I purchased Scruton's survey as an first-year undergraduate student who was eager to learn just about everything there is to learn about philosophy, and it proved very useful to me throughout my undergraduate career. And it's heartening to flip back through this book and see that I've actually learned a good deal in time I've spent studying philosophy. Before long I may know enough to write a book of this sort myself--not that I have the patience or talent for exposition that would be required to do so.
The aim of this book is to provide a synoptic overview of the concerns and central arguments of philosophy from the seventeenth century to the present. It covers, at least briefly, just about everything that modern philosophers talk about, it displays broad historical erudition, it provides the reader with a sense of how the concerns of contemporary philosophers connect to the history of modern philosophers, and its extensive reading guide gives the reader some helpful suggestions about where to go in the literature for further work on the topics discussed here. It is, moreover, quite good at introducing the basic issues and positions, both of contemporary philosophers and their early modern counterparts, in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind. And, although this isn't intended as a work of history, Scruton manages to present most of the major ideas of the most significant figures in modern philosophy (e.g. Descartes, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, et al.).
Scruton's subject matter here is broad, to say the least. He discusses just about every subject about which philosophers have had anything to say in the last four hundred years. This book has sections about God, about free will, about morality, about politics, about science, about knowledge and belief, about minds and their relations to bodies, about language and its meaning, about space and time, about mathematics, and about quite a few more things. Indeed, there's simply too much covered here for Scruton to connect all the material and provide much structure to this book. So it's perfectly fine to treat this book as something like a reference work, and to dip into whatever section one finds interesting while ignoring much of the rest of the book. But, for people with little background in philosophy, it would help to begin by reading the fifteen or so chapters straight through. These chapters, which comprise roughly the first third of the book, outline the basic historical and contemporary philosophical ideas that the reader needs to understand most of the rest of the book, and they constitute a pretty good introduction to the material in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind that you need to know to understand the rest of the material here.
Despite Scruton's professed intentions here, however, this text is probably too complex and too compressed for the absolute beginner. Even working with five hundred pages of space, he's forced to cram quite a bit into a short space. Scruton acquits himself well, of course, but it's simply not possible to explain these things as thoroughly as beginners are probably going to need them explained. He tends to cover in twenty pages what most introductory books cover in two hundred. And while this makes his book an invaluable resource of information about philosophy, it also precludes the sort of patient exposition that might be necessary in presenting this material to beginning students of the subject.
I'd recommend this book to people with some background in philosophy who'd like a single-book overview of the subject, and to intermediate students looking for a comprehensive reference work that you can actually read. And if you're unusually ambitious, you might try this as an introduction to philosophy. If you can master everything in this book, you'll almost have the equivalent of an excellent undergraduate education in philosophy. (You'll just need to learn some formal logic, and it wouldn't hurt to learn some additional material in ethics and political philosophy since Scruton's coverage of these areas is somewhat more superficial than his coverage of metaphysics and epistemology.)