Seeking to rediscover the connection between philosophy as studied in universities and those general views of man and reality which are 'philosophy' to the educated layman, Edward Craig here offers a view of philosophy and its history since the early seventeenth century.
He presents this period as concerned primarily with just two visions of the essential nature of man.
One portrays human beings as made in the image of God, required to resemble him as far as lies in our power; the other sees us as autonomous creators of our own environment and values.
The author writes with a broad sweep not encouraged by recent fashion, yet shows (with particular reference to Hume and Hegel) how textual detail which previous commentators have found opaque becomes transparent when viewed against such a background.
In the final chapter he treats passages from recent work in the same way.
The general conceptions which philosophical thought embodies can equally well be embodied in other media, especially literary.
The author illustrates this point with German and English examples and thereby draws together disciplines often felt to be far apart. He also reveals striking similarities between Anglo-American and certain twentieth-century continental European lines of thought.