For the Sake of Argument
How to Do Philosophy
  • Publication Date: November 23, 2016
  • ISBN: 9781554813377 / 1554813379
  • 160 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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For the Sake of Argument

How to Do Philosophy

  • Publication Date: November 23, 2016
  • ISBN: 9781554813377 / 1554813379
  • 160 pages; 5½" x 8½"

Academic philosophy can be puzzling to newcomers. The conventions, terms, and expectations entrenched among philosophers aren’t always clear from the outside. Why are philosophers so preoccupied with finding “the truth”—doesn’t everyone have their own philosophy? Is philosophy so deep and difficult that its literature has to be incomprehensible? What kinds of arguments can there be for a philosophical position? Where does the evidence come from? Why is there so much jargon—wouldn’t it be better to do away with it altogether? Best-selling author and retired philosophy professor Robert Martin answers these questions and many more, offering a practical guide to arguing and writing philosophically. Anecdotes, jokes, asides, digressions, oddments, and entertainments are included throughout, resulting in an informal introduction that doesn’t shy away from the nuts and bolts of philosophical argument.


“A unique and wonderful book! Wise and witty in equal measure, it makes the process of thinking and arguing about the fundamental philosophical issues come alive in a way that I have never seen before. Written in a relaxed, informal style and peppered with references to contemporary culture, it will be enjoyed by anyone interested in developing their skills in thinking clearly about the perennial issues of the human condition.” — Paul Boghossian, New York University

“Displaying his characteristic informality, wit, charm, good humor, and irreverence, Martin offers insights and provocative suggestions that help improve philosophy students’ ability to think, write, and argue philosophically. They also remind us how to enjoy doing philosophy.” — Mason Cash, University of Central Florida

“A practical guide for producing philosophical truth: a how-to manual for clear and effective argumentation, with advice on how and why to avoid the dogma, obscurity, and pretension that often becloud the discipline. Informal, friendly, personal, opinionated, engaging, and funny, this book belongs on the shelf of every philosophy student.” — Sheldon Wein, Saint Mary’s University

Introduction: Please Read This Information

Chapter 1: Truth

  • Why Truth?
  • Bullshit
  • Beliefs of No Consequence
  • Okay But Remember We’re Talking about Philosophy
  • Consequences?

Chapter 2: The Right Way to Argue

  • And the Wrong Way to Argue
  • A Social Activity
  • Respect and Open Questions
  • What Not to Imitate
  • Common(s) Ad Hominem Fallacies

Chapter 3: Writing Philosophy: Why and How

  • Why
  • How

Chapter 4: Good and Bad Writing

  • Clarity
  • The Disvalue of the Obscure
  • Jargon
  • Examples
  • Greening
  • Awful Language
  • Do As I Say Not As I Do

Chapter 5: How Arguments Work

  • The Basic Structures
  • Deduction
  • Induction

Chapter 6: “That’s Like Arguing”

  • “That’s Like Arguing”:Critiquing Other Kinds of Arguments

Chapter 7: Where You Get True Premises: The Obvious

  • True/Justified Premises
  • The Paradox of Justification
  • Maybe Needs No Justification: The Self-Evident
  • Maybe Needs No Justification: Common Sense
  • Maybe Needs No Justification: Evidence of Your Senses

Chapter 8: Where You Get True Premises: Authorities

  • Maybe Needs No Justification: What Authorities Say
  • Authority and Truth
  • Citing Philosophers
  • Citing Other Works

Chapter 9: Where You Get True Premises: Analysis

  • Justifying and Refuting Analyses
  • A Priori
  • Questions about Analysis
  • The Practicality of Argumentation

Chapter 10: The Thought Experiment

  • Imaginary Experiments
  • Philosophical Thought Experiments

Chapter 11: Inference to the Best Explanation

  • The Best Explanation
  • Theory
  • Other Criteria for a Good Explanation
  • Philosophical Inferences to the Best Theoretical Explanation: Some Examples


Appendix 1: Some Very Brief Suggestions about Further Reading

Appendix 2: Forms for Footnotes and Bibliography


Robert M. Martin is Professor of Philosophy (retired) at Dalhousie University and author of many books, including Philosophical Conversations and the best-seller There Are Two Errors in the the Title of This Book.

For a sample chapter of For the Sake of Argument, click here. (opens as a PDF).

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