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An Intelligent Person's Guide to Philosophy (Intelligent Person's Guide Series) Hardcover – 16 Jan 1997

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd; First Edition edition (16 Jan. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0715627368
  • ISBN-13: 978-0715627365
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.2 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 276,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Roger Scruton is currently Research Professor for the Institute for the Psychological Sciences where he teaches philosophy at their graduate school in both Washington and Oxford. He is a writer, philosopher and public commentator. He has specialised in aesthetics with particular attention to music and architecture. He engages in contemporary political and cultural debates from the standpoint of a conservative thinker and is well known as a powerful polemicist. He has written widely in the press on political and cultural issues.

Product Description


'This is a marvellous book which gives back to philosophy the sweep and depth it once had before linguistic analysis reduced it to a study of words and their meaning. Scruton is unafraid to take on the big topics... with imagination and verve.' Jonathan Sacks, Financial Times --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Roger Scruton was professor of aesthetics at London's Birkbeck College 1985-92 and of philosophy at Boston University, Massachussetts 1992-94. He is now editor of the Salisbury Review. His recent books include Modern Philosophy (1996), Intelligent Person's Guide to Modern Culture (1998), Animal Rights or Wrongs (2000) and The Meaning of Conservatism (2001). --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Philosophy - the 'love of wisdom' - can be approached in two ways: by doing it, or by studying how it has been done. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 6 Sept. 2000
Format: Paperback
Don't be put off by the title - this book is part of a series of 'Intelligent person's guides to...' (in particular see Mary Warnock's superb guide to Ethics), but instead many readers will be put off by the content. This book aims to provide a lively contrast to dry argument-based philosophy; rather then discussing philosophy it prompts the reader to actually do it. This approach is at first refreshing for anyone who, like myself, originally picked up the book ignorant of philosophy, but rapidly becomes annoying as topics are raised but not dealt with in a satisfactory manner. In particular, any balance between contradictory arguments is lost, and Scruton's own opinions can easily be misinterpreted as philosophy itself. This criticism aside, the book covers a pleasantly surprising range of topics and occasionally even pays lip-service to some of Scruton's favourite thinkers, and while the reader may find that he doesn't really know any more after reading the book than before, the process is enjoyable, and communicates a real joy in philosophy which is all to rare in academic circles. An accessible and interesting introduction, but patchy and incomplete. Most readers would be better off with Nagel's 'What does it all Mean?'
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 15 Aug. 2001
Format: Paperback
This is an important and deeply thought-out book that should be read by anyone professing to have a mind. Even those who would be instinctively hostile to Scruton's conservatism owe it to themselves to get to grips with his standpoint fully - if only to be sure that they're not hating a straw man.
One thing that Scruton argues for is for philosophy to help re-infuse the world with meaning, and keep it and our human selves at a safe intellectual distance from all those corrosive views that would demean us: that we're 'nothing but' our genes, or that reductionistic science can dissolve morality, for instance.
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Format: Paperback
The title is accurate. This book will challenge your intelligence with interesting philosophical questions. Scruton is brilliant in the way he explores issues including Time, God, Freedom, Sex and Music. However, the book is dense and heavy going at times. It is frustrating in that he does not reach satisfying conclusions - but maybe that is the nature of philosophy.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By E. Porter-daniels on 11 Jan. 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was asked to buy this book fro my first year philosophy course at university, where a lecturer had based a semester around it. She made it abundantly clear that she had picked this because it was sure to create some interesting controversy.
How right she was.
Although it is unrealistic (and in fact would be unwanted) for a book on philosophy to agree with all your ideas, Scruton's book is SO conservative, and so fixed to his ideas, that he finds it impossible to consider other answers to some of the most important questions we ever ask ourselves. He is also at times most overbearing, his pompous style grating on your nerves until you acutally need a break before returning to the volume.
All in all, good at the basics, but too caught up in his own ideas to serve as a useful introduction to philosophy or metaphysics.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 20 reviews
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Terribly Interesting, Un-Put-Down-Able and Flawed 22 July 2002
By Greg Feirman - Published on
Format: Paperback
Roger Scruton's "An Intelligent Guide to Philosophy" is a fantastic book with a tremendous amount of interesting things to say but which at times is very hard to understand.
The first chapter "Why?" delves into that word which gives rise to philosophy. We can answer that question by giving a cause, a reason (which might also be a cause) or something that makes an action intelligible, according to Scruton. Science gives causes of the first kind while philosophy, in the way the world currently is, "attempts to justify the other kinds of 'Why?' - the 'Why?' which looks for a reason, and the 'Why?' which looks for a meaning" (pg 25). This plays into a constant theme of Scruton's, "If this book has a message, it is that scientific truth has human illusion as its regular by-product, and that philosophy is our surest weapon in the attempt to rescue truth from this predicament" (pg 8).
The next three chapters "Truth", "The Demon" and "Subject and Object" deal with truth, language and skepticism about the external world (and maybe some other subjects as well). This addresses Descartes's evil demon and the skepticism about the external world that has plagued modern philosophy since Descartes's "Meditations on First Philosophy" (1630).
After dealing with these metaphysical/epistemological subjects, Scruton turns to questions of human nature and ethics in chapters 5 through 10. He has some very interesting things to say about what distinguishes humans from animals (language is important) and about the crucial need that religion has addressed for human beings. I can't resist: ".... the rational being lives in a condition of metaphysical loneliness" (pg 89). "The 'first person plural' of the religious rite overcomes this isolation and creates, for a brief but necessary moment, the sense that we stand together outside nature, sharing the subjective viewpoint which otherwise we know only as 'mine'" (pg 90). The chapter on morality has interesting things to say but I'm not sure it is philosophically sound. There is a chapter on "Sex" where he brings to bear the subject/object distinction that he has used since the beginning and which is very interesting.
All in all, this book has, in my opinion, alot of wisdom and truth in it, alot of material in a small amount of space, but it is also difficult to follow at times (i.e. the chapters on "Time", "Morality" and "Music"). In the end, I couldn't put the book down because Scruton gets so much right, is surely brilliant and has clearly studied these subjects long and hard. And I also sympathize with his general aim (quoted above).
------ Greg Feirman
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Introduction 1 Dec. 2002
By Steve Jackson - Published on
Format: Paperback
Roger Scruton is one of the UK's best-known philosophers, and a conservative to boot. Unlike many philosophers, Scruton writes well. He alternates between weighty tomes and books for the common man. Like his other works pitched to the level the common man, AN INTELLIGENT PERSON'S GUIDE TO PHILOSOPHY is simple, but not simplistic.
This work is a joy to read. Scruton - whose primary intellectual debt is to Kant and Wittgenstein - discusses a number of the central themes in philosophy. It is something of an "opinionated introduction." While Scruton wants to explain the issue and give an overview to the debate, he wants to provide answers as well. Take for example the question of skepticism. Introductory works on philosophy often go into excessive detail about spoons in water, color blindness, placing your frozen hand in hot water, etc. Skepticism becomes the "default" position. Scruton turns the tables. As he notes, as long as one starts from the Cartesian "inside out" approach to the mind, it is extremely hard to "connect" the mind to an external world. However, Wittgenstein's argument against "private language" provides a cogent rejoinder: how could one speak of sensations if there is not some public language? Whether Wittgenstein's thought leads to a different kind of subjectivism is another question. (I'm no expert on Wittgenstein, but I'm reading a work by Brand Blanshard who refuses to discuss the later Wittgenstein on the ground that his jottings are open to so many understandings that not even the experts can confidently expound them.)
This is an excellent introduction to philosophy, which will encourage readers who have minimal philosophy training to study more. I think Searle's MIND, LANGUAGE AND SOCIETY; and Gilson's THE UNITY OF PHILOSOPHICAL EXPERIENCE would make excellent follow-up works. Scruton's MODERN PHILOSOPHY: AN INTRODUCTION AND SURVEY covers similar ground as the book under review, but in much more detail.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Fine Introduction 7 Mar. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For a novice to the writings of philosophy, this volume turned out to be an excellent introduction. Dense, lucidly written, requiring no prior familiarity with the subject but a willingness to focus on difficult concepts, it was a fascinating read. It made me want to read more, particularly by this author. Only the section on "Music" was weak, lacking the rigor found elsewhere in this terrific volume.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Philosophy for the Human World 7 May 2006
By not me - Published on
Format: Paperback
Roger Scruton is a rarity: an analytic philosopher who writes superbly and insists that philosophy is relevant to human concerns. (He is also a mildly obnoxious conservative polemicist, but that's a different issue.) His book "An Intelligent Person's Guide to Philosophy" is made up of excellent short essays on ethics, the subject/object distinction, time, sexuality, music, God, and history. The essays are linked by Scruton's conviction that the role of philosophy is to analyze and vindicate the "human world," i.e., the world as conceived and experienced by humans. This world is populated with persons -- subjects, not objects -- capable of reasoned dialogue, intersubjective response, freedom, transcendence, and morality. Scruton contrasts the "human world" with the "scientific world" of cause and effect, where impersonal objects obey impersonal laws. While giving science its due, Scruton believes that conceiving of persons as objects in a scientific world is an intellectual mistake and a source of demoralization.

Scruton is a fantastic writer, and does a great job of conveying the excitement of philosophy. I knocked off one star, however, for three reasons. First, he never offers an explanation of how it is possible for the human world to exist alongside the scientific world. Second, he tends to assert his views rather than to argue for them. Finally, at points his book is far too abbreviated: I would defy anyone, for example, to make sense of Wittgenstein's "private language" argument on the basis of Scruton's two-page summary. However, these are quibbles. "An Intelligent Person's Guide to Philosophy" would be a great book for any undergraduate or layman who wants to know what philosophy is all about. After reading it, he might even be tempted to tackle Spinoza, Wittgenstein and Kant -- a fitting tribute to Scruton's gifts as a populizer and writer!
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The best approach to philosophy 13 July 2000
By James Versluys - Published on
Format: Paperback
This was an wonderfull book. I have no clue what blessings were bestowed on modern philosophy to warrant our having a man who delves into the inscrutibile genius of Kant be such a goddamned good writer and thinker as Scruton, but the fact remains; Scruton's prose sparkles like bubbles in champagne.
The philosopher known of as Roger Scruton is exactly what philosophy needs to make itself relevant and worthwhile- a man who can write English like a novelist. This is surely the Tom Wolfe of Philosophy, much to the common readers benefit.
Not only is his writing superb (especially for a philosopher), but I detect the tell tale signs of a genius in his work. Having read his other opuses to the field, I have detected enough theoretical creativity combined with the much needed pure doses of good common sense that I am commanded by my conscience to tell the reader that no matter how much I disagree with Mr. Scrutons theories, I see Scruton as being one of the names in that will fuel the next centuries political conservatism.
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