What are some good resources for a layman to get a basic overview of modern philosophical theories, positions, and open questions in plain language? I'm reminded somewhat of Bryan Magee's videos, only looking for something a little more up to date.
1Just in passing, this is pretty close to this question philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/256/… (you may find some of the answers there useful, at least)– Joseph Weissman ♦Aug 3, 2011 at 22:25
I quite like the lectures Rick Roderick made for the teaching company, they're available (I think legally) online nowadays (just google Rick Roderick or check YouTube), since they're out of print from the teaching company.
An excellent resource--and I definitely would recommend rickroderick.org for a full overview of his lectures, with notes/outlines etc. But just as a note--I would say from first impressions that Rick comes from the Continental school of philosophy (few Analytic philosophers would accept his characterization of Anselm's ontological argument for example). Perhaps someone could add an Analytic source to balance him out? Aug 23, 2011 at 19:24
A good description of most major philosophical positions, arguments, and so on, is The Philosopher's Toolkit: A Compendium of Philosophical Concepts and Methods by Baggini. It's a little dry, so if you're not already interested in philosophical concepts it's unlikely to sell you on the interesting aspects of philosophy. Also, it is written like a reference, not a conversational introduction. But the descriptions are clear and brief; I've not found a better source to get quickly up to speed on the basics.
Just to clarify: Are you looking for complex modern philosophical theories written for the layperson, or are you looking for introductory philosophy materials? If it's the latter, the following sites might be a start:
In some cases the standard wikipedia articles will probably be more appropriate than the simple versions (in terms of accuracy and thoroughness). Honestly though, I think a decent introductory philosophy book would go a long way if you're really interested in a broad, relatively neutral overview of many areas in philosophy.
I would say that the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy is a good source of accessible articles on just about any topic in Philosophy. It is much easier to read and comprehend then Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, not thereby saying that it's better.