Customer Reviews: Philosophy For Dummies
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on November 19, 2001
Some time ago I sat down and read through "Philosophy for Dummies" and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Philosophy." My intentions were to find a book that I might recommend to friends who have a passing interest in the subject, so that I might encourage their understanding and gain more people to discuss ideas with.

Not only was I disappointed with "Philosophy for Dummies" but I found the presentation to be both offensive and underhanded. While appearing at first to be an introduction to the greater subject, it turns out to be a packaging of the author's own beliefs... heavily skewed and full of personal bias. Whole movements are passed over with little or nothing said other than a dismissive comment from the author, who apparently doesnt think them worth mention because he doesnt agree. This is HARDLY proper for what is supposed to be an introduction to the subject. The novice reader is left with a lopsided, limited presentation that while written well enough, leaves him needing to go buy ANOTHER book so he can actually BE introduced to what this title led him to believe he would be -- the subject of philosophy in a wide ranging sense.

As for having the intention of demonstrating the "philosophical process," and not being a general introduction, it fails in this way too. In this regard, the book becomes a subjective promotion of the author's views with at best a biased and extremely limited dabble in opposing ideas (if at times any at all), these being presented in a shallow and shakey fashion, intentionally staged by the author so he can wave them away. ~Laughs~ very convenient, and in total contradiction to the spirit of philosophy and the "battle" of opposing views that has fostered and nurtured the strengths and greatness of the subject throughout history. The "philosophical process" involves the challenging of ones ideas, not the ignoring of that which you dont like or that which disagrees with you, just so you can say you are right and feel good about it.

In surfing Amazon tonight, I decided to look at the reviews for this book ("Philosophy for Dummies"). I was VERY glad to see that a number of people saw the same thing as I did in this.

Pro-God or not, is not the point. The glory of philosophy is found in all the different ideas it contains and the critical eyes objectively (hopefully) applied to them in evaluation. This is what an introduction should present (scope understandably limited to a degree), and most importantly should ENCOURAGE. A book like this should be written with the intention of exposing the reader to the subject of philosophy itself (the history and the general system of rational thought that is its foundation), not just the author's step by step program of -- "This is what I think, so I am going to show you why you should think this way too. Don't worry about the other stuff, it's just nonsense, so we won't say anything much about that."

"Complete Idiot's Guide to Philosophy" is a much better choice if we were to compare the two. It presents a wide variety of thoughts and explanations, leaving each person to think for himself and later search out more of what he finds speaks to him. The layout is well organized, and the progression of ideas fit well together, allowing the novice reader to not only see the varying concepts, but how each stage of thought fed into the next, and how differing theories challenge one another. The reader is exposed to the ideas themselves, as presented by the given philosophers, not as packaged by a single author who is spending less time introducing and more time selling his own views. Concepts are not examined in great detail, but then again, that is not what this book is trying to do.

While "Complete Idiot's Guide to Philosophy" is not the best introduction to the subject, it is a good, concise volume of work. As its intention was to be just that, it does its job well. There are better introductions available, but these are often much longer with ideas being developed in greater detail... something that while would be sought by a true student of the subject, might turn off those just looking for a surface exposure. The examinations are cursory at times, but this is again understandable considering the breadth of the subject in relation to the attempt to introduce as much as possible in a limited space, in simple terms.

If you are choosing between the two...
Buy "Complete Idiot's Guide to Philosophy" if you want an introduction to the subject.
Buy "Philosophy for Dummies" if you want an introduction to Tom Morris.

Actually... check out "Thinking Through Philosophy" - Horner and Westacott - Cambridge University Press. The format and organization of this book is different from the two spoken of above, feeling less "rushed" though still concise and accessible... and the style of introduction is good for both casual readers and those seeking to later move into a deeper study.
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on May 7, 2013
Man, I wish I had seen the other reviews prior to buying this book. I got several chapters into it and was extremely disappointed. So, I went online to see if there were comments about this and sure enough, there were. Many other comments mirror mine so I wont repeat. I too found the book to be offensive and underhanded. The author is clearly working in his belief system under the guise of philosophy. This book is not a neutral book on the subject. I will check out the other books and not finish this one. Will look into returning it to Amazon.
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on March 29, 2000
Some philosophers may be offended that their subject has been included in this series, thinking it is too serious of too profound to be made accessible to the "Dummies" of the world. Fortunately, Tom Morris knows the difference between being serious and being somber, and the difference between being profound and being obscure. He has written a book which covers the serious stuff of philosophy but has done so in a way which is downright fun to read! This book does not shrink from the classic, and difficult, problems of philosophy such as the mind-body problem, the nature of freedom and its relation to determinism, the problem of evil, and the nature of morality. But all of this material is written in an engaging style which clearly lays out the issues involved and why they matter to us. Moreover, Morris takes on the really big questions which have traditionally motivated the whole philosophical enterprise: the existence of God, the meaning of life, and life after death. Morris discusses these existentially gripping issues in a clear and evenhanded manner which reminds us why these questions are at the very heart of our humanity. This book is not intended for professional philosophers, but as one who makes his living teaching the subject, I would heartily recommend it to anyone who wants to know what the fuss is all about which has generated the two thousand plus year old debate we call philosophy.
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on May 24, 2011
I don't need to add to what has already been said in other comments about the author's heavy handed biases in this book. While I agree with many of the author's positions, that's not the point in an intro to philosophy. I feel disillusioned with the Dummies people for letting something like this get published under their name.

My real frustration is with the low quality of the kindle version. Someone seriously needs to go through this edition and fix the fact that the main text and side captions are run together.

In short, a total ripoff. Don't waste your money.
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on November 21, 2015
This book was chosen by Liberty University for one of several readings for my son's Philosophy 201 course. Having taken Philosophy through another Christian University, I am not impressed with the writing. I expected something that was going to simplify the topic, but its poor organization and anecdotal qualities made the topic more difficult than it had to be. Morris claims he has a Christian worldview, but I find it hard to believe based on what I read.

I, therefore, recommend that Liberty look for another book to use in their course. If you don't have to read this thing, find something better.
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on July 12, 2012
It seems I already agree with most people who don't like this book, so I'll just point out a few things I didn't like personally:

-His thoughts on immortality are summed up thusly: "Dying is scary, so it's better to believe in an afterlife."
-The naturalistic worldview means no morals, free will, meaning, or hope. (Page 305 if you don't believe me.)
-Not only is Pascal's Wager its own chapter (and for some reason not part of the chapter about if there is a god or not), but here's some of his points: if you're an atheist and are right about god, there isn't an afterlife to gloat about it (pg. 298 and is considered a "tip"), but if you bet on god and are wrong, you won't be frustrated about it because you're dead (same page, but considered a "great idea"); it convinced some tough guy that Pascal was smart (pg. 299); that even if a person believes because of the Wager, they'll eventually believe for real and avoid the immorality objection (pg. 300-301); and lastly, even though there are many different gods out there, because Pascal was Christian, it means that the Christian God is the right one (pg 302-302).
-Tom then tells a story about some crazy dude claiming to be God and having disciples in New Haven. He was marrying people in his name. Tom asks if the Wager applies to people like this and says, no, because not every claim of infinite reward deserves attention. I wonder if he meant for this to apply to other religions?

There is more, but these were the parts that bugged me the most.
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on March 22, 2011
This is a well presented book in an enjoyable format but it is not a general philosophy book. The author spends a large amount of time proving the existence of god. While he is entitled to his opinion on that subject he sneaks up on people who think they are getting a general introduction to philosophy but are actually getting "How to prove god exists in the coffee shop." This is of course excellent fun for the non-theists for there is nothing like proving something you think is total hog-wash. In the hands of theists however it becomes a Gollum-like struggle for the ring.
Lots of other good general introductions to philosophy out there. Tom give up philosophy and become a minister.
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on March 18, 2000
If you are interesting in the kind of thoughtful, critical philosophical inquiry that is practiced in philosophy departments, where the focus is on giving reasons for one view or another, not on woolly rhetoric, the two best introductions are: Nigel Warburton, Philosophy: the Basics, and Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy. Don't bother with this one.
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on August 1, 2011
I've only read a few books on the subject of philosophy so I'm definitely no expert, but this book was the most ridiculous I've read so far. While I embrace the possibility of a God and am not opposed to authors writing about why they do likewise I think its a bit irresponsible how much Tom Morris enforces his views on the matter in what is supposed to be an introduction to philosophy. Obviously the people reading this book won't have a strong knowledge on how philosophical arguments work (I don't), so it's not difficult to manipulate the reader into believing profound ideas with an elaborate train of thought that can be hard to keep up with.

I could talk about how ridiculous his anecdote was about a psychic grandmother prophesying who he would marry and all the other bull**** I had to sift through to get a few gems, but then this would start to look more like a rant than a review.

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on December 9, 2009
After reading Philosophy: The Basics, I was inspired to explore philosophy further. I've usually been pleased with the for Dummies books, so when I came across this volume at the library I checked it out. Oddly enough, though this book is bigger, it says less. As opposed to the argument-counterargument format of Philosophy: The Basics, this is a guided justification of the author's own beliefs. For example, when talking about morality and virtue theory "From the ancient world, there is another theory that not only deserves mentioning, but that I've come to think is not only insightful, but also true. Here's my version of virtue theory." (pg 100) That's very nice, but I'd like to get the sweep of many great thinkers throughout history, not any one person's particular view.

To make matters worse, he doesn't do a very good job of arguing his case. The Cosmological Argument he presents as a proof of God is based on the assumption that "the existence of something is intelligible only if it has an explanation", but when posed with the question of why God would allow evil he shrugs and says that God is so far beyond us that when it comes to his actions, "... we should not expect to understand it all." He points out (correctly) that water has characteristics very different than the hydrogen and oxygen that make it up, but argues that the mind can't have a physical basis since the mind has characteristics different than neurons. The content of the argument doesn't matter as long as it props up his beliefs.

And that, I think, is the greatest flaw running throughout the book. In the beginning, we are introduced to Plato's cave, a metaphor for how we may mistake our illusions for reality and a wonderful image of what philosophy tries to do. Then we are introduced to Morris' own concept of the Principle of Belief Conservation, which essentially gives us permission to take any belief we might have and call it rational. We are bombarded with appeals to intuition, but is that a good guide to truth? Intuitively, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Rationally, we know that the sun stays still while the earth rotates. How many of his "proven" beliefs are likewise erroneous?

Pretty much the only reason I didn't give this book one star was the fact that he gives a definition of spirituality that allows for atheism/agnosticism, something I'd never seen before. Is it true? I don't know; I'll have to think about it.
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