I’m finally back to working on my unread stack rather than reading things I’ve recently acquired. It’ll never last. However, that’s how I ended up reading a book that was handed to me for free with a copy of The Guardian all the way back in 2008. I actually got all three of the books that were available in this series at the time – the other two were Introducing Post Modernism and Introducing Quantum Theory. For whatever reason I just couldn’t bring myself to read them – in spite of the fact that they’re peppered with cartoons and look like very easy going texts they never quite called out to me.
Just as I have no idea why I didn’t want to read them before I have no idea why I suddenly wanted to read one of them now. Nevertheless I finally pulled Introducing Philosophy off the shelf and read it over about 3 days.
It’s a history of philosophy really, which I suppose is the best way to introduce the subject. Realistically, it’s also a history of very Western, very male philosophy. The authors note that the lack of women philosophers is a valid criticism but point out that women were excluded from philosophy for a long time and that the book is short. I don’t find that entirely satisfactory, since they do discuss some modern philosophers, but they do at least acknowledge it and suggest a few other texts.
It’s easy enough to understand most of the way through. Given its brevity I’m sure many important ideas are skipped or overly simplified but as an introduction it does fine. Since I’ve read very little philosophy I found it useful for filling in a few gaps in my knowledge, if only superficially. Usually it’s feels pretty unbiased too, sticking to historical facts and summaries of ideas – however there was one section, I forget which but possibly on Thoreau, where the authors said something like “most good Americans still agree with this.” I was left thinking, who counts as a “good” American? Why is this sentence even here? It was a strange line to stumble across in this book.
Still, this is a useful little text. I was pretty lost around post modernism so I might need to read the introduction to that next. In the meantime it made me want to read more philosophy and I’m thankful for the index provided at the back of the book, as well as the timeline, which will certainly be useful when in the future I inevitably forget who thought what.