This book is a little odd. First I take the great works of philosophy and remove all the boring parts. It would be a stretch to say what remains is the good stuff, but it is less boring. I add a few of my own ideas off to the side, to explain context, draw connections, or spread some nasty rumours. Then, finally, I take the philosophers’ very thoughtful, considered, plodding and careful prose, and I mangle it into modern 21st-century English.
Let me be clear: This was all probably a bad idea. You should read these wonderful thinkers in their own words. I’ll go further: you should read them in their original languages; lots of brilliant people have thought that Aristotle was worth learning Ancient Greek for. And you should sit with them, and read them carefully, savouring every word they wrote, rolling the ideas around in your mind like you roll a good drink around in your mouth.
But you won’t.
I don’t blame you. To be honest, philosophers can be a bit long-winded. And philosophers’ books, unlike booze, don’t age well. Descartes’ 350-year-old French is quite hard to follow now; Kant was hard to follow even at the time.
So what we’re doing here is fast philosophy. You should probably not use this book in a real philosophy course, or with—gods forbid—a real philosopher. This book is a bit Beyoncé to their Bach if you know what I mean, so it wouldn’t be suitable for research essays. Honestly, I wonder if it’s even really suitable for print.