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The Dream of Reason: A History of Philosophy from the Greeks to the Reinaissance Paperback – 27 Sep 2001

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (27 Sept. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140252746
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140252743
  • Product Dimensions: 0.1 x 0.1 x 0.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 386,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Amazon Review

Executive editor of the Economist, Anthony Gottlieb is one of the contributors to the recent collection of excellent essays in The Great Philosophers. His latest achievement, The Dream of Reason: A History of Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance is not only superbly written, but is, quite literally, enchanting.

The book is divided into three parts. Part one begins with the Milesians and includes the Pythagoreans, Heroclitus, Parmenides, Zeno, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Democritus, and the Sophists. Part two concerns Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, while the final part deals with the Epicureans, the Stoics, the Skeptics, and ends with a survey of the philosophers from late antiquity to the Renaissance. His aim, he tells us, is to "approach the story of philosophy as a journalist ought to: to rely only on primary sources; to question everything that has become conventional wisdom; and above all, to try to explain it all as clearly as I could". The fruit of this ambitious 10-year project is a compelling history of philosophy with genuinely revelatory power destined to become one of the books of the year. Not only does one come away with a new-found reverence for the ancient philosophers and the largely unacknowledged debt we moderns debt we owe them,--particularly Parmenides, Democritus and Epicurus--but he has the gift of making the old familiar names breathe again.

This is not a book to be dipped into in search of favourites, but is rather a book to be read cover to cover in order to expose oneself to the cumulative force of the narrative. Accessible and immensely enjoyable, it is difficult to imagine a better book of its kind in recent years. Beginners, intermediates and even professionals should all get something out of The Dream of Reason. Volume two is on the way, and if the first part is anything to go by, it should be well worth waiting for. --Larry Brown -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.


A delight. It is written with both wit and scholarship, providing a wonderful overall picture of Western philosophy up to the Renaissance. (Sir Roger Penrose)

[Gottlieb] writes with fluency and lucidity, with a gift for making even difficult matters seem comprehensible. (Richard Jenkins New York Times)

Gottlieb is as enjoyable as he is intellectually stimulating. (Robert Conquest Los Angeles Times) -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Paperback.

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Format: Paperback
The Dream of Reason: A History of Western Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance, by Anthony Gottlieb (Norton), 2000, pp. 469.
This book proves that an introduction to the history of Western philosophy does not have to be dull or badly written. The Dream of Reason is a sprawling book, written in an accessible pre-postmodern narrative style. With very few exceptions, we are introduced one by one to male philosophers, long dead, in a time line stretching from the 600's B.C.E. to the beginnings of modern science and philosophy. It has a strong cast of characters, excellent quotations, and a compelling tale to tell of the origins and adventures of reason. The dream is that the universe is intelligible and that we can, finally, make sense of everything.
The history of philosophy is never complete. A single author is limited to connecting some of the dots together, and not all the dots can be connected in one story. A book like this is a sampling from the history of philosophy. The samples show us the birth of reason from a radical questioning of religious and mythical accounts of natural processes, followed by a critical examination of morality and cultural values, in which reason turns within and questions itself. Those early thinkers open up a new world of philosophical reflection on the physical universe, the self and the gods.
The structure is simple. We simply stroll down a time-line meeting noted philosophers, starting with the reputed originator of philosophy, Thales, and moving through history up to Galileo and Descartes. At first, they speak to us in poetry, later, in prose.
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By A Customer on 20 May 2002
Format: Paperback
Anthony Gottlieb's 'The Dream of Reason' (it's title quoting Goya) is a history of Western Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance. Rich with well-argued points, the book is thoroughly absorbing, and a must-have for anybody with the slightest interest in philosophical issues. This volume is the first of two, and, if Gottlieb's forthcoming study of philosophy from Descartes onwards matches the quality of this first outing, they will prove an indespensable duo.
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Format: Hardcover
Truly a wonderful book, an accessible,witty and thorough overview of the history of western philosophy. You don't need any previous knowledge to enjoy this book. If ,like me, you have picked up little bits of knowledge but in a disconnected way, this book places them all in context. It also may change your views on some things and certainly will make you think about your own viewpoint!

I must add that it reads so well, that you read it for fun as well as knowledge.

An excellent book!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book arrived in record time and in first-rate condition. The book itself looks exactly as I had hoped - a very readable history of philosophy in the Western World.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9050edc8) out of 5 stars 37 reviews
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90b44858) out of 5 stars 1,500 Years of Philosophy Made Fun and Smart 26 Dec. 2002
By Ricky Hunter - Published on
Format: Paperback
The subtitle of this book is a history of philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance, but that can be slightly misleading. It is in fact what it claims but it is also much more and a little less. The little less is that only the book's last two chapters cover the period after the death of Aristotle but anyone who has slogged through medieval philosophy will appreciate and understand the author's choices. The good news is how deftly the author, Anthony Gottlieb, covers the topics and philosophers selected. The Dream of Reason is a wonderfully comprehensible volume that glorifies the Greeks, certainly not for getting it precisely right, but for expanding the attempts to actually get it (it, of course, being a simple word covering a multitude of complex ideas.) This book is always intelligent and very entertaining. There is no better single place for a reader to go to cover this vast period of time.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90b448ac) out of 5 stars Deep, Readable & Investigative 28 July 2004
By N N Taleb - Published on
Format: Paperback
I could not put it down. It hit me at some point that I was at the intersection of readability and scholarship. Clearly the value of this book lies beyond its readability: Gottlieb is both a philosopher and a journalist (in the good sense), not a journalist who writes about philosophy. He investigates and provides a fresh look at the material: For instance what we bemoan as the flaws of Aristotelianism during the scholastic period came 2000 years after his work. Aristotle had an empirical bent --his followers are the ones to blame.
I liked his constant questioning of the labels put on philosophers and philosophies by the second hand readers.
Clearly he missed a few authors who deserve real coverage like Algazali, but I take what I can get.
The only other readable history of philosophy is Russell's. This one was less hurriedly put together.

Someone should bug the author to hurry with the sequel on Locke, Hume, etc.
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90b44ce4) out of 5 stars Read it along with Russell 8 Jun. 2006
By Noreen M. Novak - Published on
Format: Paperback
I am currently reading both The Dream of Reason AND A History of Western Philosophy in tandem. While the claims can be made of one's superiority to the other, I find it immensely helpful to read them together. Gottlieb references Russell a number of times, so having the work right there to read is a must. What Gottlieb lacks in deep understanding, Russell is there to fill in. Likewise, what Russell lacks in outright readability (brilliant beyond belief, but it does tend to get dry), Gottlieb makes up for in his flowing writing style.

I cannot and will not mar either work, as I think they (begrudgingly or not) feed off of and make each other that much better.
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x904640cc) out of 5 stars Gottlieb Clears Up Muddied, & Muddled, Waters 13 Mar. 2001
By Roy E. Perry - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Anthony Gottlieb is an 'amateur' philosopher in the best sense of the word: a person who engages in an activity, pursuit, study, or science for pleasure rather than for financial benefit, as an avocation rather than as a profession. Gottlieb, author of THE DREAM OF REASON, is the executive editor of THE ECONOMIST. He studied philosophy at Cambridge University and University College, London, and has been a Visiting Professor at Harvard University. He writes regularly on philosophy for the NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW. Writing with zestful wit and wisdom, the author of this marvelous history of Western philosophy caused me to chuckle and laugh out loud at his humorous insights into the bizarre behavior and believes of many philosophers. I suspected that this book would be different when I read in the Introduction, 'Any subject [philosophy] that is responsible for producing [Martin] Heidegger owes the world an apology.' The book, howver is not amateurish in the sense of being unskilled, inept, or incompetent. Gottlieb has an amazing grasp not only of philosophy and philosophers but also of modern science. He brings clarity to muddled, and muddled, waters. He opens the windows of a musty room and lets in fresh air. THE DREAM OF REASON has three main divisions: (1) The Pre-Socratics; (2) Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle; and (3) From Aristotle to the Renaissance (with emphasis on the Epicureans, the Stoics, and the Skeptics). Gottlieb makes short shrift of the Middle Ages, giving a thousand years less than 100 pages. He writes provocatively: 'Philosophy in the West remained more or less the slave of Christianity for about a millennium. From the perspective of modern thought, it is tempting to see that lengthy interlude in terms of the tale of Sleeping Beauty. Having pricked its finger on Christian theology, philosophy fell asleep for about a thousand years until awakened by the kiss of Descartes.' Gottlieb promises a second volume: From Rene Descartes ('the father of modern philosophy' to the present time. I eagerly await its publication. THE DREAM OF REASON is Exhibit #1 in evidence that a philosophical work need not be dour, dry, and dull, but instead can be a delightful reading experience. I recommend this book highly.
Also recommended: FREUD: DARKNESS IN THE MIDST OF VISION, by Louis Breger.
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x904641b0) out of 5 stars Does not Deliver on its Grand Title 2 April 2008
By Marty McCarthy - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I actually find it hard to put a grade on Anthony Gottlieb's "The Dream of Reason: A History of Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance." Gottlieb handles the Greeks in an accessible and witty way. He breathes life into the pre-Socratics and spends an extraordinary amount of time and care in rendering Greek thought. In demonstrating the relevance of the pre-Socratics, Gottlieb pontificates, in effect, that it was wrong to minimize their contributions to philosophy.

Then, Gottlieb in a blink of an eye, minimizes over 1000 years of philosophy. He scoffs at Augustine as if Augustine were a child writing philosophy with a crayon. Anselm and William of Ockham fare no better. Aquinas warrants half a page. Forget about Machiavelli. His treatment was not just one of omission, Gottlieb affirmatively debases everything not Greek in thought.

The hard part comes with deciding the value of "The Dream of Reason." It does have value for its treatment of the Greeks. It does have value in the fact it makes Greek philosophy accessible to the uninitiated. If "The Dream of Reason" only sought to handle the Greeks, it may warrant a 4 or even 5 star review. However, whatever good is achieved in the first 300 or so pages, is completely undone by the injustice Gottlieb does to the other 1000 years of philosophy. You certainly can't call the title of the book a "HISTORY of Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance." I get it, Gottlieb does not like philosophy after the Greeks but you cannot call your work a HISTORY if you are unwilling to treat your subject with at least a grudging objectivity.
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