies that in some way, shape, or form assemble readings thematically that others have previously attempted to put together. Academic presses fight to collect readings from authors of the past in different ways, yet many times the collections commissioned by these presses reflect the same hackneyed assortment of thinkers. It is with a breath of fresh air to come across a companion of essays in philosophy that not only addresses "big questions", but also transcends the hackneyed assortment of thinkers in disciplinary philosophy by way of providing select readings of philosophers past and present in an introductory manner for students. Thus, one may happily set aside his or her suspicions and enjoy this fantastic collection.
PHILOSOPHY: THE BIG QUESTIONS represents a 530-page anthology of classic readings in philosophy coupled with contemporary essays designed to serve as a resource for single-semester introductory courses in philosophy. The text is co-edited by Ruth Sample (a specialist in exploitation theory and feminist philosophy), Charles Mills (the eminent Caribbean political theorist and originator of the prominent racial contract hypothesis), and James Sterba (an author of several important works on social justice). The book contains five parts: (1) "What Can We Know?"; (2) "What Can We Know about the Nature and Existence of God?"; (3) "Are We Ever Free?"; (4) "Does Our Existence Have a Meaning or Purpose?"; and (5) "How Should We Live?" Each part of the book contains a summary Introduction and a bibliography of suggested works for further reading.
For individuals interested in the concepts of freedom, agency, and free will, part three provides several interesting selections. Of particular interest in part three are the readings from the Baron D'Holbach and Harry Frankfurt. In terms of canonical philosophy, the writings of Plato, René Descartes, Immanuel Kant, and John Rawls are intriguing. Regarding non-canonical contemporary philosophy, the writings of William R. Jones on divine racism provoke the reader to think more closely about a rarely talked about controversial claim. Lastly, readers will find the exchange between the late Susan Moller Okin and Jane Flax on the relationship between gender, race, feminism, and inequality helpful for sparking debate.
In closing, students of philosophy, descriptive political theory, and normative political theory will find much in this anthology that addresses big philosophical questions and debates people have in academia and the wider world.