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History of Western Philosophy (Routledge Classics) Paperback – 2 Feb 2004
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'Remains unchallenged as the perfect introduction to its subject ... exactly the kind of philosophy that most people would like to read, but which only Russell could possibly have written.' - Ray Monk, University of Southampton, UK
'Beautiful and luminous prose, not merely classically clear but scrupulously honest.' - Isaiah Berlin
'It is a witty bird's-eye view of the main figures in Western thought enlivened by references to the personalities and quirks of the thinkers themselves.' - The Week
'A great philosopher's lucid and magisterial look at the history of his own subject, wonderfully readable and enlightening.' - The Observer
First published in 1946, History of Western Philosophy went on to become the best-selling philosophy book of the twentieth century. A dazzlingly ambitious project, it remains unchallenged to this day as the ultimate introduction to Western philosophy. Providing a sophisticated overview of the ideas that have perplexed people from time immemorial, Russell's History of Western Philosophy offered a cogent precis of its subject. Of course this cannot be the only reason it ended up the best-selling philosophy book of the twentieth century. Russell's book was 'long on wit, intelligence and curmudgeonly scepticism', as the New York Times noted, and it is this, coupled with the sheer brilliance of its scholarship, that has made Russell's History of Western Philosophy one of the most important philosophical works of all time.
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Bertrand Russell, one of the greatest minds of the 20th century, enlivens philosophy-from ancient Greece to today. His account is lengthy, as any account of such a subject should, but well worth it. How else does one condense 3000 years of Western intellectual history in one volume?
I liked the pace of the book. He begins with a definition of philosophy and its roots in the Ancient world. It is not so much a list of facts as it is a discussion of the ideas of the Ancients. Absurd though it seems to us today, the leap from religious explanations to material for nature was ground-breaking. He then follows philosophy as it slithers through the Middle Ages, into the Renaissance and into the Modern Period. I particularly like the way he treated the medieval philosophers, like Aquinas and Ockam. I wish my philosophy professor at Univerity could have explained nominalism that way.
The work is an introduction to the subject. By definition, it is superficial in a few areas. I would have liked to see more about how contemporary (to Russell) issues like the Worlds Wars were connected to eighteenth century European thinkers such as Hegel.
In conclusion, it is a great read. One I recommend for any reflective 16-year old, who is thinking about studying an applied science like engineering. Russell's work is a great introduction to the subject. It will enable one to see where our currently rational, scientific tradition springs from.
I came to this having been dissatisfied with studying the French revolution because standard texts weren't making sense about the motivation of individuals. I now have a better understanding of how the way individuals and populations think about things can change.
This book could enrich your understanding of any period of Western history .
The only negative criticism I'd level against it was due to mid-section,which dealt with the relation between state and church in the middle ages.I felt it contained rather too much history than was necessary to establish the relationship between social and political situation and philosophical theory.That aside I'd recommend it to anyone who needs a general knowledge of the subject but is not prepared to plunge too deep or just skim the surface.
I'm pleased with the voice and the quality of the reading.