If you are looking for a new book to introduce you to the marvelous, wonderful world of philosophy, I would strongly recommend the History of Philosophy by A.C. Grayling. This book packs a punch and has a lot of strong aspects. It is the newest full-fledged history of philosophy out there and if you want to be up to date, read this book. You’ll not regret it.
The first thing that I like is the fact that Grayling makes a clear distinction between theology and philosophy in his book from the very beginning. Many philosophers also wrote about religion and thus those topics aren’t covered. Grayling made the distinction based on the philosopher using his philosophy to prove God’s existence or depended his theory on the presence of God. When reading this book, you’ll be sure it is philosophy you’re reading and not some philosophy where theology has crept in.
This History also includes non-western philosophy, and it tackles all of them. Chinese philosophy, Indian philosophy, Arabic philosophy and even some African philosophy. This gives you a wide range of philosophical movements all across the world and gives a decent view of how all the ideas might have been interconnected. Most of the time we learn about western philosophy, but since the other non-western philosophical movements are getting a lot of traction lately, it’ll give you a clear view of their ideas, which is only for the better.
Every major philosopher and philosophical movement of the history of philosophy gets a decent overview. Grayling gives some details of the philosopher’s life and then their major theories. The language is clear, and the words aren’t difficult to read. All the terminology used is clearly explained, which makes sure that any unclarities are easily worked away. From ancient philosophy to middle ages philosophy, from renaissance philosophy to 19th century philosophy, and from analytical philosophy to continental philosophy. Grayling dedicates a lot of space to the analytical movement, which can be a drag sometimes, since the analytical philosophy uses a lot of logical symbols and for the laity reading the book to just get a basic idea of every philosophical movement, it can get a bit draggy. Also, there are some very interesting continental philosophers who don’t make the cut like Hannah Arendt, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Michel Foucault and others.
In the end this is the must have book for every person trying to get into philosophy. For those who might consider studying it or just some interested people, this book will help them in their pursuit to more knowledge about the world and everything that has any importance in it.