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on 22 December 2008
Since I began studying philosophy many years ago I have been asked on multiple occasions by friends and family to recommend an introduction to the subject. Until this book was published I had difficulty choosing, but for me this is by far the best.

Before this book was available I would probably have chosen one of two old favourites - Nagel's 'What Does it All Mean?' or Russell's 'Problems of Philosophy' - which are both classic introductions but a little bit stale. Or perhaps I would have gone for Blackburn's 'Think', which is much fresher in tone but still very solid in content. However none of those books stands up to Craig's introduction for the following reasons.

First of all, you can be in no doubt as to the calibre of your guide. Craig hasn't published widely and is not a glamour figure in philosophical circles, but when he does write it is routinely excellent. He was also general editor of the multi-volume Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, itself an incredible achievement, and is a very popular figure at Cambridge University where he still lectures - both for the quality of his teaching and his down-to-earth nature, quite rare in a professional philosopher. Personal admiration aside, the point is that having this guy in your corner is very reassuring as he guides you through the subject.

Secondly, he really tries to give you a feel for what studying philosophy is actually like. By guiding you through important philosophical texts and drawing out the ideas and themes from there, he is encouraging you to do exactly what philosophers have always done, and continue to do. He isn't describing philosophy to you, so that you are a mere spectator, he is helping you to take part. And that, ultimately, is what it's all about.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, Craig succeeds in conveying the ideas clearly, in plain language but without undue simplification. That is the big challenge that all introductions to the subject ultimately stand and fall by, and he passes with flying colours. Yet despite the clarity and simplicity with which the ideas are expressed, when I read it there was still enough interesting comment, analysis and ordering of ideas to give me significant new stimulus as someone who has studied the subject for many years.

Finally, I think Craig is to be commended for not trying to be exhaustive or covering all the 'key themes'. Instead, by freeing himself from that constraint, he has been able to write the book in a way that gives the reader the opportunity to get enthused about the discipline, or at least to get a taste for some of its pleasures. Whether or not they choose to take that opportunity is up to them, but by providing a little window into what doing philosophy is really like, rather than providing a sanitised, generic, theme-based bore-a-thon where the ideas have nothing to hang from and no true insight is gained (see e.g. Warbuton), he has done a great service to inquisitive thinkers everywhere, in my humble opinion.

No book is for everyone, and there are other ways of approaching an introduction that may appeal, but if you don't enjoy this having got to the end then I'd genuinely be very surprised if anything else in print was capable of igniting your interest in the subject.
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on 26 March 2005
This is part of the very short introduction books and is an excellent start to philosophy. The author does not try to align you with any particular philosopher or school of thought, he simply introduces the central themes of philosophy and mentions some of the famous philsophers. As it is a short book, it does not discuss a great number of philosophers - and does not pretend to. The great thing about this book is that it made me aware of philosophy and pointed me in the right direction as where to go next.
Unlike some 'philosophy' books, it does not claim and indeed does not 'change your life' but it is an enjoyable read and a gateway to entice you into the world of philosophy. If you have ever wondered what philosophy is or do not know where to start, try this book.
Highly recommended
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VINE VOICEon 20 August 2005
Introductory philosophical texts tend to adopt one of two possible approaches: Either they give a chronological account of famous thinkers and schools, or they examine a set of topics - ethics, free will, nature of mind, etc. Craig opts for something different and rather interesting. The first three chapters are intended to be read in tandem with the works they summarize, namely Plato's "Crito", Hume's "On Miracles" and the Buddhist "King Milanda's Chariot". How many readers will actually do that is doubtful but it is an interesting idea that introduces the reader to three very different areas of philosophy.
We then, somewhat more traditionally, have summary introductions to some philosophical themes and 'isms'. Next, Craig presents reviews of a very personal selection of philosophical classics. 'Idiosyncratic' may be a better word than 'personal' as it includes Darwin's "The Origin of Species" which would not normally feature in such a list.
Finally, we have a description of philosophy as a discipline, asking what purposes and interests it serves.
There's a lot of good things to say about this little book. It is a well-written, lively and authoritative introduction. Craig references the Hindu tradition as well as the Western and gives plenty of encouragement and advice for further study.
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on 18 May 2009
This was the first book I had read concerning philosophy directly, and I was thoroughly pleased with the approach Edward Craig gives.

Craig isn't prejudiced in any way by following certain schools of thought, and he doesn't go by the often tedious way of reciting the history of philosophy.

Instead he introduces you to a few philosophical examples: Socrates reasoning in jail; David Hume's philosophy of knowledge; and a Buddhist impression on the philosophy of the self. These help to get a sense of what philosophy is and how it concerns nearly everything. Craig then describes some theories and -isms in philosophy and then presents you with a personal selection of works. His culminating chapter returns to the starting point in the introduction-one which becomes evident throughout the book-about how important philosophy is.

This book is thought-engaging, lucid and never too heavy; Craig has succeeded in writing a perfectly accessible and very interesting introduction to philosophy.

If you are contemplating buying this and have ever wondered deeply about something, you should read this book.
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on 31 May 2012
As good a `very short introduction' as it could be - Professor Craig might have subtitled it `Philosophy is Fun!'

It's down-to-earth, grounded in the view that philosophers reflect on exactly the same issues as anyone might ponder upon. The author explores in simple terms where logical journeys can take us. How do values interact ? What can be done about the ensuing paradoxes and dilemmas? And if by a shrug of moral relativism, how to respond to the conundrums which that approach itself generates ? Where, and what, is reality ?

Happily embracing both scientific and religious philosophies into his overview, this genial thinker invites us to enjoy the absence of any ultimate QED's. Every world view seems to have its flaws. ( for example: is not democracy `the tyranny of the majority' ? )

A humorous appetiser, and the last chapter is a suggested futher reading list.
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on 31 October 2013
I am a fan of the Very Short Introduction series, and this is a good, but not outstanding member of it. The problem may lie in the nature of the subject. Philosophy may be so dense and concerned with precise definitions that it doesn't lend itself well to summarising into this form. This was nevertheless interesting and useful
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on 21 March 2016
Excellent introductory book to phylosophy's main themes. Haven't had the courage to finish it (even if it's really small) because I'm going through a depression and want to steer away from existenciailst thinking for now.
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VINE VOICEon 9 July 2014
I liked listening to this book rather than reading it as it seems easier to understand. One can listen to it over and over, lying in bed or lounging in the sun. It is basic philosophy, but sure isn't it all?
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on 25 November 2013
Inevitably selective, in such a huge field, this reminded me of stuff I did once know, told me stuff I really should have known, and gave me ideas for more exploration and discussion. You'll emerge with more questions, but did you think otherwise? Lots of ideas for further reading! Good old VSI's!
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on 3 October 2011
I've discovered this new bank balance busting series of books from Oxford University Press, there are now over two hundred books in the series with a wide range of topics from Quantum Physics to Celtic History, from International Migration to American Politics. I thought Philosophy would be a good place to start as I've always had an interest in it but never had chance to study it in great depth. This short book is packed with information and has already got me thinking about the world in a way I hadn't previously. Definitely going to investigate more of Hegel and Hume off the back of this. Craig is never patronising and certainly doesn't encrypt his prose like some, for me the balance was just right, not sure how much good it would do someone who has already studied the subject though.
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