Book Reviews

Book Review: Philosophy Made Slightly Less Difficult, 2nd Ed. (DeWeese & Moreland)

I took an apologetics course in Bible College, and the teacher who taught that course took a philosophical angle that I didn’t expect. I know I encountered philosophy when I had read up on apologetics in college, but I was quite oblivious to it. Since then, I’ve wanted to dip my toe into philosophy, but where do I begin? I don’t want to read every philosopher just to have a decent grasp at philosophy. Thankfully Garrett DeWeese, professor of philosophy and philosophical theology at Biola University, and J. P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Biola University, have updated their second edition of make philosophy less difficult to understand, or at least more accessible.

Besides some minor corrections, in this new edition the authors have added material to several chapters, and they have included two new chapters: one on aesthetics (ch. 7) and one on philosophy of religion (ch. 8). So where does one begin when it comes to philosophy? Isn’t philosophy just a lot of… well…

  • If p, then q
  • ~p
  • Therefore ~q

Well, logic is a major component of philosophy, but philosophy is more than what looks like math problems. Per the authors’ definition, philosophy is “thinking critically about questions that matter” (2). The authors’ goal is to provide you with “a brief, nontechnical, practical guide to selected philosophical terms and concepts to illustrate their importance and usefulness in teaching the Bible and doing theology in light of contemporary issues” (3). You need to make good, sound, and valid arguments and both avoid fallacies and be able to dissect arguments for their fallacies and invalidity. One needs to be able to analyze a concept—what is justice? This is done not only through looking at the definition of the word and how it is used, but also looking at those things that are just and those things that are not just.

Philosophy helps us understand worldviews. Looking at “the history of theology… philosophical questions have strongly influenced its trajectory. Philosophy helps us do theology accurately. Both philosophy and theology shares a similar method, one of carefully defining its terms and analyzing concepts to understand how the Bible uses them.

After looking at where to begin, the authors take us us through eight chapters of different aspects of philosophy.

  • What Is Real? Metaphysics
  • How Do I Know? Epistemology
  • How Should I Live? Ethics
  • What Am I? Philosophical and Theological Anthropology
  • How Should Christians Think About Science? Philosophy of Science
  • What Is Beauty? What About Art? Aesthetics
  • What Should We Worship? Philosophy of Religion
  • Where Do I Go From Here? Worldview Struggle and Intellectual Crisis

Summary

What I’ll do here is briefly summarize each chapter. I am out of my element when it comes to philosophy, so synthesizing the conversation is difficult for me. I”ll give a brief survey of the main ideas of each chapter, hoping it catches your interest.

I’ve never known how to explain or even give a brief summary of what metaphysics is, which is why I never talk about it because I barely know what it is. I was a bit relieved when I read the authors’ statement, “It is difficult, if not impossible, to come up with an adequate definition of metaphysics” (20). Instead of providing a definition, the authors’ want you to look at examples of “metaphysical reflection” (20). (Though, at least according to the title of the chapter, metaphysics looks at what is real. That gives you something to hang your hat on.)  First we encounter the problem of universals. What makes a thing what it is? What is brown? A dog and a car can both be brown, but they are still two different things. The authors then look at identity, substances, essences, and natures (and more!).

Concerning knowledge (epistemology—how we can know that we know anything), the authors look at belief, truth, and justification (which is when our true beliefs are grounded in fact so that we actually know our beliefs are true). They look at different kinds of epistemology, skepticism, and peer disagreement.

In regard to ethics, the authors introduce us to (among other things) normative ethics. They survey and critique consequentialism (and so utilitarianism), deontology, and virtue ethics. They end by answering why one should be moral.

Looking at what we are made of (anthropology), the authors examine the concept of consciousness, dualism and its alternatives, the brain, and freedom and determinism (the debate around free will).

The philosophies of science (ch. 6) and religion (ch. 8) will be dealt with together here. In chapter six the authors look at scientism, intelligent design and (methodological) naturalism, as well as the debate between realism and antirealism (referring to how scientific theories do or do not accurately reflect reality). In chapter eight we meet different arguments: ontological (God’s existence), cosmological (since the universe exists and could not have come from nothing, Something must have created it), design (that Someone fine-tuned our cosmos), moral (why do we make moral judgments?), and that of religious experience (the experience of a personal God who exists and can be known). They also look at facets of the problem of evil.

In regard to aesthetics, beauty is both subjective and objective. Artists project a world in their art. They something about reality. God, the source of all beauty, made us to enjoy beauty. Perhaps churches should be a place of beauty?

Recommended?

Yes, though I wouldn’t recommend this book to the the primer, the introduction, the first book you read on philosophy. It is certainly helpful, but I had a hard time summarizing concept because those concepts are thick with meaning and can be difficult to pin down. I haven’t read loads of philosophy, but enough that this book did make sense, though it isn’t “easy.” But the title of the book is correct. Here, philosophy is made slightly less difficult. Philosophy is a difficult subject to wrap your head around, especially if you haven’t encountered the ideas before (or at least how they are formulated in philosophical writings). That said, if you enjoy philosophy but need a bridge from a Christian perspective to help you cross over to big concepts, this book is for you.

Lagniappe

    • Authors: Garrett J. DeWeese & J. P. Moreland
    • Paperback: 224 pages
    • Publisher: IVP Academic, Second Edition (March 16, 2021)

Buy it on Amazon or from IVP Academic!

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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