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The Great Philosophers: An Introduction to Western Philosophy [Hardcover]

Bryan Magee
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

10 Sep 1987
Bryan Magee discusses the greatest Western philosophers with fifteen leading contemporary writers and thinkers. The book begins with the death of Socrates in 399 BC and the writings of Plato, and brings the story up to date with such recent figures as Bertrand Russell and Wittgenstein.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: BBC Books; Reprint edition (10 Sep 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0563205830
  • ISBN-13: 978-0563205838
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 398,558 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

About the Author Bryan Magee is a writer, critic, and broadcaster whose books include Men of Ideas and Modern British Philosophy. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
Magee Any attempt to tell the story of Western philosophy should begin with the ancient Greeks, who produced not only the first but some of the very greatest of Western philosophers. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magisterial 11 Sep 2005
Bryan Magee's 'Introduction to Western Philosophy' is a brilliant analysis of the works of the most important Western philosophers from Plato to Bertrand Russell.
This book is based on a BBC TV series which was presented as a discussion between the author and one of the leading authorities on every philosopher.
During the discussions all the most important philosophical problems were tackled. To name a few: causality, determinism, free will, freedom, the existence of the self, the body-mind problem, the subject-object relationship, the problem of induction, tolerance, the problem of the just war or the basics of human nature ('the would-be knower is a biological organism struggling for survival').
This book is written in very clear, straightforward and very comprehensive prose, rather exceptional for this kind of work.
It gives a magisterial summary of the basic ideas of every philosopher. Into the bargain, it can be consulted easily for every chapter can be read independently.
I have only a few remarks. First, I miss one great philosopher of the 20th century: Karl Popper. I suppose that he was left out because he was still living when the book was published. On the other hand, Bryan Magee filled the gap by writing a separate book on Popper, which I recommend to everyone.
Secondly, I don't share his enthusiasm for the 'second' Wittgenstein and the latter's disastrous sliding into the morass of linguistics with his language games.
All in all, this book is a magisterial summary of 2500 years of Western philosophy. A must read.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful beginners' guide 9 July 2005
This book contains the transcripts of interviews that Bryan Magee conducted on television with some fellow philosophers. In them they discuss all the main philosophers that you have heard of but assumes you know nothing about. It is therefore more like listening to Philosophy than reading it: it lacks the long verbose sentences for which philosophy books are famous and which scare beginners off; the dialogue is fluid and highly interesting and all in all makes a perfect introduction to anyone who has never studied philosophy before and wants to know what it's all about. People who have studied philosophy will not gain anything from it at all [try the Oxford Encyclopedia for that] as nothing is covered in great depth, but that is not the aim of the book. It is deep enough to dip your toe into though, and it achieves that aim wonderfully. Read it, find out which philosophers light your flame and then read more!!!
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
The most important feature of this book, is that it provides a well written and easily understanable guide to some of the greatest thinkers of philosophy. The author invites eminent experts in their field to discuss the work and lives of the great philosophers; from Plato to Witgenstein.This he then turns into a chronological account. A great introduction to anyone like myself starting on the philisophical road.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Killian
The book is a wonderful introduction to the major philosophers but, due to its transcript nature, it is an unusual and sometime tiresome book to read. I had hoped for more of a pros discussion of the interviews but - with the interviews questions included also in the text - it therefore felt to me as if I were reading a script rather than a book. Content wise, however, it is extremely interesting but the style demands concentration and attention.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Difficult Enough... 29 Nov 2011
By L. Davidson VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"The Great Philosophers" is an interesting book, but unlike some other reviewers I would hesitate about recommending it to beginners in the subject like myself. If I hadn't have read Nigel Warburton's "Philosophy-The Classics" before I tackled this book I wouldn't have had a clue about most of what Bryan Magee and his academic friends were talking about. The book takes the form of dialogues between Magee and various philosophers about the most notable philosophers from Plato to Wittgenstein. The book assumes that the reader is familiar with the material that these philosophers wrote and understands it. I was able to follow the dialogues with relation to the likes of Plato or Hume for instance (these philosophers were covered in "Philosophy-The Classics"), but got lost when they started talking about Heidegger and the American Pragmatists (not covered in Warburton's book).So I would approach "The Great Philosophers" with caution if I were a beginner in the subject. The book is quite a highbrow one and the dialogues discuss general theories rather than explore and explain them in detail to the reader. "The Great Philosophers" is a challenging read and I would definitely advise any interested beginners to try a few easier books first rather than delve into this one right away.
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By Jeremy Bevan TOP 500 REVIEWER
I enjoyed this series of conversational introductions to the great philosophers of the Western tradition. Bryan Magee has done a good job of editing the transcripts from the original broadcast discussions he hosted, and the vast majority of the dialogues will serve as accessible introductions to the philosopher(s) or schools in question for those unfamiliar with them. I found the chapters on Leibniz/Spinoza, Locke/Berkeley, Hume and Wittgenstein particularly interesting, and only those on Medieval Philosophy and the American Pragmatists rather uninspiring. Could perhaps have done with a bibliography, but still a fine single-volume introduction nonetheless.
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