Monday, March 3, 2014

WHAT IS A PRELUDE TO PHILOSOPHY? – A BOOK REVIEW

Prelude to Philosophy: An Introduction for Christians. By Mark W. Foreman. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014. 208 pp. $20.00. ISBN 978-0-8308-3960-5.

            There are a lot of introductions to philosophy on the market. It could probably be claimed, with a certain amount of precision, that there is at least one introduction to philosophy for every particular approach to philosophy…and then some. As such, it can always be asked, why another introduction to philosophy? However, this book is not, in the traditional sense, an introduction to philosophy. Mark W. Foreman has written what he calls a prelude to philosophy, with the idea that this book should be read prior to reading an introduction to philosophy. In this review I will note the purpose of this book, the intended audience, the general outline of the book, and its relative worth.

            The purpose of this book is written with the purpose of explaining what philosophy is. As such, rather than to introduce the domains of philosophical research (although he does mention them) or to give an overview of the history of philosophy (although Foreman does mention the main divisions of the history of philosophy), Foreman seeks to explain to the reader what it means to do philosophy – to philosophize. This is not all, of course, for Foreman, in this book, is seeking to help the reader to understand what it means to have a philosophical mindset, to demystify philosophy, and to help the reader become a philosopher. The intended audience of this book are those Christians who “are new to philosophy and who may have misgivings and reservations about what they are getting into. It is written at a basic level and assumes the reader has no knowledge of philosophy. (p. 13)” It should be noted right away the author has, according to this reader, fully succeeded in writing a book that introduces the non-philosopher, to what it means to be a philosopher. His book is easy to understand, and ably avoids, or explains when avoiding is impossible, technical terminology, allowing the non-philosopher to fully understand what is being explained.

            The book is divided into 7 chapters and an epilogue in which Foreman outlines the 7 virtues of the Christian philosopher. This last chapter makes this book worthwhile for even seasoned philosophers, who will be encouraged and challenged by the epilogue. Chapter 1 is an interesting explanation of just what philosophy is. Foreman approaches this question in four different ways. He begins by providing a nominal (or working) definition of what philosophy is. He then describes philosophy. He compares it with other domains of scientific or religious research, and finally he explains that the final way of finding out what philosophy is, is to experience it – that is, to do philosophy.

            In Chapter 2 Foreman explains why philosophy is important, in general, for everybody, and in chapter 3 Foreman explains why philosophy is important for, specifically, for Christians. What he wants to show, in these chapters, is not so much that it is important to know what particular philosophers have said, but, rather, that it is important to develop a philosophical mindset. He tells us that “A philosophical mindset is an attitude or approach to life that involves regularly examining beliefs to ascertain what they mean, whether they are true and what value they have. (p. 52)” In chapter 4 he seeks to explain what most philosophers typically consider as the main divisions of philosophy. He begins by noting the different ways in which philosophy can be divided: Historically, according to overarching worldviews, or according to the different domains of philosophical research. In this chapter he divides philosophy up according to the primary domains of philosophical research, and considers the three most important branches: Metaphysics, Epistemology, and Axiology. He finishes the chapter with a consideration of other smaller branches of philosophy, such as politics, philosophy of history, science, etc.

            The rest of the book considers logic and argumentation. In chapter 5 Foreman introduces the reader to basic logic. He considers the various types of logical proofs, as well as deductive and inductive arguments. In chapter 6 Foreman lists and explains pretty much every informal fallacy. In chapter 7 Foreman explains, first of all, how to construct a good argument, and secondly, how to analyse arguments. These three chapters are vital for anybody who wishes to be a responsible citizen in whatever country he lives; for anybody who wishes to understand the Bible; for anybody who wishes to engage in theological, apologetical, or philosophical discussion (as well as the formulation of scientific theories and arguments).


            The book is introduced by J. P. Moreland, who provides an interesting forward. It contains a table of contents and a very useful index. One other useful aspect of this book is that the author has also provided exercises for the chapters concerning logic, and the answers to the exercises. As such, this book is a great book for anybody who, not having studied philosophy, is being confronted by philosophy. Parents and pastors would find book to be extremely helpful. This book would also be useful for students of theology, who don’t have time to study philosophy to any great extent. Finally, this would be a great book for an introductory course to philosophy at a bachelor’s level. All in all, I would highly recommend that everybody have this book in their library, regardless of whether or not they intend to pursue philosophical studies.