Long-time readers (for values of "long time" equal to "all the way back in February") will remember that I've been in the process of reading Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy for some time.

No, don't get your hopes up; I haven't finished it. (Though I am up to the section on modern philosophy, now.) There are still far too few times that I feel like picking up a dense, thick text.

But what, I asked myself, about a dense, thin text? So it was that I picked up Bertrand Russell's The Problems of Philosophy . It's a short book (only 160 pages), and I thought that a brief, quick and dirty overview of the main topics of philosophy would be interesting and useful.

So, I picked this up last week and started reading. The first chapter was on epistemology. The second chapter dealt instead with epistemology. The third chapter concerned itself with epistemology. The fourth chapter focused solely on epistemology.

About this time, my trained philosophical mind started to notice a pattern, and I flipped back to the table of contents, where I discovered that, sure enough, the entire book dealt with epistemology.

Well, my own fault for not reading the back cover copy, but I still think it's a damned misleading title. At any rate, though, it's a perfectly serviceable brief overview of epistemology. It's lucid and readable (qualities whose value should not be underestimated, as anyone who has attempted reading Kant will attest), and if it's perhaps overly breezy and casual... well, it's 160 pages, so how much precision and rigor can you expect?

This isn't an especially up-to-date (written around 1910) or thorough introduction to the subject of epistemology, but what it lacks in scholarly rigor it gains in readability. It's not required reading by any means, but it'd likely make a fine starting point for someone looking to start reading philosophy.


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