Philosophy, like poetry, has long been something that I felt I should read more of. But, like poetry, I have always found this huge genre quite intimidating.

Years ago when I spotted a review of this book, it looked like a promising entry point. While it was only recently that I finally got my hands on a copy, I can happily say that it was worth the wait.

This is the book that philosophy needs to give the genre a badly needed shot in the arm. It is an excellent introduction to philosophy that anyone can read, despite being marketed as one for use in a classroom setting.

No matter who you are, this will put big questions into your mind and I have no doubt that you arm yourself with plenty of conversation starters to bamboozle your friends.

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This is a great book for starting a deep philosophical argument with friends!

Consider Thomas Hobbes’ famous Ship of Theseus philosophical thought experiment which is presented in the book…

‘Theseus owned a ship and the ship was entirely made of wood. He sailed around the ocean for many years in his ship. Every time a piece of the ship needed replacing it was replaced with a metal part. This went on  for  a few years until eventually it was entirely replaced.’

  • Is the ship of Theseus the same ship of Theseus as it was when it was first built?

It gets even more complicated…

‘On board the ship was a sailor who really wanted his own ship but could not afford one. So, he came up with a plan: every time Theseus decided to replace one of the wooden parts of his ship with a metal part, the sailor would take the discarded piece of wood and hide it in his shed. When eventually he had collected all the wooden parts he re-assembled them into a ship again.’

  • Does this mean there are now two ships of Theseus or one? Which one is the ‘real’ ship of Theseus?
  • How does this idea work in the context of our ever changing bodies? What makes you the ‘real you’?
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The ship of Theseus paradox is a classic example of identity philosophy.

The Ship of Theseus is just one of many classic philosophical arguments presented in this book that will make you scratch your head. Despite the big questions, the book reads in a very simple manner.

Each idea is presented in a simple manner with the theme highlighted from the beginning. There then is an opportunity to go deeper into the rabbit hole as the idea is spread out slowly in a levelled and interesting manner. What I also liked about this book was that at the very end, there were lots of suggestions for further reading. So essentially it’s up to you how deep you want to go.

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How far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?

The only downside to this brilliant book in my opinion was the price. It often frustrates me that anything with an educational slant is double the price. However, don’t let this put you off. I got this book in the library and once I flicked through it I knew I wanted a copy. I’m sure you’ll be the same once you get your hands on a copy.

Philosophers have pondered these big questions for centuries and you will too. This is the book that will keep on giving.

Peter Worley’s The If Machine is available on the Book Depository for €19.69, click here to buy the book.