Monday, May 15, 2017

Review of "Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction"

As a philosopher who is often asked about what philosophy is, what its practical uses are, where should a person start if they want to study philosophy carefully, etc, I was genuinely excited to pick up Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction. I had figured that I would read and then recommend it as the best starting point for the philosophy novice. I was not totally wrong, but neither was I totally right.

The books merits are that it introduces the general reader to some of the big branches of philosophy (epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, etc), some of the big names in philosophy (Socrates, David Hume, Epicurus, John Stuart Mill), and some of the various schools of philosophy (idealism, empiricism, rationalism, etc). However, it does so in a very scattered manner and the terms are not as clearly defined as one would like, especially since the book is marketed toward those who are beginners in philosophy. The author on one page is talking about ethics, then miracles, then idealism... but it is scattered rather than connected. It helps, however, that the author is good with words, because while it is scattered it is not boring.

I would recommend this book to beginners, but books like Bertrand Russell's The Problems of Philosophy are better introductions to the field.

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