Books

Book review: Introducing Philosophy

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.

 

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Introducing Philosophy – A Graphic Guide to the History of Thinking

 

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.

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13 thoughts on “Book review: Introducing Philosophy

  1. I just quickly looked up Thoreau’s political beliefs, and apparently he was an outspoken critic of slavery and civil disobedience. Given that I remember hearing about a poll which found that 1 in 5 supporters of a massively popular (perhaps even unstoppable) presidential candidate in the U.S. do not agree with the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln’s declaration of the ending of slavery, it would seem that many Americans no longer support Thoreau’s views on this matter. So perhaps this is what the authors were referring to with the “good American” line. If so, then I agree with them.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. No no, this is great, I have almost no context for this stuff beyond what I read in that book so any additional info is always good to have. I’ll definitely take a look at that article later 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the review. Sounds interesting! I don’t read too much of philosophy myself but reading it’s history is something I might really find interesting 🙂 it’s an interesting take on the topic honestly! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Are you familiar with Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder? If not, that’s a good introduction to the thoughts of (particularly the ancient) philosophers, wrapped up in a narrative (whoops, never mind – I just noticed it in your GoodReads list).

    If you’re interested in political philosophy, then I can recommend Jonathan Wolff’s ‘An Introduction to Political Philosophy’ which is very readable and covers the theory of politics very well. Going back to primary sources, I found More’s Utopia and Machiavelli’s The Prince actually very readable, as is (the bits I read of) Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy. I read these for a couple of adult education courses I did a few years ago on the subject. I didn’t really get into more modern philosophy, I fear, so can’t recommend any works by women.

    Liked by 1 person

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