Book Review: A Little Book for New Philosophers: Why and How to Study Philosophy, by Paul Copan

A Little Book for New PhilosophersNot far into Paul Copan’s A Little Book for New Philosophers: Why and How to Study Philosophy I thought to myself, “This may become required reading for all introductory courses in Bible and theology programs.” The first two chapters are absolutely fantastic and rightly demonstrate a place for philosophy within Christianity. However, Copan thereafter takes a sharp dive into axioms and poorly articulated arguments that leave the reader wondering how this was ever intended to be a primer on philosophy for Christians. It feels as if Copan assumes a priori knowledge of the very reasoning espoused so that it need not be articulated, which is contrary to the book’s purpose. Unfortunately, rather than introducing the reader to philosophy’s place in Christianity, this fits better as an exercise in dogma. (Concerning much of what is actually articulated, Copan relies heavily on Alvin Plantinga, which speaks to his tradition and philosophical presuppositions.)

Concerning the positive note, the following are included in the first two chapters:

“Philosophy is mind-sharpening.” (20)

“Philosophy helps us to see that ideas have consequences.” (21)

“Philosophy expands our horizons.” (21)

“Philosophy can help isolate bad or sloppy thinking.” (22)

“Philosophy can strengthen our theology.” (24)

“Everyone takes a philosophical view of things—a worldview, some call it—even if their philosophical assumptions are subconscious and unexplored. Like it or not, whatever your outlook or training, you are a philosopher!” (31)

“Another way of looking at philosophy is as a kind of tool. In this sense it is a way of thinking, not the result of your thinking.” (33, emphasis original.)

 

I expected more from IVP Academic with this one, but it does fit a theological trend in what I’m seeing from them recently. However, despite my overall opinions of the text, I would still recommend students read through chapter 2 of this book.

 

*I received a temporary digital copy for review from IVP Academic via NetGalley.

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