Philosophy 101 Review

I purchased Philosophy 101[i] for two reasons. The first reason was to refresh my memory of philosophical figures and theories and to broaden my knowledge of philosophy. In the limited time I had at SFA for undergraduate school, I could not possibly learn or even hear of certain figures and theories. I studied theology in graduate school. Therefore, my studies in philosophy were even more narrowed. Philosophy 101 helped to supplement my knowledge and interest in philosophy.

The second reason I purchased Philosophy 101 was to see if this book would be valuable to teach an introduction philosophy course. I aspire to teach philosophy at the collegiate level, at least at community colleges. Therefore, I needed a book that surveys Western Philosophy to try to develop lessons for an introduction to philosophy. Just as it piqued and supplemented my interest in philosophy, it would be good enough to use in an introductory course.

Alas, the book itself needs to be supplemented to fully grasp the subjects within it because Kleinman only gave about five pages on average to each chapter and subject. Kleinman touches on many subjects within philosophy, but never dives deep into them. This is the problem with any introductory work. It either touches on too many subjects to be able to dive deeply into them, or it spends too much time on certain topics that it is not able to even touch others.

Nevertheless, Philosophy 101 would be a good book for anyone interested in philosophy to pick up. They can then discover what subjects they want to learn more about. Some books I personally have on my shelf and think would be good supplements to Kleinman’s book are The Presocratic Philosophers[ii], Bacon to Kant[iii], The Elements of Moral Philosophy[iv], and Philosophy of Religion[v]. These are just a few that cover the Pre-Socratic, religion, ethics and modern philosophy. There are many more good philosophy books out there to continue one’s study. My recommendation is to use Philosophy 101 to find a subject that is interesting and begin researching to learn more about it.

One of the major flaws of this book is its organization. There seems to be no logical flow or pattern to how Kleinman organized his chapters. He begins his book with chapters on the Pre-Socratic philosophers, Socrates, and Plato, but throws in a chapter on Existentialism before a chapter on Aristotle. This is just an example of the semi-randomness that Kleinman exhibits in Philosophy 101. Some theories and philosophers do overlap or transcend time. So, it is understandable that it’s not always easy to clearly keep some in a neat and defined “box”. I expected, as many would in most philosophy survey books, sections on classical and modern philosophy, ethics, post-modernism, and religion just to name a few. This organization would allow the reader a better understanding of how philosophers and theories tie in together. The only possible reason that Kleinman organized his book the way he did was to break up the monotony of certain subjects allowing the reader to experience different philosophies in a short period of reading.

Philosophy 101 is dominantly about Western Philosophy, but Kleinman includes a chapter on Eastern Philosophy (231). Sadly, just as an introductory work on philosophy that covers many subjects can’t do any of them justice, a chapter within an introductory work on Eastern Philosophy can’t do it justice either. He uses this chapter to contrast Eastern Philosophy from Western Philosophy by pointing out how Eastern Philosophy focuses on the community while Western Philosophy focuses on the individual (231). He also shows how Western Philosophy has affected Eastern Philosophy with the emergence of the Kyoto School in the twentieth century (242). This school introduced ideas from Western Philosophy and religion into Asian ones to “reformulate moral and religious understanding” (242).

The back cover claims, “Philosophy 101 cuts out the boring details and exhausting philosophical methodology and instead gives you a lesson in philosophy that keeps you engaged”. Kleinman does succeed even at the cost of not providing enough information at times. He does give enough information to pique one’s interest into studying philosophy more. This book is recommended to anyone interested in studying philosophy at all, but will need to supplement their studies with more in-depth books.

[i] Kleinman, Paul. Philosophy 101: From Plato and Socrates to Ethics and Metaphysics, an Essential Primer on the History of Thought. Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2013.

[ii] Kirk, G. S., J. E. Raven, and M. Schofield. The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts. Second ed. Cambridge University Press, 2007.

[iii] Thomson, Garrett. Bacon to Kant: An Introduction to Modern Philosophy. Second ed. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, 2002.

[iv] Rachels, James, and Stuart Rachels. The Elements of Moral Philosophy. Sixth ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2010.

[v] Rowe, William L. Philosophy of Religion: An Introduction. Fourth ed. Belmont, CA: Thomas Wadsworth, 2007.


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