Philosophy: History, Ideas, Theories, Who’s Who, How to Think.

Title: Philosophy: History, Ideas, Theories, Who’s Who, How to Think.
Author/s: Law, Stephen.
Material type: Book.
Publisher/date: DK ADULT (2007).
Format: Paperback (352 pages).
ISBN: 10: 9780756626259, 13: 978-0756626259
Area and topic: History of philosophy and ideas. Key/important philosophical                issues/topics/problems. Philosophical skills/methodology.
Intended audience/ reading level: General/accessible.
Purchasing and information: 1) 2)
Unique and/or salient feature/s: ‘Philosophy: History, Ideas, Theories, Who’s Who, How to Think’ is a fully colour illustrated overview of Western (with some Eastern) philosophy. The book introduces philosophy through a variety of different perspectives and approaches i.e.1) through its historical development (with reference to the particular important names in philosophy); 2) as a discipline comprised of various branches (ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of art, religion etc); 3) as a practice/skill with various methods and tools.


Synopsis and/or additional information: The following information is sourced from the above links (see ‘Purchasing and information’) and the text.

  • ‘Philosophy: History, Ideas, Theories, Who’s Who, How to Think’ is part of a series that aims to bring various subjects to a wider audience. The following concerns this series: ‘Presenting a series of innovative visual manuals on a wide variety of popular subjects, these richly illustrated companions offer detailed cutaway views, maps, specially commissioned photographs, informative captions, biographical profiles, and a fact-filled text as they cover the basics of different topics of interest.’ All these features are found in the present volume.
  • ‘Philosophy: History, Ideas, Theories, Who’s Who, How to Think’ covers ‘ … not only the history of Western thought, but also the traditions of Eastern philosophy and schools of thought from the Indian subcontinent. This companion combines philosophical analysis with historical and biographical information to explain and explore the major issues, theories, and problems at the heart of all philosophies.
  • The broad contents are as follows:
  1. History of philosophy: Ancient, medieval, early modern, modern.
  2. Branches of philosophy: Ethics, metaphysics, epistemology and peripheral subjects, philosophy of mind, religion, science, political philosophy.
  3. Philosophy toolkit.
  4. Conceptual and reasoning tools.
  5. Who’s who in philosophy section.
Strengths: ‘Philosophy: History, Ideas, Theories, Who’s Who, How to Think’ is a, comprehensive, well structured, nicely presented introduction to philosophy and an excellent resource for teaching philosophy in the classroom. The author, Stephen Law has written many books in philosophy for the general reader. This experience is reflected in the writing e.g. the style is lively, the content engaging, accessible to read and presupposes no prior philosophical knowledge of the reader. Furthermore, the content is presented in a way that makes it seem relevant and interesting to the non specialist/academic. One of the most attractive and salient features of the book is that it introduces its subject through all the main approaches on offer,  in separate sections, and all under the one cover (see above under  ‘the broad contents are as follows’). This may help the reader/student to gain a richer multi perspectival unerstanding of philosophy at the introductory level. Finally, the book is colour illustrated, an attractive feature that may (or may not) assist the learning process.
Limitations: With the ‘many perspectives’ approach to introducing philosophy, there is a sense in which the book is really 3 or 4 very short books in one. One problem with this approach (arguably) is that each aspect or mini book is lacking in sufficient depth and detail. Because of this, one may be inclined to instead purchase one or more of the other titles reviews on this site that focuses purely on only one approach to introducing philosophy.

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