Saturday, January 24, 2009

Book Review: Introduction to Philosophy by Norman Geisler and Paul Feinberg

Introduction to Philosophy by Norman Geisler and Paul Feinberg is an excellent work that introduces the student to the broad subject of philosophy from a Christian perspective. Although providing a wide overview, the authors effectively retain a good depth in the subject matter throughout, providing plenty of detail and explanation.

The book is broken into five parts: first, an introduction to philosophy; second, epistemology; third, the nature of reality; next, the subject of God; and fifth, ethics. In providing a good introduction to the subject, Geisler and Feinberg offer a concise definition of philosophy: “Philosophy is, then, the critical analysis of fundamental concepts of human inquiry, and the normative discussion of how human thought and action ought to function, as well as the description of the nature of reality.”1

The authors detail the disciplines within philosophy, discuss the methods and models used in philosophy, and the tools used in thinking. These include an introduction to logic and detailed critiques of each methodology discussed. They note that for the Christian, no philosophical methodology can eliminate the possibility of divine revelation. Also, the authors present the challenge of Christian philosophy:
“Without a thorough knowledge of philosophy the Christian is at the mercy of the non-Christian in the intellectual arena. The challenge, then, is for the Christian to ‘out-think’ the non-Christian in both building a system of truth and in tearing down systems of error.”2
Part Two’s discussion of knowledge is an overview of epistemology. Can we know? Is certainty possible? How are beliefs justified? Within this section is a thorough critique of skepticism. Also of note is a discussion of the various kinds of certainty. This is helpful in clarifying the question of how on can “know” anything.

Part Three discusses the nature of reality and metaphysics. Particularly helpful in this section would be the detailed overview of the theories of truth. Part Four covers “What is the Ultimate” – a two-part section dealing first with the relationship between faith and reason, followed by a portion devoted to what is meant by God and the existence of God. The problem of evil is briefly addressed. The relationship between faith and reason neatly addresses the positive elements of each of the five views: revelation only, reason only, reason over revelation, revelation over reason, and reason and revelation. The portion devoted to arguments for the existence of God is introductory and sufficient, but by no means comprehensive. For a more comprehensive discussion of the various arguments for the existence of God, this reviewer recommends Geisler and Corduan’s Philosophy of Religion.

The final section covers ethics; what is good or right. Right is defined, the method by which we know right and wrong is discussed, and moral duties are explored. Again, this section, although introductory, does seem to manage a good depth in the subject by thoroughly illustrating the competing philosophies among ethicists. Moral dilemmas are also surveyed here.

Introduction to Philosophy by Geisler and Feinberg is worthy to be used as an introductory text for the philosophy and apologetics student. Its thorough overview and helpful end-of-chapter summaries make it a fine starting point and good reference work.

1 Norman Geisler and Paul Feinberg, Introduction to Philosophy (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1980), p. 17.
2 Ibid., p. 73.


Anonymous said...

Between this book and "Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview", which one covers more ground on the historical foundations/ideas/thinkers of western classical philosophy? I am a Philosophy student so I am looking for a good grounding in the historical foundations of western philosophy. Thanks in advance.

Brian said...

I wouldn't say that either book is attempting to provide a thorough historical foundation including thinkers and their influences. But by far the book to go with for depth and weight of content is Philosophical Foundations. Have a browse through the table of contents online for some more insight

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