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A Little History of Philosophy [Paperback]

Nigel Warburton
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
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Book Description

11 Sep 2012
Philosophy begins with questions about the nature of reality and how we should live. These were the concerns of Socrates, who spent his days in the ancient Athenian marketplace asking awkward questions, disconcerting the people he met by showing them how little they genuinely understood. This engaging book introduces the great thinkers in Western philosophy and explores their most compelling ideas about the world and how best to live in it. In forty brief chapters, Nigel Warburton takes us on a chronological tour of the major ideas in the history of philosophy. He provides interesting and often quirky stories of the lives and deaths of thought-provoking philosophers from Socrates, who chose to die by hemlock poisoning rather than live on without the freedom to think for himself, to Peter Singer, who asks the disquieting philosophical and ethical questions that haunt our own times. Warburton not only makes philosophy accessible, he offers inspiration to think, argue, reason, and question in the tradition of Socrates. "A Little History of Philosophy" presents the grand sweep of humanity's search for philosophical understanding and invites all to join in the discussion.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; Reprint edition (11 Sep 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300187793
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300187793
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 14 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 9,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nigel Warburton (1962 - ). Nigel Warburton is a freelance philosopher and podcaster and bestselling author of several popular introductory Philosophy books including A Little History of Philosophy, Philosophy: The Basics, Thinking from A to Z, Philosophy: The Classics, Free Speech: A Very Short Introduction, Philosophy: Basic Readings, Freedom: An Introduction with Readings, and The Art Question. He has also co-edited two books based on his popular Philosophy podcast which he makes with David Edmonds 'Philosophy Bites'. On Twitter he his @philosophybites, and he runs the weblogs Virtual Philosopher and Art and Allusion. His other podcasts include Social Science Bites, Free Speech Bites, Everyday Philosophy, and Philosophy: The Classics - all available on iTunes.

Product Description


'Warburton packs a heck of a lot in to what is something of a Goldilocks volume: neither too much nor too little, the exegesis neither too thin or too thick and lumpy, his Little History can be consumed as a nourishing treat in its own rights or provide the perfect fuel to kick-start anyone s journey into philosophy.' --Julian Baggini, The Observer

'Survey of the entire history of (western) philosophy through short intellectual biographies of 40 philosophers from Socrates to Peter Singer, in as broadly approachable a style as EH Gombrich s A Little History of the World. A tall order; that Warburton (of the excellent podcast Philosophy Bites) has succeeded so well is a triumph.' --Steven Poole, The Guardian

'The magic of Nigel Warburton s book is its disarming accessibility. It closely follows the template of A Little History Of The World Ernst Gombrich s 1935 introductory text for children, recently translated by Yale and Warburton is the ideal shout for a writer to match Gombrich s terse charm and easy authority. Anyone who s enjoyed Warburton s brilliant podcast series, Philosophy Bites , where he and fellow demystifier David Edmonds half-nelson academics into spelling out their theories, will know he has a special gift for defusing complexity.' --Chris Brown, Time Out

About the Author

Nigel Warburton is senior lecturer in philosophy, The Open University. He is the author of several popular introductions to philosophy and is the interviewer on the Philosophy Bites podcast. He lives in Oxford.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost invaluable... 19 Sep 2011
I bought this book on the recommendation of The Philosophy Shop for my son who has just started to study philosophy at AS/A level. I read it over a weekend and was transfixed by the skill Nigel Warburton has used to make a complex subject so comprehensible and entertaining. There is simple language and easily understandable examples, which all contribute to a greater understanding of the many ideas that shape our world. Mr Warburton does not shirk from explaining that some ideas are 'mad, bad and dangerous to know' but encourages the importance of constant questioning of who we are and why. I could not recommend this book highly enough as a valuable introduction to philosophy for interested people of all ages.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By Didier TOP 500 REVIEWER
I have to confess that until very recently I would have been hard pressed to come up with a sensible answer if asked 'what's the use of philosophy?'. But then I read Ben Dupré's 50 Philosophy Ideas (You Really Need to Know), followed by Plato and A Platypus Walk into A Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes (hilarious!) and in the wake of those read Nigel Warburton's book. 'A little history of Philsophy' is probably modelled on Ernst Gombrich's A Little History of the World, and in fact it succeeds admirably in doing for philosophy what Gombrich did for history. In barely 245 pages subdivided into 40 short chapters Warburton chronicles the history of philosophy, from Socrates and Plato to Peter Singer.

Did he omit certain philosophers? I'm sure he did, but then again: this is explicitly a short history of philosophy, and judging it by that standard I cannot find fault with it. Of course, one could argue that as a novice I am hardly in a position to judge, but one thing I can say with absolute certainty: Warburton's book has given me an appetite for more, so Bertrand Russel's History of Western Philosophy (Routledge Classics) is next on my reading list, and surely that is a good thing?
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable reading. 6 Oct 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was amazed how quickly I read this book, which is 248 pages long. Warburton writes in plain English, which explains why the book is such an easy read. He provides a quick overview of the seminal work of 40 prominent philosophers, ranging from the Classical Socrates to the modern Australian, Peter Singer. The book allows about six pages for each philosopher, and it gives a clear description of the main work that has made each of these philosophers famous.

An excellent book for the general reader, like myself, who would simply like to learn a bit more about philosophy. I suspect that it might be too lightweight for an undergraduate seriously studying Philosophy at university.

Highly recommended for the general reader.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Careful makes Philosophy addictive 11 Jun 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As always Nigel Warburton is able to convey ideas easily and with good humour, all I have read of his has been excellent and thought provoking. For the layman or anyone trying to grasp philosophy read this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I had a career in business, and had no prior knowledge of philosophy when I picked up this book. What I was looking for is a quick read, a businesslike introduction, to the things I needed to know about. This book proved just right, and more: It created an interest which I intend to follow up on.

This is a relatively short book, 250 pages in all, given that it attempts to present the ideas of more than 40 major philosophers dating back to Socrates and ending with the living ones like Peter Singer. Written for the lay reader, it is full of examples, presented in plain language, in sections not more than six or seven pages long. There is a conscious attempt to put everything in perspective, each section ends with a prelude to the next, and at other times, there are references made to ideas and works of other philosophers as we read about another one.

As I mentioned, this book goes beyond the basic introduction and generates an interest in the subject. It does so by being practical and establishing relevance to everyday life. A number of questions are explored in the context. People like Darwin, Freud and Kuhn find sections of their own. I ended up recommending this book to friends in other disciplines as a good read and great enabler of intelligent conversations.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Philosophy in a nutshell 20 Jun 2012
I loved this book. Forty short chapters on philosophers from Socrates to the present day, summing up the work of each one in a way that was completely comprehensible to someone who knows almost nothing about philosophy. I'm not going to pretend that I now understand Wittgenstein, but I've got a clearer idea of most of the others. A beautifully produced, lovely-to-handle little book too.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read 14 April 2012
By Ron
Format:Kindle Edition
This is not a book for serious students of philosophy. However it is an easy read and hits the button if you want to understand how philosophy has developed from the Greeks to today and what it can teach us of practical use in thinking about our lives today
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 25 Mar 2012
By EM 2000
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a wonderfully written, inspiring and enlightening book. Unlike some works of Philosophy it is accessible and relevant. Whether you are an academic or just interested in the world in which we live, i cannot recommend this highly enough,
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Excellent teaching tool for young adults as well as golden oldies
Published 9 days ago by SandraBagg
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read.
I am half way through the book and really enjoyed so far. I am not a book person but I found it very enjoyable read.
Published 2 months ago by subham limbu
5.0 out of 5 stars A joy to read
I personally have a big interest in philosophy, having read many philosophy books I found this refreshingly simple to read, it should become a classic in its ability to make... Read more
Published 6 months ago by stuart
5.0 out of 5 stars Best introduction to the key philosophers around
I've spent some time reading a number of introductions to philosophy and the key philosophers to try and introduce my mum to them. Read more
Published 6 months ago by DJRodger
5.0 out of 5 stars The title says it all!
As part of my degree in political philosophy I had to go through quite a lot of books about the subject. Read more
Published 9 months ago by nichol deaddis
5.0 out of 5 stars review
simply written, enjoyable to read, and seems to have the essentials. would recommend to anybody interested in getting background philosophy
Published 9 months ago by Marie-Astrid Purton
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear straightforward introduction
His writing is engaging and clear. I found I'm more aware of where the great names of philosophy fit in. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Di
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read
This is a chronological history with a chapter for each philosopher. Very simple and easy to understand but some might say it is a bit superficial. Good for beginners.
Published 11 months ago by Mrs Eleonore Byde
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
I was gifted this book by my grandmother as I had just started my A Level Philosophy, and I must say that the simplicity that Warbuton writes with is simply phenomenal in getting... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Vincent P
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Framework
For someone who wants to put philosophy into a time line and grasp an overview of all the important issues and statements thsi piece of work is essential reading
Published 15 months ago by Marjorie Brown
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