The desire to learn more about the world and other people is a noble one, and can lead to a better life, better relationships, and more valuable contributions to the human race as a whole. It can also end in moral anarchy, intellectual confusion, and the absurdity of postmodern ecumenism and anti-absolutism. In most cases, the difference between the first and second scenario is simply good guidance, either in the form of thoughtful teachers or quality resources.
While the authors aren't going to step into your living room for a series of lectures, the ISI Student Guides to the Major Disciplines offer both the guidance and the resources necessary to pursue the great academic disciplines, including philosophy, economics, history, literature, religious studies, psychology, and many more. Each short book is written by a noted expert in the field, and provides both an historical perspective and a philosophical analysis of the topic at an introductory level.
No previous study is assumed in any of these guides, but there is also no condescension, assumption of ignorance, or talking down to the audience. There's also a limited amount of jargon or technical terminology, the authors instead prefering to define the necessary terms simply so they can more easily engage the important ideas. Lest students read these intros and feel lost, however, they are always pointed to sources for deeper and further study.
Each author of these guides is a traditional conservative (in the philosophical rather than the political sense) and a Christian (often Roman Catholic). Yet you won't find dogma or posturing, just clear presentations of the key elements of their respective disciplines, the common approaches, and their understanding of the best approach. (For a more distinctly Christian approach we recommend the excellent Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition published by Crossway and edited by David S. Dockery.) These are portals to a healthy intellectual life, wide enough for common entry, narrow enough to remain meaningful and helpful.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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