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Occasionally people write in asking us to suggest suitable books for beginners in philosophy. Here are a collection of mini-reviews of the books we tend to recommend:
¶ Philosophy: The Basics by Nigel Warburton (published by Routledge, £7.99 paperback) This is a good general introduction. I was surprised to find that it not only covered the ‘basics’ but also included material on very recent debates, things that are still ‘hot topics’ in academic circles. I’ve not read all of it, but the bits I’ve read so far have been pretty good.
¶ A Dictionary of Philosophy ed. Antony Flew (Pan, £7.99) Zillions of entries, mostly only a paragraph long. Good way to get started on new topics, before you look for detailed material. Also very useful for looking up names and facts. The reference book I use most.
¶ Philosophy in the 20th Century by A.J. Ayer. (Unwin, £6.99) Much more advanced than Warburton’s book , but still pretty readable and very comprehensive – covers all the main 20th Century developments in English-language philosophy, but a bit skimpy in its coverage of the various Continental movements.
¶ The Great Philosophers ed. Brian Magee (Oxford University Press, £7.99) Based on a 1987 BBC TV series. Consists of a series of conversations with leading modern philosophers about the great philosophers of the past. Plato, Descartes, Heidegger, Hume, Wittgenstein – all the usual villains are included.
¶ Learning to Philosophise by E.R. Emmet (Penguin, £6.99) A good introduction to the analytic tradition, focussing on philosophy as an activity devoted to clarifying concepts. A half-dozen chapters on different areas of philosophical interest, each followed by several questions which are put to the reader to stimulate him/her to think philosophically.
¶ Moral Philosophy by D.D.Raphael (New edition about to appear. Oxford Paperbacks, £7.99) A good, short, introduction to all the main schools of thought in moral philosophy.
¶ Oxford Reading in Philosophy: Philosophy of Religion ed. Basil Mitchell (Oxford University Press, £8.95) A collection of some of the most influential papers on this subject, collated from the pages of various philosophy journals. Featuring new colour schemes such as bleen and grue as well as Antony Flew in a Hansel & Gretel hut in the middle of a forest. Unusually (for this series) this collection is comprehensible to the uninitiated.