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on 4 March 2017
One of the greatest books of Russel with key concepts through the history of humanity. Interrelations and links between different time and ideas are very clearly captured.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 8 October 2014
Brilliantly conceived, luminously written and so ambitious and wide-ranging that it is bound to stretch its author to his limits and reveal a few weaknesses. Naturally, there are controversial opinions and Russell is honest about the fact that some philosophers are better known to him than others. He is an atheist and his natural sympathies are with the rationalists and not the supernaturalists. One can disagree with him on certain points and still recognise the enormity of his achievement. No-one can read this book without gaining understanding of how Western society became what it is now; and no-one can read it without gaining new avenues of thought and new revelations. Wonderful!
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on 9 November 2000
This book is suitable for all people, whether academically inclined or not. I read this book over summer as preparitory reading for my course and found it very well written and easy to understand, since Russell is not prone to presumption or digression. This book highlights all of the most commonplace philosophy (Plato and Marxism) and gives the reader an excellent view of more esoteric philosophy (like Liebniz and Schopenhauer) which has been - heretofore - treated flippantly in some philosophical summaries. Although it is not my intent to slander some works, one must point out that Flew's Introduction to Philosophy was far less deserving of praise than Mr.Russell's work: since the former holds to a limited viewpoint, with only those philosophers considered "great" given any perusal; the later, meanwhile, should be given due praise since his book covers most of the salient philosophy of western philosophy. This book would serve well anyone thinking of reading philosophy for the first time, or even anyone familiar with the subject.
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on 30 December 2013
Essential reading for anyone interested in why we in the west think the way we do. Traces the history of modern thought and how our cultural outlook liberated itself from a dogmatic church controlled view and evolved into the scientific mindset of today. For those with foresight it also gives clues as to where we are heading...
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on 2 April 2002
The problem with reviewing this book is that although stylystically interesting, well written (to a degree) and certainly comprehensive, it is not the definitive introduction to philosophy it should be. As other reviewers have testified, this book was enjoyable and gave them insights into philosophers they may not have heard of. Indeed, I often refer to it when I come across some thinker I'm not familiar with.
However, there is a serious problem with this book. Russell is the first to admit that he doesn't understand some of the philosophers he covers, but some of his treatments are just plain wrong. If you tried reading this as an introduction you could end up with a seriously skewed view of many of the philosophers contained within - especially the more recent ones.
I would therefore recommend this more as a reference book for those who have studied at least a little philosophy, so that Russell's more ridiculous claims can be safely skipped and his arguments rated against those who have interpreted the philosophers in question more favourably. It is interesting to compare Russell to Rawls, who thought that one should never try to prove oneself more clever than the philosopher one was explaining.
Finally, not wanting to turn this into a Nietzsche argument, stating that Fascism is the 'logical conclusion' of his arguments is grossly misguided and shows the basic miscomprehension which surrounds this insightful thinker, and which this book in particular only serves to add to.
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on 27 June 2010
Still the best introduction to Western Philosophy up to the middle of the last century.
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on 19 March 2002
I didn't read Bertrand Russell's "History of Western Philosophy" because I was looking for a cheerleader for Nietzsche. I might expect a bland "even-handed" treatment from an undergraduate but by the time Bertrand Russell wrote his history, he and Alfred North Whitehead had already taken Western Philosophy and Mathematics into new territory. Alan Turing himself, arguably the true inventor of the computer, found his inspiration in symbolic logic and in the "Principia Mathematica" (Russell/Whitehead) specifically. I would feel cheated by anything less than a "critical" review of Nietzsche from Russell. To criticize Russell on this basis is akin to trying to discredit Voltaire for lampooning Leibniz as "Dr. Pangloss". Western Civilization is enriched by both. Moreover, Russell's criticisms are always accompanied by great wit --in themselves relevant contributions to the history of Philosophy. Russell's wit has been compared to that of Voltaire and the very idea of objective, even-handed accounts of Catholicism from Voltaire, for example, is absurd. Why should Russell be held to a different standard? The idea of "objectivity" is highly over-rated in any case. No one expects a prosecutor to make the case for the defense case while stating his own; it is equally absurd to expect a philosopher whose stature is at least that of Nietzsche to serve us up a PC version of a Nietzchean philosophy that --taken to its logical implications --resulted in fascism and Nazism. If you want a bland history of Philosophy, read an encyclopedic entry knocked off by a professional writer; if you want a perspective on Philosophy from one of the great intellects of the 20th Century and can accommodate a perspective which may differ from your own --read Russell and be enriched.
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on 19 February 2015
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on 2 November 2016
an excellent book to get a novice like me into Philosophy, hard to read at times, but always engaging.
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on 22 June 2016
A must read for eveyone who has thurst for knowledge about life in general.
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