Philosophy in 90 Minutes

by Luke Muehlhauser on March 9, 2011 in Resources

Philosophy lecturer Paul Strathern has written short introductions to famous philosophers, similar to my Painless Introductions series.

His books are more chatty and biographical than mine, and also longer. There are also some inaccuracies that seem to have slipped in due to an urge to make the books fun and sensational. For example, he says that “Plato’s Academy was to flourish in Athens until it was finally closed by the emperor Justinian in 529 A.D.,” which is false. The Academy was destroyed in 86 B.C., and a new Academy was not built for over 400 years.

Nevertheless, Strathern’s books are among the most enjoyable introductions to philosophy currently available, and cover several philosophers for which I may never write a Painless Introduction, for example Foucault.

Here are Strathern’s books:

There is also a series by John and Mary Gribbin called Scientists in 90 Minutes:

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott March 9, 2011 at 8:16 am

I love this series of books. His biases are also really funny – the relentless mocking of Aquinas and Augustine alone make the series worth it.

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Martin March 9, 2011 at 11:29 am

Hmm. Interesting. It’s precisely the mocking that got the Aquinas book so few stars. The reviews say he never actually addresses the arguments.

No thanks. I’ll skip this guy.

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Luke Muehlhauser March 9, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Scott,

Yes, I do like the mocking of Aquinas and Augustine. :)

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Bill Maher March 9, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Martin,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UdmYInXplY

Every post on here that has anything anti-religious you have to let anyone know how you are agnostic and against it. If you were any more smug you would smell your own farts.

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Scott March 9, 2011 at 4:17 pm

@Martin

I never said these were critical analyses of the philosophers, only that I enjoyed them. I even admit they are biased. What’s your point?

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Esteban R. (Formerly Steven R.) March 9, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Ah, perfect. Another good way to be introduced to these important philosophers. Thanks Luke.

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Martin March 10, 2011 at 6:09 am

Because I’m interested in arguments, not immaturity.

Sorry.

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Louis March 10, 2011 at 7:02 am

Because I’m interested in arguments, not immaturity.
Sorry.  

When philosophers have supernatural experiences such as voices in their head, it doesn’t take much argument to show they’re full of shit and worthy of ridicule.

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Al Moritz March 10, 2011 at 7:30 am

When philosophers have supernatural experiences such as voices in their head, it doesn’t take much argument to show they’re full of shit and worthy of ridicule.  

One of those dismissive pseudo-arguments that make me question how truly rational atheists actually are. Since when did Aristotle and Plato, on whose philosophy Aquinas and Augustine, respectively, are based, have voices in their head?

And when Luke likes ridicule of Aquinas and Augustine it is in the same vein. I have not seen evidence that he even understood them. Perhaps he finds Dawkins’ presentations of Aquinas’ arguments good enough, but these have been debunked by several actual philosophers (Dawkins isn’t one) as kindergarden versions of the real thing.

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Martin March 10, 2011 at 7:40 am

Al Mortiz,

*ahem*

Everyone knows Aquinas was debunked a long time ago. We don’t need to be rational when something is so obviously stupid. Aquinas believed he was telepathically communicating his thoughts to a big sky daddy, clearly the result of living in a pre-scientific age. I mean, Aquinas also thought that man was capable of reason and woman was not, so clearly everything else he said was wrong also. Aquinas also believed in leprechauns and fairies and he also had a big nose. He was a moron. I don’t need to humor his views with any serious thought.

Etc, etc etc…

; )

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Al Moritz March 10, 2011 at 7:56 am

Hehe, I particularly liked the big-nose part ;-)

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Martin March 10, 2011 at 8:17 am

Now I’m going to start a new forum called SkepticalRationalInquirySquad.com, where I will invite lots of others to be similarly rational along with me, as long as they realize “rational” = “attacking the person and not the argument because we already know the arguments are stupid and so we don’t even need to address them, and no matter what it is, I’m sure Hume debunked it 300 years ago anyway.”

Ah, we will all pat each other on the backs about how much smarter “us” is compared to “them.” It’s how we will get our self identity, and any threat to that self identity will, of course, result in us lashing out and identifying the interloper as one of “them”.

Maybe we can wear colors…

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Bill Maher March 10, 2011 at 10:40 am

You guys don’t see the irony of smugly rediculing and straw-man’ing atheists while bitching about how atheists are smug and redicule believers? Way to take the moral highground and avoid looking like a gigantic douchebag.

http://bit.ly/5DqpXV

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Scott March 10, 2011 at 10:41 am

1) Aquinas did claim to see Jesus at the end of his life, after which he said the Summa should be burned for its inadequacy. I think that can be considered “hearing voices”.

2) While Stratharn is irreverent regarding the Medieval theologians, he assuredly isn’t as snide as you are. If you’re interested in “arguments, not immaturity”, then perhaps you need to follow your own advice. Besides, he also fires at Hegel, Kant, Wittgenstein, and Marx. He’s an equally-opprotunity offender, and while that makes for an entertaining read, I’ll admit these aren’t the best introductions to philosophers.

3) An excellent takedown of Aquinas, by the way, is A. Kenny’s “The Five Ways” – and Kenny is a bit of a Thomist himself!

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Martin March 10, 2011 at 11:22 am

Bill Maher,

It’s meta.

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Martin March 10, 2011 at 11:23 am

Scott,

Thanks for the Kenny reference.

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Al Moritz March 10, 2011 at 11:30 am

3) An excellent takedown of Aquinas, by the way, is A. Kenny’s “The Five Ways” – and Kenny is a bit of a Thomist himself!

Kenny in turn is taken down quite nicely by Feser in his book Aquinas.

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Martin March 10, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Al Moritz,

Even though his politics are the polar opposite of mine (and, thanks to him I am now on a quest to find out why), I must say I am newly enamored with Ed Feser. He’s an excellent writer of philosophy for the layman. His book on Aquinas is at the top of my wish list.

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Jake de Backer March 10, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Often, what I find more interesting than the arguments produced by the Saints of Christanity, is their capacity for flight without the aid of technology.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saints_and_levitation

It appears these Christians are just capable of anything, aren’t they.

J.

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Bill Maher March 10, 2011 at 9:53 pm

Martin,

I agree about Feser. His short book on Aquinas is beastly. Even though I (obviously) think Aquinas arguments fail, I still think we can grow intellectually buy learning about them. On top of that, Feser is an excellent writer.

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Bill Maher March 10, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Jake,

Aquinas needed to levitate. He was fat as shit.

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Michael March 11, 2011 at 9:22 am

Lool, Bill!

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Bill Maher March 11, 2011 at 10:15 am

Michael,

its true buddy. Look it up. Aquinas was a fat ass. They had to saw a section of his desks out so he could sit down and write comfortably.

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Michael March 11, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Haha I didn’t know that.
Btw has anyone said you look a bit like Julian Assange? Or rather, he looks a bit like you ;P
Also, please back Ron Paul again for 2012 :)

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Bill Maher March 12, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Ron Paul is a loony toon. However, he gets major props for wanting to end prohibition, anti-prostitution laws, wanting to legalize gay marriage, and wanting to end the wars.

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