Friday, April 18, 2008

Pocket philosophy

Why is There Something Rather Than Nothing? 23 questions from great philosophers is a very attractive book. The cover has a beautiful William Morris-inspired design and it's diminutive size (16 cm, 222 pgs.) makes it a nice little item to slip into a purse or backpack (after it's been properly checked out at the front desk, of course).
The contents are just as attractive. Author Leszek Kołakowski is a senior research fellow at All Souls College, Oxford and he has provided the reader with a very readable introduction to many great philosophers. In his introduction, Kołakowski states that the book should not be taken as a condensed history of philosophy, but instead each chapter focuses on one important issue that each man considered (there are no women represented here - I don't know enough about philosophy to judge whether that is a truly glaring omission). Socrates and St. Augustine ruminate on the concept of evil, John Locke ponders our God-endowed rights, and Kierkegaard questions the need for the Church. And like any good philosopher, Kołakowski ends each essay with a series of questions for the reader. This is not a book of answers, but instead will make the reader think about themselves, human nature, our place in the world, and our relationship with faith. Not bad for a cute little book.

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