on 15 August 2001
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.
on 6 September 2000
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?'
on 22 September 2008
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.
on 11 January 2005
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.