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The Story of Philosophy Hardcover – 22 Oct 1998

4.8 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 22 Oct 1998
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: DK; First Edition edition (22 Oct. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0751305901
  • ISBN-13: 978-0751305906
  • Product Dimensions: 22.2 x 2 x 28.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 499,801 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

As a bright adolescent, Magee discovered--see his Confessions of a philosopher --that the kind of thinking he liked to do was called "philosophy". The great disappointment of his life was the realisation that, incapable of great original thoughts, he was condemned to be a populariser all his life. His loss is our gain, and this admirable illustrated book is his very partial account of philosophy for other adolescents and adults who need a handy crib. This is Whiggish history, in which everything leads to a selective group of 20th-century Greats--Wittgenstein, Russell and Popper--two of whom were Magee's personal friends; contemporary French thinkers like Foucault and Derrida are relegated to the sidelines and linguistic analysis treated as a slightly irrelevant game. It is also Eurocentric history in which we leap from Stoics and Epicureans to Thomas Aquinas taking in only Saint Augustine on the way--Muslim thinkers are no more than mentioned and the Buddha is only here as an influence on Schopenhauer. Illustrations and sidebars give a useful cultural context; Magee writes well about his intellectual heroes and this is a personal enough book to be both more and less than a mere introduction. --Roz Kaveney

About the Author

Bryan Magee has been one of the most successful English-language popularisers of philosophy in the 20th century. He has taught philosophy at Oxford University, and written numerous other books on the subject, including The Great Philosophers: An Introduction to Western Philosophy, Talking Philosophy: Dialogues with Fifteen Leading Philosophers, and Confessions of a Philosopher: A personal Journey Through Western Philosophy from Plato to Popper. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Great book. Introduces the key ideas through history in a clear and interesting way. He refrains from passing judgement and lets the various arguments speak for themselves.
Having read the book, I am loath to say that the book is objective, but it certainly feels that way from my subjective point of view!
Has certainly inspired me to look at philosophy in more depth, and even to start to try and clarify my own beliefs.
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Format: Paperback
This is, as other reviewers have said, quite simply the best introduction to philosophy in existence - and as ex-philosophy student I have read many. When I say "introduction" I really mean a book which can be read by people who have had little or no previous contact with philosophy. It is accessible to anyone over the age of about 11 and is long enough not to oversimplify the essentials : Magee taught philosophy at Oxford and London Universities and knows what he's talking about. All the major figures and currents are covered and the historical and cultural contexts are evoked. It's also a beautifully produced book with reproductions of paintings and historical documents. This glossy coffee-table look could lead to readers dipping into the book but it deserves to be read from cover to cover. No education is complete without some knowledge of philosophy, and this is the best place to start before going on to read some of the more accessible classics such as Plato, Descartes and Nietzsche.
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Format: Paperback
If you don't yet know your Hobbes from your Hume, if you're still looking to distinguish your stoic from your sceptic, then this is absolutely the book for you. Pitched at the curious beginner with perhaps a few philosophy titles already under their belt, this provides a huge amount of information and covers some challenging ideas, but does so without ever veering off into convolution and inaccessibility. It seems to get just about everything right: it's well-written, well-structured, and well-presented.

Beginning with the early ancient Greek philosophers, Magee takes the reader right through to 20th century analytic and existential philosophy, tackling all the key figures and schools of thought along the way. The great rationalists (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz) and empiricists (Locke, Hume, etc) and key figures and movements from French and German philosophy are all covered. Books of this sort sometimes have a tendency to feel quite disjointed. Not so this one: each chapter flows smoothly to the next, and if you read it cover to cover, you'll find yourself with a good sense of the development of ideas through the generations.

Presentation of this title is, as we've come to expect from DK, excellent. There are informative side panels, quotations, and an abundance of illustrations including well-chosen and often remarkably apt period artwork. All help to provide a useful sense of context for each key figure and idea. As an extensive and accessible overview of the history of philosophy, Bryan Magee's book completely achieves what it sets out to do, and more importantly, reading it was a real pleasure.
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Format: Paperback
Magee has produced an entertaining and enlightening introduction to the history of philosophy. It looks like a coffee-table book and has much of the agreableness of reading one. It is popularisation at its best. Magee's theism is not intrusive so the atheist can happily read it without irritation.
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By A Customer on 5 Feb. 2002
Format: Paperback
As a student of philosophy at the university of Malta, I have found this book really useful. It is beautifully illustrated without making the topic seem trivial. It also proves to be a better visual aid for me when I am studying for my exams, as facts are clarly laid out. I must also add that this book contains everything, from the pre-Socratics to 20th century philosophers. *;-)
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Format: Paperback
Like most of the other reviewers here, I would agree that this is an ideal book for anyone wanting a broad based introduction into philosophy. The book, for the most part, is a chronological acount of the history of philosophy. It begins by explaining the fundamental questions behind philosophy and goes on to explain how various philosophers throughout the ages have tried to answer them.

The desciptions are always unbiased and direct in identifying the key works, ideas and theories of the great philosophers and elucidating them in a way that is both easy to grasp and engaging. The page space allocated to each philosopher varies considerably; depending on how much influence and impact their work has had on the world, (at least in the mind of the author). Some of the more famous names receive 7+ pages others less than a page, but given that the whole history of philosophy is covered, I feel that a sensible balance is struck. In my opinion the use of illustration is effective and compliments the text because, to me, the philosophical mindset of a time and place in history is often clearly represented in the art. The author also makes good use of text boxes, often to remind the reader of historical background or the relationship of philosophy to the scientific and literary works of the age. Overall the illustrations, text boxes and use of aphorism, helps to break up the text alowing the reader to digest and reflect on the material.

One minor complaint I have is that the section on eastern philosophy is relatively short, with Confucianism barely receiving a mention.

Plato is quoted as saying "Philosophy begins in Wonder" and after reading this book I can guarantee that you will have a greater appreciation and understanding of the contribution of the great minds to the evolution of modern thought. This book may also help you to structure and expand your own thoughts or challenge you to examine and reaffirm your own beliefs and values.
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