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A Brief History of Philosophy: From Socrates to Derrida [Paperback]

Derek Johnston
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
RRP: 14.99
Price: 10.90 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Jun 2006
This title offers a fun, concise and attractive introduction to a fascinating and challenging subject. This is the ideal book for teenagers and students coming to philosophy for the first time, or indeed for anyone who just doesn't know where to start. The book examines 18 key thinkers, from Socrates to Derrida, exploring their ideas in relation to each other and to their historical and cultural contexts. Derek Johnston uses clear and accessible language to present an engaging chronological picture of the key figures, events and ideas that have shaped the history of philosophy. Boxes giving timelines of key events and crisp, clear explanations of key terms feature throughout the book. The book can be easily used as a reference tool or read all the way through for a clear overview of philosophy. Indeed, as the reader's understanding of the nature of philosophy develops, so too does the book's approach to its subject matter, introducing more complex ideas as the chapters progress. Crucially, the book does not try to cover everything - this is a concise and accessible introduction to philosophy for those starting out in this compelling subject. No prior knowledge of philosophy is required to enjoy this incisive, reader-friendly introduction. This is the ideal book for AS/A2 level students or general readers looking for a way into this fascinating, but very often challenging subject.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 211 pages
  • Publisher: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd. (1 Jun 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826490204
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826490209
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 13 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 304,104 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

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Product Description


"In this accessible text complete with portraits, summary boxes and precise definitions of key terms, Johnston describes the mental workings of 18 of the greats. Working chronologically and also through themes, Johnston describes the trends from Socrates and Plato to Aristotle, Epicurus and Zeno, Aquinus, Descartes, Locke and Montesquieu, Spinoza, Hume, Kant, Marx, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Sartre and Derrida, opening each chapter with the most basic ideas and building to crisp explanations of some of the most complex ideas to ever hit paper. Although this can be read cover to cover to give high school students and the general public a running start, Johnston's appraisals and summaries also serve as references and refreshers."--Sanford Lakoff

About the Author

Derek Johnston is a retired teacher. He was Vice-Principal of Midleton College, Co Cork, Ireland, where he taught for over 30 years.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Arbitrary and uninspired 17 April 2010
I can't imagine what the author was thinking when he wrote this definition of metaphysics:
"Metaphysics refers to the study of being as being. It is concerned with first principles and causes. It tries to apply reason to the things that go beyond us, studying things in themselves. It is a difficult word to explain"
He also mentions that "women have not yet been recognized as innovators in the Western philosophical canon" thereby justifying their absence in the book. If, like me, you happen to think that Ayn Rand was one of the most innovative and important modern philosphers, then you might concur that Mr Johnston's book stands crookedly on the spindly pillars of his experience as a school deputy principle rather than on any solid intellectual foundation. No doubt it will provide some sort of an introduction to philosophy, in the manner that an A to Z with half the pages missing will provide visitors with an introduction to those parts of London that are still represented.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brief but useful 9 April 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It is exactly what it says on the cover- a very brief introduction to some key philisophers from Plato to Derrida, its brevity being both its strength and weakness. My students like it because it is easy and quick to read but only useful as a taster for the subject and needs supplementing for serious students of philosophy. The line illustrations add nothing to the text and could well be left out in subsequent editions.
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I know the title says "Brief", but the author might have been too ambitious. The structure of the book is one that looks at a few of the paradigm-changing philosophers in the Western World. Each section covering the philosopher covers a lot - this is exactly what let it down. More depth and less scope would be much more suited. Instead, what you end up with is often a philosopher's thoughts on a subject or a particular idea given so little space that 4 to 5 lines cover one idea. This naturally means there is little or no room for illustration. The end result is that you might as well not have read anything; just a statement of the existence of the idea. The fact that I found the biography section on each philosopher the most interest says a lot.

There are also part of the book I didn't find too useful, namely the timeline of the philosophers which took much space. There is also the not-too-useful definitions boxes.

Ultimately, I felt I didn't get too much from this book. Much of what was said were statements not expanded on (or not expanded well).
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