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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If Only All Philosophy Textbooks Were This Good..., 13 Nov 2010
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This review is from: Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction (Routledge Contemporary Introductions to Philosophy) (Paperback)
One reviewer has given this book only 3 stars, describing the author's style as "irritating", but I disagree. I've read many introductory philosophical texts, ranging from tedious to excellent, but this is the best. The structure is very user-friendly (for example, the overviews at the beginning of each chapter are extremely helpful) and the prose style is a clear as it gets, and is certainly not tediously long-winded, as that reviewer implies; perhaps he thinks this because Loux does indeed go to great pains in assisting the reader to follow the argument at every stage - he often repeats an important point several times, for example, offering different formulations of the same thought. But this is basically just the technique of recapping frequently to make sure that the student's got it - something any good teacher should do.

The text is consistently pitched at the optimum level for undergraduates, at whom it is - I assume - primarily aimed. The back cover says that the book is "for students who have already done an introductory philosophy course", so if you are a complete philosophical novice this book is probably not for you - though everything is explained clearly, step-by-step. As a whole, it gives just the kind of accessible, straightforward guidance students need in order to do well in examinations, whilst providing enough detail and depth to create a solid foundation for further studies at a higher level.

One thing I particularly like is that, even at this level, the author manages to convey a sense of the importance and centrality of the subject matter. After all, investigating the fundamental nature of reality is surely, by any standards, a project of some intellectual urgency. The ideas which this book explores are among the most esoteric conceptions of the world ever to arise from the human brain, and Loux's extremely careful approach is far preferable to that of taking the reader's understanding somewhat for granted. Some philosophers - including, it's sad to say, some rather distinguished ones - seem to write, even at an introductory level, as if they are thinking "this all makes perfect sense to me; if anyone doesn't understand it then that's her problem".

To sum up, this is as near perfect a philosophical textbook as you're ever likely to read. Highly recommended (though that doesn't mean that the material isn't difficult - this is still philosophy!). Don't be tempted to skip the introduction, by the way, since it provides a superb summary of one of the most central and persisting disputes in metaphysics and philosophical logic, i.e. the realism/anti-realism debate, to which Loux also devotes an entire chapter at the end of the book.
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