Philosophy for Beginners – Osborne

Between you and me, Philosophy for Beginners by Richard Osborne and illustrated by Ralph Edney has probably been sitting on the bookshelf since its publication date of 1992. There’s a vague recollection of having had purchased it at Munro’s Books years ago. That was before the time of amazon.com. Before the time of ABE books. The good old days when I used to wander around the bookshops listening to the obligatory baroque chamber orchestras playing through bookstore loudspeakers. And buying more books than I was reading. Have to remember this in the future: balance input with output. Or better yet, consider the public library as an extension of your personal bookshelf. We all pay the taxes. Might as well derive benefit from it. And best of all, no philosopher is required to prove that theorem!

Philosophy for Beginners Cover Illustration

Philosophy for Beginners Cover Illustration

Philosophy for Beginners Cover Illustration

The ‘cosmic’ look of the Greek philosopher in the background is fitting. It must be Thales. And it appears the philosophers closer to modernity get bigger and colour as well (i.e. Nietzsche and nice use of foreshortening on his clenched fist). Three guesses to the philosopher smashing the painting? If you said J.J. Rousseau, you are absolutely right! That must be a reference to his First Discourse on the Arts where he said that all art is decadent. And on the top left that’s Pythagoras, who’s looking a little cross-eyed staring into his magical dodecahedron.

The art is really top notch as well. Did I ever tell you I used to be a comic collector? Not big time. But enough to go down to the comic book store every other paycheque and pick something up. Mostly Marvel comics. So nothing ‘serious’ like Image or DC. But the soap opera Spider-Man stories still have a place in my heart.

Philosophy for Beginners Back Blurb

Why does philosophy give some people a headache, others a real buzz, and yet others a feeling that it is subversive & dangerous? Why do a lot of people think philosophy is totally irrelevant? What is philosophy anyway?

The ABCs of philosophy-easy to understand but never simplistic.

Beginning with basic questions posed by the ancient Greeks-‘What is the world made of?’ ‘What is man?’ ‘What is knowledge?’ ‘What is good and evil?’-this guide traces the development of these questions as the key to understanding how western philosophy developed over the last 2,500 years.

Nice and to the point.

The Book

Its nice to read these summary books. And the visual comic format is inviting after a long day. Summary books give you the whole picture quickly and identify points of further interest. For example, I’d like to read something by Willard Quine, a contemporary American philosopher. Also J.S. Mill. He argued that things like pleasure could not be quantified like coal. This is one of my arguments in Paying Melpomene’s Price so it’d be interesting to see if my argument would be made stronger from seeing what he has to say. And the book reminded me that I must absolutely get with the times and read some Derrida, though I think he’s a bum. It’s always easy destroying meaning and form. Building it is harder. And more noble. As a summary, Osborne and Edney have done a terrific job. I would definitely check out others in this series.

The Comics

Here’s some of my favourites, in chronological order.

Aurelius

Aurelius

He’s too busy philosophizing to defend the Empire! He was one of the good emperors but its a funny caricature at any rate.

Spinoza

Spinoza

Here’s Spinoza arguing with Hobbes! Spinoza is so involved with Euclidean geometry that he has become a collage of boxes and triangles!

Hegel

Hegel

Here is Daffy Duck interviewing Hegel’s imperial eagle. Or maybe it’s a fictitious heraldic animal of sorts. The joke must be that Hegel was an avowed Prussian nationalist.

CS Peirce 1

CS Peirce 1

CS Peirce 2

CS Peirce 2

I don’t know much about C.S. Peirce, but as you can tell, he’s an early American philosopher out in the Wild West! I like his actions speak louder than words philosophy!

Derrida

Derrida

Haha, even though I don’t like Derrida, it’s funny watching his robot ‘deconstruct’ its structuralist adversary. If only it were the other way around!

Until next time, I’m Edwin Wong and these are the light hearted hours of Doing Melpomene’s Work.

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