There are numerous good introductory books on philosophy but Julian Baggini's Making Sense: Philosophy Behind the Headlines is of immediate practical benefit because it takes important, emotive headline news stories as its subject matter. Baggini identifies the relevant and significant philosophical themes behind the headlines and shows how the press frequently neglect critical philosophical questions and distinctions in their presentation of serious news items.
The book begins by clarifying exactly what is meant by "philosophy" before explaining how it relates to the real-world concerns of the news media. Of the 10 chapters several analyse arguments around issues of immediate and pressing importance such as those used to justify war or those used to promote or attack the introduction of GMO foods. Other topics include the Clinton/Lewinsky affair, the status of science and the trustworthiness of scientists, abortion, euthanasia and the nature of the self as well as the process of valuation concerning the relative worth of public projects such as the Tate Modern and the Millennium Dome. In a chapter discussing the Waco siege and the Branch Davidians, religious believers are challenged to distinguish between dangerously irrational cults and any kind of religious faith. Throughout the book philosophical concepts such as "rights", "freedom", and "equality" are examined and techniques of philosophical analysis are brought to bear only in so far as they shed light upon the topics under discussion.
Baggini has an enviably clear, accessible and jargon-free style but what's most valuable about Making Sense is that it urges us not only to habitually examine the arguments found in the major news stories, but also to pay special attention to our own argumentative strategies in order to uncover our own unexamined prejudices. --Larry Brown [via]