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Classical Thought (History Of Western Philosophy Series) (A History of Western Philosophy) Paperback – 17 Dec 1987
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an exciting, and rigorous, introduction to the subject which is a delight (Greece and Rome)
a fine volume, a coherent history of Classical thought (Polis)
Spanning over a thousand years from Homer to Saint Augustine, Classical Thought encompasses a vast range of material in succinct style, while remaining clear and lucid even to those with no philosophical or Classical background The major philosophers and philosophical schools are examined-the Presocratics, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Stoicism, Epicureanism, Neoplatonism; but other important thinkers, such as Greek tragedians, historians, medical writers, and early Christian writers, are also discussed. The emphasis is naturally on questions of philosophical interest (although the literary and historical background to Classical philosophy is not ignored), and again the scope is broad-ethics, the theory of knowledge, philosophy of mind, philosophical theology. All this is presented in a fully integrated, highly readable text which covers may of the most important areas of ancient thought and in which stress is laid on the variety and continuity of philosophical thinking after Aristotle.See all Product description
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In the 2nd chapter Irwin deals with Homer, Hesiod and the background, one might say, of Greek thought. As Irwin explains in the 1st chapter (the introduction), the starting point is not completely arbitrary. Homer, after all, had a profound influence on all subsequent Greek thought and even philosophy. On the other hand, Irwin leaves out such prominent figures in Early Greek philosophy as Parmenides (who is mentioned only once in the book, during the discussion of St. Augustin), but instead we get to read about the historian Herodotus. Of course, it is perfectly admissible to include Herodotus in a book on classical thought, but I have doubts about doing it at the expense of Parmenides. Irwin has also omitted most of scepticism, as he himself points out in the introduction. Sextus Empiricus and Pyrrhon (thus written in the book) are each only mentioned once in an endnote. Moreover, Empedocles is not mentioned at all. Is it not peculiar that in a book on classical thought, published in a series on the history of western philosophy, the philosopher Empedocles is nowhere mentioned, but the emperor Nero is mentioned three times? Plato's later thought is not discussed nor is there any discussion of ancient logic in the book.
In my oppinion, this book would have benefited greatly if Irwin had added about 25 pages to it; ten or so on the presocratics, ten or so on the sceptics and maybe five on Plato's later thought. I don't know why the editor of the series should refuse to do so. This book is only 288 pages long, whereas Copenhaver and Schmitt's book on Renaissance philosophy (in the same series) is 464 pages long. But even so, I cannot help feel that this is perhaps not the right book to cover antiquity in a series on the history of western philosophy. Perhaps it should have been a book more on hardcore philosophy.
Having said that, I do admit that this book is lucidly written and inviting. It is easy to read and may be of much use to someone wanting quickly to familiarize himself with ancient thought. But as a first introduction to ancient philosophy proper or for a more thorough discussion of any topic in ancient philosophy (whether Irwin discusses it or not) I would have to recommend another book, e.g. Classical Philosophy by Christopher Shield, The Blackwell Guide to Ancient Philosophy or The Cambridge Companion to Greek and Roman Philosophy.