Change and the Unsurpassable
a gender-conscious, process introduction to philosophy

 

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Change and the Unsurpassable
Download philosophy text PDF file here.
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Preliminary Comments

Change and the Unsurpassable was begun in the early 70s after several years of teaching many sections of Introduction to Philosophy at the University of Missouri, Columbia, and the University of North Dakota, because I was not happy with the textbooks available. I've used it in various states of completion in many Introduction classes for nine years.

Finding a way to reach students during their first encounter with philosophy has to be the greatest challenge a teacher faces. Students come forearmed with concepts they are certain are true and which they fear giving up or revising––as unexamined, self-contradictory and inadequate as they may be. Many believe even questioning these beliefs will assure them a place in hell. The teacher's first task is to convince students there is something worth examining, and yet do so in as non-threatening a way as possible. Yet, not raising challenges can leave many students thinking there is nothing really important they need to reconsider; whereas too much too soon can cause students to shut down and become very defensive, blocking out any new ideas. Since one's religious background is a common source of one's fundamental assumptions, some assumptions of religious worldview will inevitably become examined and questioned in a philosophy class––both the content and the procedure by which such "truth" is arrived at. This can be a very painful process, and a positive experience at the end cannot be guaranteed. Every teacher must make difficult decisions as to what and when to introduce issues. What is taught is always a compromise given a classroom of students whose experiences and convictions can range over a wide spectrum.

A textbook, too, is a compromise, but there is room to include more than can be assigned. Some chapters in Change and the Unsurpassable are not essential to core philosophical issues, but they have been very useful in providing students (who will often read them on their own) with another perspective on the social and psychological dynamics within which their worldviews developed, views with some negative consequences for living a sane life, yet views many believe are the only natural (or God-given) order of things. As a process metaphysician, I have tried to convey to the reader the unavoidability or necessity of some concepts, yet maintaining a sense of openness as to what they are in detail. I also see an advantage returning to the source of philosophical ideas to discover something of how and why we came to think as we do about the meaning of the cosmos and our place in it.

The heart of Change and the Unsurpassable is Part III, Change and Permanence; this, along with Part I, (which struggles with defining what "philosophy" is) and Part VI (seeing theism as a metaphysical issue) are the most demanding, but are the essential sections. Chapter 3, Metaphysics versus Relativism, is usually the most difficult for students, and always raises the issue of dogmatism. Uncomfortable students soon learn to cry foul when faced with concepts that seem to be metaphysical (necessary), yet conflict with beliefs they are comfortable with. They know for sure no one (especially one who is a messenger challenging their belief system) can know anything for sure. Recognizing the limit of doubt is the beginning of the adventure of speculative philosophy, as is recognizing one may not yet have found what the necessities are. Even Socrates knows something if he knows he doesn't know; or he's simply uttering a self-contradiction. The intolerance of fundamentalist movements, movements often tied to a poplar kind of theism, is not only frightening, but prevents many from carefully considering the logic of the theistic issue, just as feminists often dismiss theism on the grounds that it and patriarchy are inextricable entwined.

I am posting this book in order to solicit some feedback. The beauty of electronic books is the ease of revision. I am still working on improving some graphics. I, of course, would like to believe someone might use it as a textbook. The book is copyrighted, but I give permission here to download and print one copy of it for evaluation purposes. It is designed to be printed on both sides of standard 8.5"x11" paper and held together with a plastic comb. The double column format maybe more readable in hard copy. I will also send anyone a hard copy for $30 USD plus postage. To retain its formatting, it is placed here as a PDF document which requires Adobe Acrobat Reader to access. Don't forget the hyperlinks, even if they are not obvious in your viewer. Downloading the 5.3 MB PDF file takes less than 2 minutes with DSL.

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Change and the Unsurpassable
Download philosophy text PDF file here.


PART I
Philosophy: The Unavoidable Subject

Introduction    2
Chapter 1: What is Philosophy?    7
Chapter 2: Explaining Why Things Happen: The Principle of Sufficient Reason    16
Chapter 3: Metaphysics versus Relativism    21

PART II
The First Worldview

Chapter 4: Ancient Origins and Present Problems    31
Chapter 5: From Goddess to God    38


Part III
Change and Permanence

Chapter 6: The Many Are One: The One Is Many    47
Chapter 7: Pythagoreans: Mathematics and Salvation    52
Chapter 8: Heraclitus (and Alice): Logos in the Flux and the Logic of Change    57
Chapter 9: Parmenides: The Logic of Being    62
Chapter 10: Pluralists: Materialism:
                              Atoms, Locomotion, Freedom and Determinism   67
Chapter 11: Buddhistic or Platonic Series versus Monadic Substance    75
Chapter 12: Epistemology: How Is Knowledge Possible?    80
Chapter 13: Whitehead: Moments of Growth    84
Chapter 14: Summary of the Problem of Change    93

Part IV
Historical Influences on Theistic Beliefs

Chapter 15: Ascendancy of Patriarchal Concepts    100
Chapter 16: Mithraism: One Hellenistic Origin of Medieval Patriarchal Philosophy    105
Chapter 17: Essenes: Another Hellenistic Origin of Medieval Patriarchal Philosophy    114

Part V
Ethics and Psychological Influences

Chapter 18: Logic of Value Judgments    127
Chapter 19: Two Faiths: Authoritarian versus Democratic Ethics    135
Chapter 20: Gods and Goblins: Our Wounded Child:
                                     Psychological Influences on Theistic Concepts    143


PART VI
Rational Basis for a Theistic Worldview

Chapter 21: Uni and the Unsurpassable:
                                                Five Concepts of God/dess and Morality  150
Chapter 22: The Ontological or Modal Argument: Necessity or Nonsense    155
Chapter 23: Theistic Attributes    166
Chapter 24: Problem: How God/dess and the World Interact    180


PART VII
Epilogue: Beyond Philosophy

Chapter 25: Ritual: Where Thought Meets Action 191
Chapter 26: Now What? 194

Part VIII
Supplemental Material
Appendix 1: Guide to Some Classical Problems    197
Appendix 2: Historical Guide to Some Positions of the Patriarchal Period    198
Appendix 3: Whitehead's Categorical Scheme:
                                          The Metaphysical Logic of Change    201
Glossary    204
Selected Bibliography    228
Index    234


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