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“A Very Short Introduction” is a book series published by Oxford University Press. Among friends I call it the Dummy series for geeks (hm, actually serious geeks). Fittingly I discovered the Very-Short-Introduction series while visiting Oxford. I entered Blackwell’s off Broad Street, and I was met by a discount box overflowing with Very Short Introductions (three for the price of two). “Exactly my kind of book store,” I thought. I dug through the discount box and took a large pile to the caf√© on the next floor, thumbing through the small volumes while sipping on a chai-tea late. It was a lovely September day.
The first few volumes I read were either very solid (European Union, Human Rights) or outright brilliant (Okasha’s volume on Philosophy of Science). After having stumbled over a sub-par volume earlier this year (Privacy), my faith in this series was reinstalled by Stephen Mumford’s introduction to metaphysics. His introduction is almost on the same level as Okasha’s introduction to the philosophy of science, and were it not for a technical short coming, I would give Mumford’s introduction a four out of five.

To the the bright side count Mumford’s jargon-free style and the casual journey he invites the reader on to increasingly thorny topics (from the question to what is a table to question like whether things that do not exist can have causes – think the absence of air). I also a appreciated the literature list he provides (sorted by entry-level) and I already ordered one of the books.

The only grief I have about the book that it does not link the topics discussed to the terms by which they are discussed in the metaphysics literature (modality, holism, realism, etc.). This does not need to be addressed in the main text (the free flow of which I enjoyed), rather it can be addressed in a short appendix. Otherwise a very enjoyable book and a perfect introduction to this topic.

If you are a novice to this topic definitely have a look at Mumford’s joyful little book (with a big scope).