In working with Reasons To Believe I often meet Christians with extensive backgrounds in science and mathematics. Many of these science-oriented folks have informed me that they have little familiarity with philosophy. Some of these same people recognize the value of philosophy as it relates to science-faith issues and have asked me for recommended reading when it comes to the study of philosophy.
Throughout my nearly twenty years of teaching philosophy courses at several Southern California colleges and universities, I’ve collected dozens of introduction to philosophy textbooks in my personal library (instructor complementary review copies from various publishers). For several years I struggled to find a textbook that would buttress my diligent efforts to teach philosophy to young men and women in a challenging and stimulating fashion. By far the best introductory textbook I’ve ever seen or used is Ed Miller’s outstanding work, Questions That Matter (hereafter QTM).
Allow me to mention six reasons why this is an exceptional philosophy textbook and why it would be helpful to anyone interested in the study of philosophy.
1. QTM strikes an excellent balance between scholarly content and readability. Any motivated reader will come away from this volume with an understandable preliminary knowledge of philosophy.
2. QTM provides a comprehensive introduction to the major branches or fields of philosophy, including metaphysics (study of reality), epistemology (study of knowledge), ethics (study of the good), logic (study of correct reasoning), and philosophy of religion (critical analysis about God).
3. While QTM is organized in a topical manner, it contains a wealth of information about the leading philosophers of the Western world. This includes relevant excerpts from various philosophers’ writings in their major fields of contribution, as well as brief but very informative biographies.
4. As a textbook, QTM promotes solid learning through the helpful use of charts and diagrams. It also provides an extensive glossary, plus definitions of key terms via pull quotes throughout the volume.
5. Miller holds doctoral degrees in both philosophy and theology. The result is a textbook that addresses the field of philosophy of religion in a very sophisticated and even-handed manner. Arguments both for and against God are clearly presented and logically evaluated. The best philosophers on both sides of “the God question” are represented.
6. QTM devotes an entire chapter to explaining the basic principles and arguments of logic. Since philosophy is defined (by Miller) as “the attempt to think rationally and critically about the most important questions,” this chapter presents logic in a concise and clear way.
As an adjunct professor of philosophy, I give QTM my highest recommendation. I suggest it to teachers, students, and especially those science-minded folks at RTB events who want to gain a greater understanding of the important field of philosophy.
For more about philosophy and the Christian worldview, see my book A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test.