A Faithful Guide to Philosophy
Brilliant introduction to philosophy from a Christian perspective
A Faithful Guide to Philosophy – A Christian Introduction to the Love of Wisdom
By Peter S Williams
Reviewed by Trevor Stammers
It not often these days I read a non-fiction book and rave about it. This book however is simply brilliant and as far as I know, a complete original – the first UK textbook to offer an introduction to philosophy from a Christian perspective, though there have been Christians, notably Colin Brown, who have covered the history of Western philosophical thought in their writings.
Williams’ sweep in the one volume is vast – logic, metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics and philosophy of mind are all explored in varying depths – but never shallow, whilst still leaving space to look at freedom and responsibility, aspects of science and religion and the problem of evil.
It is a real tour de force, combining conciseness with crystal clarity and yet avoiding superficiality.
This makes it suitable for a wide spectrum of readers from first timers who want to get to grips with basic concepts of philosophy, right through to postgraduate students looking for further resources on some very complex topics. It is full of sections pointing out various websites and papers to take things further. The book is also useful just to dip into the relevant sections as well as great read as whole. Unfortunately it has no index but it is so well laid out with multiple sub-headings, that it is not too difficult to track where most things are likely to be.
I particularly love the way in which Williams show his gift of explaining really slippery concepts in an easily understood phrase or illustration. Philosophy of mind is an area where it is especially easy to lapse into incomprehensibility. I have lost count of the number of time I have had to look up a definition of “physicalism” or lost people completely in trying to explain its meaning. Williams simply states “The belief that the mind is nothing but the brain is called ‘physicalism’. He nails it precisely and memorably in a definition of just ten words!
Many popular contemporary philosophers such as A C Grayling do tend to be very unsettling to Christian believers and give the impression that their agnostic or atheist stance is intrinsic to the subject. Williams blows that myth right out of the water and I found my own faith really built up and affirmed by reading this book. ‘All truth is God’s truth’ and Williams ably demonstrates that philosophy is no exception.
Trevor Stammers is Programme Director in bioethics and medical law at St Mary's University, Twickenham