Monday, September 15, 2014

Philosophy 101 by Socrates (St. Augustine's Press)

Today, I am pleased to share with you my review of Philosophy 101 by Socrates. This is my first review of a book from St. Augustine's Press, so I am very excited about that. For those of you unfamiliar with this publishers, their mission is to publish "outstanding scholarly works, principally in the fields of philosophy, theology, and cultural and intellectual history." With no university backing them, they are able to stay true to this mission. They also are the publisher of the St. Austin Review, which is a journal of Catholic culture, literature, and ideas. Without further ado, here is my review.

Philosophy 101 by Socrates is one of the first book in Dr. Peter Kreeft's "Socrates Meets" series. It was originally published by Ignatius Press, but St. Augustine's Press has republished it. For those unfamiliar with this series of books, Dr. Kreeft assumes the role of Socrates and argues against philosophers such as Kant, Freud, etc. I would argue that Philosophy 101 by Socrates is a prequel to this series and should be read before reading the rest of the series, but to each their own. There are three introductions in this book - 1. Introduction to Socrates, 2. Introduction to Philosophy, and 3. Introduction to this Book. I already knew who Socrates was, but in this first introduction, I learned that there were three great introductions to philosophy, Hortensius by Cicero, Protreptikos by Aristotle, and the Apology of Socrates by Plato. Only the latter text survives, and it is the basis for Dr. Kreeft's book.

After the introduction, the book is divided into three parts - 1. Philosophy Defended (based on the Apology of Socrates), 2. Philosophy Exemplified (based on Euthyphro), and 3. Philosophy Martyred (based on Phaedo). In Part One, Dr. Kreeft discusses forty things that philosophy is, i.e., ignorant, selfish, countercultural, agnostic, etc. One doesn't often describe philosophy in these words, but Dr. Kreeft uses the Apology of Socrates masterfully to argue his case. In Philosophy Exemplified, there is about 25 pages of the Euthyphro included, Dr. Kreeft provides commentary throughout the text, and then presents us with questions of God and morality. He concludes this part of the book with reactions of an atheist; theist; agnostic; and religious Jew, Christian, or Muslim would have toward Euthyphro. In the last section, we read Phaedo, where Socrates dies, Dr. Kreeft explains that even if Socrates was just a figment of Plato's imagination, philosophy does not die. This is different than if we were to find out if Moses, or Muhammad, or Jesus were fake. The respective religion (Judaism, Islam, or Christianity) would cease to be.

Overall, I found this to be an excellent introduction to philosophy. The advanced high schooler or freshman in college would benefit greatly from reading this. The curious adult, who was sorely disappointed with his Philosophy 101 class, like myself, would benefit from reading this book as well. I truly believe if I had this book as a reference in college, I would have done better in my introductory class, and perhaps even minored in philosophy. I can't wait to pick up another one of the books in this series.

This book was provided to me for free by St. Augustine's Press in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!