So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Cartoon Introduction to Philosophy

The Cartoon Introduction to Philosophy by Michael F. Patton and Kevin Cannon
The Cartoon Introduction to Philosophy uses the graphic novel format effectively in providing a well-rounded introduction to the field of Philosophy. The progression of knowledge in Philosophy is symbolized in the book by a journey down The River of Philosophy, narrated by the Pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus, most famous for his belief in change being the fundamental nature of the universe, and for saying, "No man ever steps in the same river twice."
Rather than provide a linear historic outline, the book is divided into seven chapters: an Introduction to the field and then chapters devoted to six of the major subfields of Philosophy: Logic, Perception, Minds, Free Will, God, and Ethics. In these chapters Heraclitus meets the Western philosophers who developed the major theories in each field as he travels down the river, mostly by canoe. They engage in discussions that often bring together competing thinkers to argue their beliefs. Each of the major philosophers is introduced in a half page panel that gives their dates, a brief summary of their importance, the name of their most famous work, a map that shows their home country, a quote from their works, and a Fun Fact. Along the way he is pursued by a pair of wise-cracking talking fish.
The language of Philosophy is bogged down with many abstract "-isms" coined by philosophers to give names to their theories. Each are defined as they are introduced, and there is a three page Glossary at the end of the book where they are summarized alphabetically. This is followed by a one page Bibliography that lists some of the major books written by the philosophers Heraclitus has met along the way.
I found this a rewarding book for getting a grasp of these major concepts and how they have played out in Western thought. As the authors state, it only "scratched the surface" and, as such leaves, out much more than it contains. Hopefully, it will leave the reader wanting to pursue further study.


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