The Philosophy Book for Beginners: A Brief Introduction to Great Thinkers and Big Ideas

by: Sharon Kaye (0)

Explore big questions and understand complex philosophy

Who are you? What is truly real? Is there such a thing as free will? If you have ever considered questions like these, that’s philosophy. The Philosophy Book for Beginners breaks down the core concepts of both Eastern and Western philosophy in clear language that explains the most important people and ideas. You’ll develop an understanding of the basic ideas and see your understanding of the world expand—no dense, academic texts required.

  • The major branches—Explore the central questions of metaphysics, epistemology, logic, and axiology as you see how they changed over time.
  • A wide range of thinkers—Discover the diverse perspectives of philosophers, from Socrates in the fifth century BCE to modern-day thinkers like Martha Nussbaum.
  • Thought experiments—Each chapter focuses on a topic, like existentialism, stoicism, or radical faith, and ends with a related thought experiment for you to ponder.

Gain a solid understanding of philosophy, with a book that makes it easy to grasp and relevant to the world today.

The Reviews

This book is easy to read with a lot of good information about the Dever of philosophy. I would highly recommend it.


Well, I was surprised at the choices included in the book - of all the philosophers they might have included, including those who have had tremendous impact in the last century (20th) there was very little, Each one discussed gets a very superficial pre cis...and with even my shallow knowledge of philosophy I knew more than the book offered. Had hoped for a more meaty summary of each, and to have some of the critical thinkers of the 20th century discussed...but not. I'm not sure even who the book would 'educate', since the choices seemed so arbitrary. If a student going into a philosophy class in HS readit, I think they'd be disappointed and turned off tot he subject...just my take.

Great for reading up on famous philosopher's perspectives on certain issues, but does very little to hold the reader's attention. No infographics, pictures or anything other than a minimalist inspired text formatting structure.

I so wanted to love this book because it had a foundation and style for making philosophy relevant and relatable, but the further in I got, the more I just couldn't find the philosophy itself. The promising start to "help you develop and voice your own philosophy" very quickly plummeted into a spoon-fed version of the author's values and worldview instead.This is really a *history* of philosophy with 13 one-third-page "thought experiments" of actual philosophy added to it, none of which contain guidance on navigating the philosophical topic posed. It is a simple book divided into 13 chapters, each chapter featuring 4-5 philosophers and a thought experiment, with 1.5 short pages on average per philosopher. Much of that space covers unrelated tangents that are intended to bias the reader toward or away from the importance and value of the philosophy/philosopher presented.A lexile range analyzer of a random selection placed it at 810-1000, or 6th to 8th grade writing, though the developmental logic stage that 7th-9th graders are in would not be well-served by this book as it intentionally excludes the study of logic. (Philosophy for Kids: 40 Fun Questions That Help You Wonder About Everything! by David White or The Fallacy Detective: Thirty-Eight Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasoning by Nathaniel Bluedorn, Hans Bluedorn, et al might be of interest for 6th-10th graders.) The topic of comparative beliefs present as a primary theme here requires 10-12th grade development.This book is presumably written primarily for college students who should find it remarkably breezy. There are no primary sources or direct quotes, presenting only the author's heavy-handed summaries as they apply to the narrative she shares. What this book gives you a great introduction to its author and her worldview and values.For example: "[William] James was especially interested in justifying religious belief. Religious beliefs do not correspond to observable facts and they are more mystical than logical. Yet, a religious belief may prove useful to you-giving you hope, inspiring you to be good, or uniting you with other believers. If so, then it is true for you.... when the evidence is inconclusive, and the claim is useful, we have the right to believe-which is the same as judging the claim to be true for us. Good pragmatists know that such a judgement is never final. They are always open to revising their beliefs in light of new experience."Another example: "Harmony with nature is a mindset that may become increasingly relevant as the world's environmental crisis builds. Laozi's approach provides a spiritual basis for sound ecological practices. It is hard to picture a good life on a barren planet."What's most gut-wrenching is that the history itself is poor--the level of what one would expect from an armchair scientist's social media memes on the history of philosophy and religion. It shows very little rigor or understanding of the person or context and almost completely neglects Indigenous American, Latin American, Scandinavian/Northern European, Eastern European, and Disability philosophies--which is remarkable given the fact it is a doctor of philosophy writing a book about how today's college students can relate and why they should care. Basically, it covers but de-emphasizes Western European philosophers, provides a good effort to rudimentarily include East Asian and Southeast Asian Buddhist and Hindu philosophers, and ties in the stoicism and existentialism of the modern era, then calls it a day.The author is engaging and well-spoken. I have no doubt she connects with her audience in the classroom. The book comes across like her off-the-cuff compilation of unchecked passions and rants about life, the universe, and everything. On that note, I'd recommend Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as a much better exposition of existentialist philosophy. A random sample from that placed it at a lexile range of 1010-1200, or 10th-12th grade college and career ready reading, and, unlike this, it is remarkably accessible and appropriate for middle schoolers. I'd much rather youth stretch into comprehension than college students have theirs so watered down that it lack substance. Sadly, I don't think this will prepare anyone to "voice your own philosophy" in any depth, but the breadth of coverage should at least leave the reader feeling like they've covered a lot of ground with ease--for whatever that's worth in a book trying to get the reader to think deeply and examine his or her life in order to become "an honorable adversary."

While I can find quite a bit of fault in this book if it was designed as adult reading to inspire deeper thought, I'd have rated it lower.But as a book aimed at, I presume, teens and maybe 'tweens, this is a good start with some simplified examples and some biographical information on the philosophers and their take on life.You will not be spouting the differences between Hume and Kant with any authority after reading this but a young reader might be intrigued enough to walk away wanting to learn more, and that's the point, in my opinion, of this book. Most adult writings on this subject would be intimidating to teens; this book is very comfortable and reassuring of their being able to understand the basics of a deeply difficult subject.I would gladly give this away as a gift to high school kids and not worry that the pedantic parents of some of them would point out the oversimplification of parts of the book. It's a basic learning experience, designed to get younger minds more engaged with the subject and does not confront them with more than they can be fed in one sitting.Recommended for teens and age-appropriate kids, not recommended for Ph.D.'s in Philosophy; in other words, "Beginners" as right there in the title.Review of: The Philosophy Book for Beginners: A Brief Introduction to Great Thinkers and Big Ideas

This book makes philosophy so approachable and understandable -- thank you! It's organized into three sections -- metaphysics, epistomology, and axiology. Then within that, entries are organized around big questions -- Can the existence of God be proven or disproven? Can we know anything? What is truly real? What is beauty? What is art? It's very easy to browse and pick a question that's been interesting you to see what the philosophers have to say about it. Within the chapters, the text easily and clearly moves between explanation and example, so you walk away with a clear sense of what philosophers were thinking about that topic. And it sparks your own thinking about it, for sure. Each section ends with a thought experiment taken from a philosopher -- the sidebar pulls you through the activity on your own with question prompts. My kids were SUPER engaged with this book, reading a section, talking about it with each other, and teaching me what they learned. Made for really great discussions at our house. Highly recommend as a gift or addition to a classroom library.

The Philosophy Book for Beginners: A Brief Introduction to Great Thinkers and Big Ideas
⭐ 4.4 💛 93
paperback: $7.65
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