(Last Revised May 18, 2017}
Those beginning the study of philosophy, whether on their own or in, say, an introductory college course, face many and varied challenges. One among them is that of dealing with the intrinsic difficulties of the subject. Another, related challenge, is that of the choice of the first philosophical text to be read: in my judgment it should be, if it is the right introductory text, an introductory text explicitly addressed to the needs of readers starting out on their philosophical journey, rather than a book of “primary sources,” works written by major historical or contemporary philosophers and addressed to others already advanced in the field.
The initiative now being announced is that of offering via this blog: first, the careful exposition, addressed to beginners in philosophy, of some of the best and most visible introductory philosophical texts available; second, the adding of commentary upon them as called for by the needs of those using them in their introductory studies in philosophy; and the offering of critiques of them whenever I see them as falling short philosophically. That is, even the best of such texts stand in need of exposition, of being complemented, and appropriate criticism; unless this is done, those relying on them will find it more difficult than it needs to be to achieve the understanding, the right understanding, they seek of philosophy.
The texts to be considered within the initiative, at least as it is currently envisioned, include:
Thomas Nagel, What Does It All Mean? A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).
Simon Blackburn, Think. A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013 ).
Roger Scruton, An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Philosophy (New York: Penguin Books, 1999 ).
Other books may be added to the list should I come to see them as having an importance comparable to that of the three just listed.
I will start with a critically appreciative reading of the Nagel book.
Now, the three philosophers are all highly respected, by many or most, if not all, of their peers; Nagel, for example, is the author of the important and, in some circles, controversial Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012). The three introductions to philosophy can, then, stand as introductions to the philosophies of the three philosophers themselves. Accordingly, the posts to come should be of interest not only to those who are beginning the study of philosophy with one of the texts at hand and those who are assigning them, but also to those who have a specific interest in the philosophies of messieurs Nagel, Blackburn, or Scruton. No, I’ll go further: they should be of interest of any who are interested in philosophy, at least if I deliver the goods.
All three of the books are quite affordable and readily available for purchase through Amazon.com. For the Nagel book, click on the following image:
For the Blackburn book, click on:
And for the Scruton book, click on:
Until next time.