Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction Audio CD – Abridged, Audiobook
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`[The Very Short Introduction to Philosophy] shows that philosophy really can be fascinating, broad-minded and full of surprise. As a means of stimulating interest in the subject it has few rivals.' Julian Baggini, The Philosopher's Magazine --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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We then, somewhat more traditionally, have summary introductions to some philosophical themes and 'isms'. Next, Craig presents reviews of a very personal selection of philosophical classics. 'Idiosyncratic' may be a better word than 'personal' as it includes Darwin's "The Origin of Species" which would not normally feature in such a list.
Finally, we have a description of philosophy as a discipline, asking what purposes and interests it serves.
There's a lot of good things to say about this little book. It is a well-written, lively and authoritative introduction. Craig references the Hindu tradition as well as the Western and gives plenty of encouragement and advice for further study.
However, it's difficult to see the precise value or usefulness of this book. Obviously, you can't give a comprehensive overview of a subject as vast as Philosophy in a 130 page book. Still, the organization of this volume seems somewhat haphazard and meandering.
Edward Craig is certainly an expert on the subject, and the chapters do explore various facets of philosophy, such as predominant philosophical questions and key philosophers and philosophical texts. But the choice of topics seems a bit too subjective, and the manner in which things are explored lends itself more to entertainment than actual acquisition of knowledge.
I recommend this to anybody who has an interest in philosophy but knows literally next to nothing about it; for anyone else, the content is a bit too shallow to be really useful, though it's still an entertaining read.
Prof. Craig is a delightful guide, full of good humour and, for the most part, a fantastic explainer of very complex ideas; you'll have to read his description of Nietzsche's ideas to see what I mean. His annotated bibliography is definitely one of the best I have come across in this series.
Why four stars? I'd give him four and a half if I could. The only minor shortcomings of the book were that one or two of the explanations weren't all that clear (but then, it is a very short guide) and I found his treatment of C. S. Lewis bordering on contemptuous.
Those points aside, a fantastic book.
If you know nothing of philosophy, I'd recommend first, as Craig does also, Thomas Nagel's "What Does It All Mean". My first read was Bertrand Russell's "History of Western Philosophy" which was too much for a beginner, although it did give me a sense of the history of western thought as it was intended. Russell's "The Problems of Philosophy" would have been a better start, but Russell can be a bit technical for the beginner.
Craig's book is not so much an intro to the problems of philosophy as a whirlwind tour of the major ideas that encompass western (and some eastern) thought, beginning with Plato, jumping to Hume and touching on some of the authors favorites: Descartes, Hegel, Nietzsche, and the impact of Darwin. He discusses some themes and introduces some "isms". He recommends readings along the way, and the end provides a list of other recommended intro and intermediate texts. He wraps it up with a chapter titled, "What's in it for whom": The individual; The priesthood; The working class; Women; Animals.
Craig did an excellent job piquing my interest in further readings. His enthusiasm for the subject matter is obvious.
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