Philosophy for Beginner

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Philosophy for Beginner

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Philosophy (General)


by: Richard Osborne

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This book is biased, so a poor "introduction": there's no call for author's (Osborne's) dismissive, sneering take on Christianity in a book purporting to be an introduction to philosophy. Religious thought (including Christianity) and philosophical thought can harmonize; they do not have to be put into opposition against each other. Yet author feels it necessary to imply that Christianity is a hopeless fraud from its outset, one which nevertheless succeeded in sticking around for 2000 years due to dumb luck and an iron fist. Osborne's beef is apparently not against religion per se: Islam is allowed to be beautiful and benevolent. Christianity on the other hand is characterized as being hapless, crude, and vehemently anti-intellectual, a sect only just saved from dying out by the hasty interference of St. Paul. It all smacks of someone with an ax to grind.
Author's prejudices show up in other ways too. For instance, Feminism gets one page, and important thinkers like Foucault and Lacan share a single page, while Marx gets eight [The author has obvious marxist sympathies.]. The whole book suffers from this sort of too-much-too-little choppiness, spending undue proportions of space on some figures and barely acknowledging others.
Author's Marxist sympathies may explain some of his religious animosity, but really, his jibes against Christianity aren't really intellectually based. Although the early portion of the book on classical philosophers is helpful (that's where that extra star comes from in my rating!), once he moves to religion things get snarky and cynical--like a church-raised adolescent who suddenly realizes he can rebel. The really sad thing is that a fair account of Christian philosophical contributions (and the advances in thought that sometimes ran counter to them) would have been interesting and informative while still allowing Osborne to get in his licks in against the church, if that's what he really wanted. There've been plenty of philosophical goofs committed by Christian thinkers, and plenty of secular thinkers to correct them. Instead author would rather sensationalize about bad popes and repeat the tired (and unhistorical) argument that Christianity has only acted against the intelligentsia for all of its 2000 years in existence.
Unfortunately, then, the anti-Christian bias is so pronounced and obvious that this affair often degenerates into a rant. Read a real introduction to philosophy book instead, even an old one like Frost's Ideas or From Socrates to Sartre. Avoid this unless, like Osborne, you just enjoy slapping the church.

Love of Polemic, not Wisdom: Blending little known writers with political polemicists & ecclesiastical dissidents, then referring to them as 'philosophers' -- this book is a collection of obvious biases, obfuscations, and prejudicial views in an easy-to-read comic book format; which will obscure philosophy from mere opinion to the beginner.
Examples of the author's selected preferences runs throughout his work - one example is a short biography of communist agitator Rosa Luxembourg appearing on page 162, in absence of any commentary about Ayn Rand (but then neither are philosophers). Or the term 'libertarian' having been identified as meaning "right-winged", but the communist euphemism of 'progressive' is not to be found. Also the economist Karl Marx was referred to as a 'philosopher', but no comment is found on the genius J.P. Morgan!
It isn't just that a defunct theory such as Marxism is being preferred over economic rationality such as capitalism; or a dissident like Platonist Duns Scotus Eriugena being preferred over accepted Aristotelian St. Thomas Aquinas; it is just this author had obviously emphasized any mechanistic, deterministic, or behavioristic view over any ideological, existential, or teleological system, without adequate explanation for the beginner to comprehend the difference - the result then is sheer indoctrination.
To the author's credit, he stated on page 149 that the "Characteristic of the school (i.e. Analytic Philosophy) is the desire to clarify, through analysis, and a hostility toward metaphysics." It is this preference for Analytic Philosophy and a "hostility" towards metaphysics in any form, without defining the differences, which perverts PHILOSOPHY FOR BEGINNERS (and pervades this entire 'Beginners' series)!

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