Just finished The Basics of Western Philosophy (2004), a topical intro to philosophy and a break from my usual preference for historical intros to philosophy (I never seem to get beyond the intro stage). I think of Clark as a real amateur philosopher, whereas I'm just an amateur amateur philosopher. I'm happy just to be able to spell Nietzsche correctly without looking it up. Anyway, a good topical intro gives a more technical intro to the subject (I reviewed a similar topical intro here last year). I'll write about metaphysics (what is the stuff that makes up reality?) today and maybe do a second post on morality (defining and living the good life) tomorrow.
Metaphysics. Strangely, the word derives not from some technical reflection on the word "physics" but from Aristotle's foundational discussion of the subject, which he happened to append to his book Physics, hence meta-physics or "about physics." Webmasters have adopted the word "meta" for links giving background information about their site. One runs across the prefix also in the Greek word metanoia, used in the New Testament for repentance, where meta takes on a slightly different sense, meaning a turn or a change. The term noia derives from the Greek word for mind or thinking, hence metanoia or a change of mind or thinking.
Anyway, the chapter on metaphysics helped cut metaphysics down to size. In the modern world, metaphysics boils down to a simple debate: materialism versus dualism. Natural science models the world as material objects of various sizes and properties which interact to create the world as we experience it. But common sense and our own phenomenal experience (perceptions and consciousness in general) makes most of us predisposed to think in terms of dualism: bodies and minds, objects and ideas, matter and spirit. Religions invariably defend some form of dualism, which makes materialism versus dualism a science/religion debate as well as a philosophical discussion.
Mormonism. Does Mormonism affirm materialism or dualism? Either, depending on how you read D&C 131:7: "There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes." By my way of thinking, saying there is something called "spirit," then saying it is actually just pure or refined matter, doesn't really explain anything, it just defines a redundant category. On the other hand, it puts Mormonism on much friendlier terms with materialist natural science than other denominations, no small accomplishment and one for which we should all be grateful. For more on the Mormon perspective on this question, see Clark's longer discussions from the Bloggernacle Times archive, The Nature of Spiritual Reality and Spiritual Reality II.