Philosopher’s Toolkit (Baginni)

Bagini, Julian and Fosl, Peter S. The Philosopher’s Toolkit: A Compendium of Philosophical Concepts and Methods. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

If the word “philosophy” alarms you, as it might some pietists, substitute “critical thinking” and this book will give you a crash course in key concepts used in the literature. The book is divided into seven sections, with each section denoted 3.1, 3.2, etc. Section 1 deals with the basic tools of argumentation (validity, soundness, etc).  Section 2 explores more advanced topics, such as abduction and dialectic. Section 3 covers most of the basic fallacies. Section 4 is the most important in the book. Chapter 5 explores historical tools (e.g., Leibniz’s Law, Ockham’s Razor, etc.). Chapter 6 explores what will later be called “critical theory.”

In section 4 he deals with a number of powerful concepts. For example, analytic philosophers have noted the difference between de re and de dictionary beliefs.  De dicto refers to the statement about x, de re to the thing (4.6). In terms of necessity, it runs:

De dicto: Necessarily, (Fa)

De re: A is necessarily F.

In terms of historical analysis, for example, Baginini gives a lucid presentation of Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology–no mean feat.  To note: consciousness is a fact of existence. However, we always experience ourselves as part of something in this world.  How then can we find the essence of a thing? Husserl uses epoche to bracket out what may or may not exist. This allows him to focus on intentionality.  In other words, consciousness is always consciousness of something.

Although most readers of this review will be hostile to critical theory, perhaps rightly so, that makes this chapter extremely important.  Not all of the radical critiques are important.  Even the pertinent ones are rarely logically cogent.  As a result for this review, we will focus on a few.  Per Marx, society is divided into opposing classes, with one class opposing the other

In terms of philosophy, deconstruction does not mean what it means to today’s “ex-vangelicals.” For Derrida, the problem with philosophy is a problem of metaphysical presence. It is not exactly the same as the thing in-itself, but close enough. Reality, by contrast, is always mediated through signs.  We can never have ultimate meaning (6.2).


By all accounts this is a most useful tool for both beginning and advanced philosophy students.  Each section contains a small recommended reading list.


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