on 26 October 2009
The author definitely has an infectious love for philosophy, which comes across. His writings about Socrates are illuminating, if a little simplistic - but given the target market and size of the book, this is to be expected.
What brought the star rating down for me was the simple fact that he couldn't go for more than a couple of pages without mentioning Jesus and relating his story to that of Socrates. With that, certain assumptions and arguments reared their ugly heads, out of context and without justification.
So Socrates believed in the 'supposed' gods of Greece, while the existence, the story and the divinity of Jesus are taken for granted. The choice between theism and atheism is the choice between light and darkness. These are big topics and are certainly outside the scope of the book, so really they shouldn't be there - or if necessary they should be presented as questions rather than answers.
On top of this, the standard Christian response to Euthyphro's dilemma (that goodness, or piety in the original dialogue, is God's nature) is presented without exploring the problems inherent in this argument - namely that goodness, being equal to God's nature, becomes a meaningless word. If goodness is God's nature then whatever God does is good. In this way, goodness can change according to God's whims and actions; things which one may consider to be evil (like genocide, murder of children, etc.) become good if God does them. One can imagine Socrates being wholly unconvinced by that line of argument.
Basically, despite a good start, this book caused too many face-palms to be truly satisfying - and it certainly wasn't an unbiased introduction to philosophy.
If you're an unquestioning Christian it will present the philosophy of Socrates in a way that won't challenge your beliefs - but surely that's one of the primary functions of Philosophy? If your beliefs aren't being challenged, what's the point?
If you're not a Christian, you may find the constant references to Jesus irritating and irrelevant. You may also find the subtext and implied (but not justified) beliefs distasteful and intellectually dishonest.