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.
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