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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 19 September 2011
I bought this book on the recommendation of The Philosophy Shop for my son who has just started to study philosophy at AS/A level. I read it over a weekend and was transfixed by the skill Nigel Warburton has used to make a complex subject so comprehensible and entertaining. There is simple language and easily understandable examples, which all contribute to a greater understanding of the many ideas that shape our world. Mr Warburton does not shirk from explaining that some ideas are 'mad, bad and dangerous to know' but encourages the importance of constant questioning of who we are and why. I could not recommend this book highly enough as a valuable introduction to philosophy for interested people of all ages.
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on 6 October 2011
I was amazed how quickly I read this book, which is 248 pages long. Warburton writes in plain English, which explains why the book is such an easy read. He provides a quick overview of the seminal work of 40 prominent philosophers, ranging from the Classical Socrates to the modern Australian, Peter Singer. The book allows about six pages for each philosopher, and it gives a clear description of the main work that has made each of these philosophers famous.

An excellent book for the general reader, like myself, who would simply like to learn a bit more about philosophy. I suspect that it might be too lightweight for an undergraduate seriously studying Philosophy at university.

Highly recommended for the general reader.
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on 2 January 2012
I have to confess that until very recently I would have been hard pressed to come up with a sensible answer if asked 'what's the use of philosophy?'. But then I read Ben Dupré's 50 Philosophy Ideas (You Really Need to Know), followed by Plato and A Platypus Walk into A Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes (hilarious!) and in the wake of those read Nigel Warburton's book. 'A little history of Philsophy' is probably modelled on Ernst Gombrich's A Little History of the World, and in fact it succeeds admirably in doing for philosophy what Gombrich did for history. In barely 245 pages subdivided into 40 short chapters Warburton chronicles the history of philosophy, from Socrates and Plato to Peter Singer.

Did he omit certain philosophers? I'm sure he did, but then again: this is explicitly a short history of philosophy, and judging it by that standard I cannot find fault with it. Of course, one could argue that as a novice I am hardly in a position to judge, but one thing I can say with absolute certainty: Warburton's book has given me an appetite for more, so Bertrand Russel's History of Western Philosophy (Routledge Classics) is next on my reading list, and surely that is a good thing?
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on 11 June 2012
As always Nigel Warburton is able to convey ideas easily and with good humour, all I have read of his has been excellent and thought provoking. For the layman or anyone trying to grasp philosophy read this book.
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on 22 January 2012
I had a career in business, and had no prior knowledge of philosophy when I picked up this book. What I was looking for is a quick read, a businesslike introduction, to the things I needed to know about. This book proved just right, and more: It created an interest which I intend to follow up on.

This is a relatively short book, 250 pages in all, given that it attempts to present the ideas of more than 40 major philosophers dating back to Socrates and ending with the living ones like Peter Singer. Written for the lay reader, it is full of examples, presented in plain language, in sections not more than six or seven pages long. There is a conscious attempt to put everything in perspective, each section ends with a prelude to the next, and at other times, there are references made to ideas and works of other philosophers as we read about another one.

As I mentioned, this book goes beyond the basic introduction and generates an interest in the subject. It does so by being practical and establishing relevance to everyday life. A number of questions are explored in the context. People like Darwin, Freud and Kuhn find sections of their own. I ended up recommending this book to friends in other disciplines as a good read and great enabler of intelligent conversations.
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on 1 January 2014
I've spent some time reading a number of introductions to philosophy and the key philosophers to try and introduce my mum to them. She doesn't know anything about philosophy and I was getting a little frustrated as they all assumed at-least some prior knowledge. However, this book was perfect for the job, clear,well written and informative at just the right level so that beginners don't get stumped and that those more well read don't feel patronised. Definitely worth a slot in the house library and probably a great read for the inquisitive teenager.
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on 3 March 2016
This may be an excellent book for "an inquisitive teenager", as one reviewer here puts it, but it's also pretty handy for a sixty-something who always got stuck when reading the original texts of the great thinkers it discusses. Abandoned copies of Kant, Sartre and Wittgenstein littered my youth and I would never have even considered reading them if this nifty little volume had been around at the time. Warburton reassures me greatly when he states that Martin Heidegger, for example, is incomprehensible to laypeople because at least it wasn't just me being thick when I gave up, baffled, on page six. There are nice little pen portraits of the sages too and the image of Immanuel Kant setting off on his daily walk up and down his street eight times at four-thirty is a reminder of just how dotty philosophers can be, though he was so punctual his neighbours set their watches by him. I also like the fact he smoked a pipe, never married, and lived to 80 at a time when most didn't even reach half that age. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, therefore I am. You will, and are, too.
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on 20 June 2012
I loved this book. Forty short chapters on philosophers from Socrates to the present day, summing up the work of each one in a way that was completely comprehensible to someone who knows almost nothing about philosophy. I'm not going to pretend that I now understand Wittgenstein, but I've got a clearer idea of most of the others. A beautifully produced, lovely-to-handle little book too.
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on 25 March 2012
This is a wonderfully written, inspiring and enlightening book. Unlike some works of Philosophy it is accessible and relevant. Whether you are an academic or just interested in the world in which we live, i cannot recommend this highly enough,
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on 8 March 2015
Excellent intro for interested laypersons. Most chapters cover one philosopher, Warbuton explains one of two of their key ideas plus an easily-digestible counterargument and a couple of "fun facts" about the individual to add some colour. What's not to like?!
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