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Confessions of a Philosopher: A Journey Through Western Philosophy [Paperback]

Bryan Magee
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description


In this inspirational book Bryan Magee tells the story of his discovery of philosophy, and in doing so introduces the subject to his reader. Experiences of everyday life provide discussion of philosophers and explain why certain philosophical questions persistently exercise our minds.

With great fluency Magee untangles philosophy, making it seem part of everyone's life. Intensely personal and brimming with infectious enthusiasm, this is a wonderful introduction to philosophy by one of the most elegant and accessible writers on the subject.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New Ed edition (1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753804719
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753804711
  • Product Dimensions: 4 x 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 250,606 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A restless intellect and independent outlook characterize this candid autobiography, which will richly reward the serious reader."--Publishers Weekly, starred review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

An extremely readable introduction to philosophy told through experiences of everyday life by one of our best popularisers of philosophy.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The point of philosophy revealed 13 Sep 1999
By A Customer
I've just subjected this book to the ultimate test: did I want to read it in hospital while waiting for surgery? It takes a truly compelling book to pass that one, and Magee's book passes it with ease. As others have noted, the mix of autobiography with potted insights to what Real Philosophy is about is a delight. But the most valuable thing for me is the way Magee fearlessly exposes the sham philosophy indulgently "studied" for many years in the UK, specifically in Oxford. It was this linguistic analysis that led to philosophy becoming a laughing stock outside the narrow confines of academe in the UK, derided as navel-gazing of the very worst sort. Magee shows how it came about, and why it proved worthless. And one knows it's not sour grapes propelling his attack (he had a perfectly respectably academic career himself), but genuine insight. As someone trained in physics, I never thought I'd say this, but...philosophy might actually be worth finding out more about after all.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent advocacy of the study of philosophy 1 Dec 1999
Magee has spent a good slice of his life trying to popularise philosophy. He has never cheapened the subject. On the way he has written a very competent introduction to Popper and an unusual yet compelling account of Schopenhauer. Those who might expect some detailed personal insights into his life will remain disappointed. However his love affair with philosophy is perfectly represented and as your other reviewers suggest he constantly engages us. I also believe that tribute should be paid to his open mindedness-anyone who can appreciate both Karl Popper and Martin Heidegger deserves to be heard. This is an excellent and unpretentious account which can be safely read as an introduction to some central issues in philosophy. Long may Mr Magee continue to write
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
For most of us philosophy has very little to do with real life. Indeed the word conjures up visions of ivory towers where academics debate at length how many angels can dance on a pin head. Philosophy is dry, boring and not something that concerns us because we have more important things to worry about. Granted we are from time to time vaguely concerned with questions like, "What does it all mean?" or "Can a scientist believe in God?", but we quickly put it out of our minds and start thinking about the Budget or little Robert's toothache.
It was therefore a revelation to me to read the "Confessions of a Philosopher" by Bryan Magee. Here is a man who, from childhood has been deeply worried about the meaning of reality, who came to philosophy via a PPE degree at Oxford and who realised that the subject was absolutely central to his own sanity and well-being. The story of his philosophic journey is a fascinating one which I found difficult to put down. There are not many books that will keep me reading into the small hours, but this was one such.
Here is a readable explanation of the contributions made by most of the great philosophers from Plato to Wittgenstein. Here is a crushing attack on the Oxford school of linguistic analysis which dominated English philosophy in the 1950s and 60s. Here for the first time I found a convincing, logical argument that science has nothing to say about what is outside the experience of our senses and that there is therefore no contradiction between science and religion. This was particularly topical for me because I had just been listening to an engineer friend expressing his disappointment that his son, also an engineer, was a sincere Christian.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magisterial autobiography 11 Sep 2005
Bryan Magee's masterly confessions cover not only his philosophical work, but also his life as a Labour politician and his TV and writer's career.
As a politician, he was disappointed by the only marginal impact of government interventions and became a political Liberal. But his main aim has always been individual freedom.
His analyses of the philosophy of Popper, Russell, Kant, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Mill, Augustinus, Schelling, Fichte, Frege, and others, are profound, extremely clear and to the point (a rarity today).
He is absolutely correct in his evaluation of the British language philosophy: she constitutes the bankruptcy of philosophy and ends in a morass of 'playing with words'. The assumption that everything can be expressed by words is too preposterous to take it even into consideration: how do you say a piano concerto of Mozart or the Mona Lisa. As one other philosopher asked in an interview on the BBC: have they nothing else to do in this world?
His world view is rather pessimistic: people are lead by false values (mimicry, compromise ...) rather than by love, loyalty to truth or integrity.
Other leitmotivs in this book are his fear for death and the intellectual catastrophe of common sense (our senses discern nothing of what happens in the real, physical world: atoms, speed of the earth...)
Nevertheless, I disagree with him on one crucial point : his Kantian philosophical problem of the link between personal freedom and the determinist physical laws. For Magee, it is impossible to have individual freedom in an empirical world reigned by these laws. There must for him be a world (a part of the human body) outside these laws, that provides the foundation for freedom.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Magee's philosophical life
Set in a biographical context, Magee explores his life before and after encountering philosophy; his journey through and within philosophy is charted clearly (just what one would... Read more
Published on 22 Aug 2011 by RR Waller
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshes the parts other philosophy books don't reach
Bryan Magee takes us through his own philosophical development, and in doing so gives a perspective on the major philosophers who have offered answers to some of the hard questions... Read more
Published on 3 Sep 2010 by P. Kingston
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't let the title put you off! You'll find a feast for thought here.
If you listened to or watched his broadcast programs you will hear Bryan Magee's voice clear and persuasive as ever in every line of this book. Read more
Published on 12 April 2010 by A. Stutters
5.0 out of 5 stars Philosophy isn't boring
I recently reread this book by Bryan Magee and enjoyed it even more than the first time some years ago. Read more
Published on 3 Sep 2006 by E. Kraft
5.0 out of 5 stars A search for meaning
Confessions can be of two kinds: confessions of faith and confessions of failure. Bryan Magee's vividly written intellectual autobiography has the character of both. Read more
Published on 30 July 2005 by Ralph Blumenau
3.0 out of 5 stars More philosophical content, less about philosophy
Brian Magee's "Confessions" sets out to make philosophy accessible through the use of an unusual format: autobiography mixed with 'Past Masters' type introduction to a... Read more
Published on 18 Dec 2000
4.0 out of 5 stars A personal and passionate tour of Western Philosophy
I agree with Sam's lengthy assessment. Magee gives a personal and passionate tour through Western philosophy. Read more
Published on 8 Aug 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars As essential a book philosophy can be; to be read once.
Unusual book which just has to be read, though I think life is to short for a second reading through. Read more
Published on 25 May 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars No better introduction to instil real interest in philosophy
For most people, philosophy is a dry subject. The development and emphasis on linguistics over the past fifty years or so leads the novice and would-be student to conclude it to... Read more
Published on 6 Dec 1998
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