Elevate Difference

Philosophy: An Innovative Introduction: Fictive Narrative, Primary Texts, and Responsive Writing

I was interested in Philosophy: An Innovative Introduction because I so thoroughly enjoyed Steven Church’s Theoretical Killings. Church’s book could appear to be a group of essays on many aspects of philosophy, but actually is as innovative as it is entertaining, ranging from the formally philological to rampant pop-culture rampages. If Theoretical Killings is a fun amusement park ride of the life of the mind, Philosophy: An Innovative Introduction is a more informative museum installation, with relevant interactive exercises at every turn. Muriel Rukeyser stated that, "The universe is made up of stories, not atoms." Applicable to the study of ethics and humanities as well as philosophy, the book utilizes a strong manifestation of ‘fictive narrative philosophy’—a perspective that respects the role of story in philosophical discussion.

Boylan and Johnson’s work innovatively seeks to engage by taking historical figures from dusty pages to serve as protagonists of life’s travails and intrigues. Aristotle, Plato, Kant, Hume, Murdoch, and King are included. Short stories are juxtaposed with excerpts from original texts. Students gain comprehension through indirect argument in the stories and via direct, deductive sections. Each group of readings is followed by study questions and essay suggestions as an aid to an understanding and construction of creative arguments.

This is a work of relative diversity for its genre, with the Buddha accompanying Plato and Arendt balancing Aquinas. The attempts to humanize these historical figures can be inadvertently amusing—readers learn of Kant’s dinner menu and Marx’s choice of color in neckties—but the overall quality of the fiction is of the caliber indicated by Johnson’s MacArthur Fellowship and National Book Award. Recommended for both classroom and informal study.

Written by: Erika Mikkalo, May 12th 2010