Best for: Anyone interested in an introduction to ideas from western philosophy, starting with Socrates and Plato.
In a nutshell: Philosopher (and podcaster) Nigel Warburton spends 40 chapters exploring the one or two main hallmarks of different western philosophers.
“Philosophers challenge dogma. They ask why people believe what they do, what sorts of evidence they have to support their conclusions.”
Why I chose it:
I was feeling a little nostalgic about my days studying philosophy. That program was only a year, and pretty focused on certain areas, so I only have a passing understanding of many of the big western thinkers.
I’m going to say this upfront: the western philosophy that professors often choose to teach in school is populated by dudes. White dudes. That is evident clearly in this book, which includes only four women (two of whom are in the same chapter, and one of whom shares a chapter with two dudes). In the 40 chapters there are probably between 50 and 60 philosophers discussed, so yeah. That’s not great at all.
With that said, the ideas that many of these philosophers have explored are fascinating to think through. While I’d heard of nearly all the folks discussed in the six or seven page overviews, I enjoyed getting a condensed version of their beliefs. It’s not enough to have serious, thoughtful dialog about, but it is enough to get one thinking.
I probably enjoyed the chapters that discussed figures I studied more than the other chapters, just because it got me thinking back to my time in school and how much I enjoyed those conversations and debate (and how much I think Kant is just … wrong). It got me excited to do some more philosophy reading in the near future.
If philosophy is something you think you might be interested in, I recommend this book. I think Mr. Warburton is generally pretty fair in his analyses and descriptions, so you can take what interests you and then pursue further readings in those areas.