The Truth about the World: Basic Readings in Philosophy
2nd edition

edited by James Rachels and Stuart Rachels
(New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009)

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This book is now out. It is the companion anthology to James Rachels' introductory text, Problems From Philosophy.

Preface   ix
1. Introduction James Rachels   1


2. Socrates' Trial Plato   7
3. Socrates' Decision to Die Plato   32
4. Socrates' Unanswered Question About Justice Plato   45


5. Five Ways to Prove That God Exists St. Thomas Aquinas   55
6. The Watch and the Watch-Maker William Paley   63
7. The Fine-Tuning Argument Peter van Inwagen   68
8. Why Doesn't God Intervene? B. C. Johnson   83
9. The Problem of Evil Michael L. Peterson   90
10. Why I Am Not A Christian Bertrand Russell   99
11. You Bet Your Life: Pascal's Wager Defended William Lycan and George Schlesinger   114

The Mind

12. Do We Survive Death? Bertrand Russell   127
13. Split Brains and Personal Identity Derek Parfit   132
14. Where am I? Daniel C. Dennett   141
15. The Mind-Brain Identity Theory David Armstrong   156
16. Bat Sonar Thomas Nagel   169
17. Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness David Chalmers   173
18. The Myth of the Computer John R. Searle   186


19. Existentialism Is a Humanism Jean-Paul Sartre   195
20. Compatibilism Defended W. T. Stace   212
21. On Liberty John Stuart Mill   219


22. Meditations I and II Rene Descartes   225
23. Does Matter Exist? George Berkeley   235
24. The Lure of Radical Skepticism Michael Huemer   240
25. Reality J. L. Austin   258


26. Ethics and Human Feeling David Hume   271
27. Our Sense of Right and Wrong C. S. Lewis   275
28. Four Ethical Principles Peter Singer   280
29. The Debate over Utilitarianism James Rachels and Stuart Rachels   286
30. The Virtues Martha C. Nussbaum   302
31. The Meaning of Life Richard Taylor   314


This book is a collection of essays about some of the most important topics in philosophy--God, the mind, freedom, knowledge, and ethics. It is a companion to James Rachels' book, Problems from Philosophy, but neither book presupposes knowledge of the other.

Let me briefly describe how this book has been revised since the first edition. I have updated some figures in James Rachels' "Introduction," and I have added Plato's Crito under the name "Socrates' Decision to Die." The Crito is discussed in Problems from Philosophy.

In the section on God, J. L. Mackie's rather dry paper, "Evil and Omnipotence," has been replaced by the more engaging, "Why Doesn't God Intervene?" This new selection was written under the pen name B. C. Johnson, presumably to avoid controversy or harassment. William Paley's classic essay on the Design Argument remains, but for readers who would like more, I have added Peter van Inwagen's discussion of the Fine-Tuning Argument.

Daniel Dennett's science fiction story, "Where am I?" has been added to the section on the Mind. What essay in philosophy is more enjoyable? I have cut most of Thomas Nagel's "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?"--it seemed too obscure--but I have kept Nagel's magnificent explanation of bat sonar. A "Nagelian" view of experience is now supplied by David Chalmers in "Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness." B. F. Skinner's essay on behavior is now gone. As the influence of behaviorism recedes, so must the importance of Skinner's work, fine though it is.

In the section on Knowledge, A. J. Ayer's difficult paper, "The Argument from Illusion," has been replaced by Michael Huemer's expertly-constructed, "The Lure of Radical Skepticism." Also, I have reluctantly gotten rid of Hume's "On Miracles." I urge instructors who miss it to assign Jonathan Bennett's version, available for free at Bennett has rewritten many of the great classics of philosophy with an eye to making them easier to understand. Once I read Bennett's "translation" of Hume, I realized how poor my own comprehension of the original had been. And that, in turn, convinced me that Hume's piece was too difficult for this volume.

In the Ethics section, I have added a chapter from James Rachels' popular text, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, about Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism must be considered one of the great ideas in ethics, so adding this essay seemed wise.

Some selections from the first edition have been retained but shortened. I have whittled down the essays of Aquinas, Peterson, Sartre and Mill. I hope the omissions won't be noticed. The omitted material seemed either difficult or forgettable or both.

For their help, I would like to thank Torin Alter, Jeff Bennett, Daniel Hollingshead, Michael Huemer, Justin McBrayer, Carol Rachels, David Rachels, Barbara Stock and Peter Vallentyne. I also benefited from the handwritten notes of James Rachels, who died before the first edition of this book was published. I hope he would have liked the second edition even more.

--Stuart Rachels

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