I feel an all-consuming zeal to make sure everyone I know reads this book. I loved reading it because I learned a great deal about the history of humanity. Even better, what I’ve learned equipped me with the wisdom to see philosophy every where. I am not exaggerating: This book has changed the way I see everything.
Nancy Pearcey begins by using contemporary political issues to help her readers understand the fundamental dichotomy between facts and values, and then goes on to show how every philosophical idea fits into one of these two camps. Then, Pearcey sorts through the various “isms” of philosophy, organizing them into two categories and illustrating how each philosophy grows out of its predecessors and has an influence on many areas of culture, including art, music, economics, mathematical logic, scientific inquiry, literature (and all forms of story telling), architecture, and more. Her explanations of philosophy were as clear and concise as any I’ve seen. (For example, I’ve yet to find someone who can articulate existentialism as simply and comprehensively as Pearcey.) Her illustrations show her to be a keen observer of contemporary life as well as a master of the classics.
I am convinced of two things after reading this book: 1) Every human being is sensitive to absorbing and expressing philosophy in different ways. Some are drawn to the logic of math. Others are drawn to the beauty of art. Whatever it is, we pick up philosophy from what we love–often times without even being aware what is at stake. Christians needs to be sensitive to the variety of “languages” in which philosophy can be conveyed. The church needs to nurture “philosophers” who can comprehend and encode messages in all of these different media. 2) Every philosophical idea that does not begin with the Creator God who revealed himself through the words of scripture falls short of explaining reality. Pearcey explains how every “ism” is really a form of idolatry that replaces the Creator God with something in the created order. And every single philosophy, in attempting to shove all of human experience into a box, has to leave out some essential trait of human experience. After reading this book, I feel confident challenging anyone to name a philosophy besides Christianity that can fully explain human free will, morality, or the human capacity for creativity. This reductionism forces philosophers to have to “walk off the map” of reality that they’ve created. For example, there are those who believe in only the material world (“Materialists” or “Naturalists”) and therefore believe we have no real free will. These philosophers would argue that our destiny is determined by our DNA. However, these same thinkers have trouble treating their own children as little determinist zombies. Their ideas can’t even account for the creativity and stubborness of a two year old. Pearcey says, “You might say that naturalists’ map of reality is too “small.” It covers only part of reality. As a result, they cannot live according to its dictates. They keep walking off the map and into “terra incognita”—terrain that their map does not account for” (152).
Please: Read this book.