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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A comprehensive work sullied by a lack of objectivity., 20 Nov 2000
This review is from: History of Western Philosophy and its Connection with Political and Social Circumstances from the Earliest Times to the Present Day (Paperback)
Russell's History of Western Philosophy is without question a considerable achievement. Few writers in any field can confidently embark upon such a broad undertaking as this one. However, the superficial qualities of breadth and comprehensiveness disguise a book lacking in objectivity, a trait of primary importance to a general work aimed partially at beginners in the subject. As Russell begins to deal with philosophers who are his recent predecessors or contemporaries, he becomes increasingly personal and subjective. His handling of Neitzsche is nothing short of scandalous, preferring vitriol to authentic analysis. Irrespective of one's regard for Neitzsche, his philosophical works merit much more than Russell's dismissive, ad hominem approach, which will leave the newcomer to Neitzsche's work baffled and utterly unenlightened. Russell's treatment of the American Pragmatists is better only in so far as the author is more honest about the causes of his personal animosity for his subjects. He finishes with a crass denunciation of Pragmatism, judging it on its likely consequences rather than the merit or truth of its arguments; precisely the characteristic of Pragmatism that Russell condemns in the first place. This work only retains a wide readership because of the dearth of alternative comprehensive histories, but someone approaching philosophy for the first time should either have the patience to read works on individual philosophers or philosophical movements, or equip themselves with a reference work, such as the engaging if idiosyncratic Oxford Companion to Philosophy (ed. Ted Honderich).
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 23 Mar 2011 08:06:40 GMT
You might be right. Bertrand's politics and personal ethics heavily influence his analysis. I believe this makes the book far more interesting but he does tend to trivialise and rubbish philosophers he dislikes for personal reasons. The book should be called 'Bertrand Russell's view on the history of everything'. JP :)
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