If this is your first exposure to the study of philosophy then you will quickly notice that philosophy is both seriously weird and weirdly serious. It is seriously weird because it takes on topics that don’t fit into other areas of study. This isn’t a coincidence; philosophy has a long history of asking questions before there’s enough clarity to start answering those questions. Once there is enough clarity then a new type of knowledge is born. Before science there was natural philosophy. Before psychology there was philosophy of mind. Before an area becomes systematic and comprehensible, philosophy explores the landscape, mapping at least the more interesting properties and what connections there seem to be. So, almost by definition, if a question is philosophical it will likely seem strange.
Philosophy is also weirdly serious since it doesn’t brush past questions which are often otherwise dismissed. How can you have free will if you are just a biological machine? Why would an all-powerful, benevolent, and wise deity create evil? What does it mean for something to exist?
You can imagine asking these questions without expecting an answer; in this book you will read what philosophers who took those questions seriously came up with. Whether or not you agree with those answers, you will see that it is possible to make progress, to not just give up without any answer. If those questions and the other ones you’ll see in this book matter to you, then being able to answer them will be a matter of the utmost seriousness for you.
This introduction to philosophy will touch on some key questions that have been around for centuries, that neither science nor religion have addressed to the general satisfaction of those who wonder. This book isn’t comprehensive; there is more to be said on every one of these issues. This book isn’t authoritative; there are other voices to be heard and approaches to attempt to address the same questions. This book isn’t conclusive; if you find that there’s more that you need to know then this will be just the beginning for you. This book is a starting point. Hopefully, it will also be a source of inspiration for your philosophical journey.
-Yoni Porat (Calgary, August 2021)