Knowledge, Logic, and Science examines the philosophical study of knowledge, known as epistemology. Typical epistemological questions include the following: What is knowledge? How do we know what we know? What kinds of things can we know? An important subfield within epistemology is logic, which is the study of the formal structures of reasoning and implication. Logic analyses the very criteria for what constitutes a good argument. Another subfield explored here is the philosophy of science--for instance, the relation between science and technology and the appropriate role of science in society.
Philosophy is one of the jewels in the cultural crown of Western civilization. Given that philosophical discourse has addressed so many varied questions over the centuries, ranging from the organization of the ideal political state to the foundations of ethical decision making, presenting the breadth and depth of its insights, especially to a younger audience, is no easy task. The four volumes comprising this new set individually and collectively provide just such an accessible introduction. One way to introduce a field of study is the historical method. Accordingly, the volume entitled History of Western Philosophy begins with the ancient Greeks and ends with contemporary analytical philosophy. Sections for broad historical periods begin with introductory discussion questions, continue with an overview of the period and essays on representative figures, and then close with concluding discussion questions, a glossary of important terms, suggestions for further reading, and brief biographical entries for philosophers of the period that include snippets from their works. All four volumes follow this same organizational scheme. The other three address specific areas of philosophical inquiry. Epistemology (which examines the nature and validity of human cognition), logic, and the implications of both for scientific research are discussed in the volume Knowledge, Logic, and Science. Metaphysics, the philosophy of religion, and the philosophy of mind—which includes analysis of such topics as consciousness and artificial intelligence—are presented in the volume Reality, Religion, and the Mind. Finally, the volume entitled Values and the Good Life covers various types of ethical reflection, political philosophy, and the philosophy of art and aesthetics. Medieval philosophy is, arguably, one period that could have been presented in greater detail. That said, important medieval thinkers, such as Peter Abelard, Thomas Aquinas, and William of Ockham, are mentioned throughout all four volumes. The overuse of parenthetical interpolations, particularly in the history volume, is distracting. Although the authors are to be commended for presenting heady material in a simple, nontechnical manner, the text feels a bit clumsy at times, and there are quite a few awkwardly constructed sentences. On balance, these quibbles are minor. The volumes in the Facts On File Guide to Philosophy invite the reader to explore the richness and variety of this intellectual quest. Perfectly suited to a nonscholarly audience, the set is recommended for high-school and public libraries as well as collections serving undergraduates.