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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars

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on 13 April 2017
An absorbing read, well worth adding to ones bookshelf
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on 12 May 2003
Great book. Introduces the key ideas through history in a clear and interesting way. He refrains from passing judgement and lets the various arguments speak for themselves.
Having read the book, I am loath to say that the book is objective, but it certainly feels that way from my subjective point of view!
Has certainly inspired me to look at philosophy in more depth, and even to start to try and clarify my own beliefs.
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on 23 March 2007
This is, as other reviewers have said, quite simply the best introduction to philosophy in existence - and as ex-philosophy student I have read many. When I say "introduction" I really mean a book which can be read by people who have had little or no previous contact with philosophy. It is accessible to anyone over the age of about 11 and is long enough not to oversimplify the essentials : Magee taught philosophy at Oxford and London Universities and knows what he's talking about. All the major figures and currents are covered and the historical and cultural contexts are evoked. It's also a beautifully produced book with reproductions of paintings and historical documents. This glossy coffee-table look could lead to readers dipping into the book but it deserves to be read from cover to cover. No education is complete without some knowledge of philosophy, and this is the best place to start before going on to read some of the more accessible classics such as Plato, Descartes and Nietzsche.
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on 8 August 2010
If you don't yet know your Hobbes from your Hume, if you're still looking to distinguish your stoic from your sceptic, then this is absolutely the book for you. Pitched at the curious beginner with perhaps a few philosophy titles already under their belt, this provides a huge amount of information and covers some challenging ideas, but does so without ever veering off into convolution and inaccessibility. It seems to get just about everything right: it's well-written, well-structured, and well-presented.

Beginning with the early ancient Greek philosophers, Magee takes the reader right through to 20th century analytic and existential philosophy, tackling all the key figures and schools of thought along the way. The great rationalists (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz) and empiricists (Locke, Hume, etc) and key figures and movements from French and German philosophy are all covered. Books of this sort sometimes have a tendency to feel quite disjointed. Not so this one: each chapter flows smoothly to the next, and if you read it cover to cover, you'll find yourself with a good sense of the development of ideas through the generations.

Presentation of this title is, as we've come to expect from DK, excellent. There are informative side panels, quotations, and an abundance of illustrations including well-chosen and often remarkably apt period artwork. All help to provide a useful sense of context for each key figure and idea. As an extensive and accessible overview of the history of philosophy, Bryan Magee's book completely achieves what it sets out to do, and more importantly, reading it was a real pleasure.
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on 13 August 2005
Magee has produced an entertaining and enlightening introduction to the history of philosophy. It looks like a coffee-table book and has much of the agreableness of reading one. It is popularisation at its best. Magee's theism is not intrusive so the atheist can happily read it without irritation.
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on 5 February 2002
As a student of philosophy at the university of Malta, I have found this book really useful. It is beautifully illustrated without making the topic seem trivial. It also proves to be a better visual aid for me when I am studying for my exams, as facts are clarly laid out. I must also add that this book contains everything, from the pre-Socratics to 20th century philosophers. *;-)
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on 12 March 2010
Like most of the other reviewers here, I would agree that this is an ideal book for anyone wanting a broad based introduction into philosophy. The book, for the most part, is a chronological acount of the history of philosophy. It begins by explaining the fundamental questions behind philosophy and goes on to explain how various philosophers throughout the ages have tried to answer them.

The desciptions are always unbiased and direct in identifying the key works, ideas and theories of the great philosophers and elucidating them in a way that is both easy to grasp and engaging. The page space allocated to each philosopher varies considerably; depending on how much influence and impact their work has had on the world, (at least in the mind of the author). Some of the more famous names receive 7+ pages others less than a page, but given that the whole history of philosophy is covered, I feel that a sensible balance is struck. In my opinion the use of illustration is effective and compliments the text because, to me, the philosophical mindset of a time and place in history is often clearly represented in the art. The author also makes good use of text boxes, often to remind the reader of historical background or the relationship of philosophy to the scientific and literary works of the age. Overall the illustrations, text boxes and use of aphorism, helps to break up the text alowing the reader to digest and reflect on the material.

One minor complaint I have is that the section on eastern philosophy is relatively short, with Confucianism barely receiving a mention.

Plato is quoted as saying "Philosophy begins in Wonder" and after reading this book I can guarantee that you will have a greater appreciation and understanding of the contribution of the great minds to the evolution of modern thought. This book may also help you to structure and expand your own thoughts or challenge you to examine and reaffirm your own beliefs and values.
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VINE VOICEon 14 August 2008
This is a brilliant book. Bryan Magee has summarised a huge amount of material down to a manageable size giving the background to each philosopher, and their key messages. Anyone who wants to understand who we are and why we see ourselves as we do will learn from reading this book.

Magee is very good at telling us which philosophers write well and which don't. It's a pleasure to record that Magee writes clearly and concisely. You feel his appreciation (whether he agrees with them or not)of the philosophers who have gone before him, and his notion of "the past in dialogue with the present"

My thanks to Bryan Magee for writing this book, which started me on a journey of discovery as I went on to read further following many suggestions from the book. In particular he pointed me towards the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty.
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on 23 July 2011
Bryan Magee has compiled a wonderful book on both the history and the actual tenets of philosophy throughout, mostly, the western world. Starting from the earliest Greek philosophy right up to the present day although current philosophers are not considered given their, as yet, unknown claims to fame, to be decided by future generations.
It is a beautifully illustrated book with many paintings, photos and descriptions of the meaning of philosophical concepts spread throughout to aid clarity and ensure the ideas are firmly based on the real world. Apart from the main outstanding philosophers and the main trends in philosophy he also includes small excursions onto related thinkers/poets/writers of the era concerned, this certainly illuminates the ideas as well as giving them historical perspective, a subtle indication of the influence of the time (Zeitgeist) on the ideas and vice versa.

The major philosophers include Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Heraclitus, St Augustine, Descarte, Husserl, Hegel, Fichte, Popper, Hume, Berkely, Locke, Schopenhauer, Bergson, Sartre and so on, exploring the whole gamut. Included in terms of major trends is pragmatism, phenomenology, empiricism etc. All in all a superb book which is hard to put down even for people often bewildered by complex ideas and usually not willing to explore them seriously. Luckily Magee keeps the sections relatively short and prevents this fading of attention. This is yet another good aspect of the book. In addition he makes the reader fascinated and interested in further reading in depth of the central ideas. The book is also enclosed in a very hardwearing soft cover with overlapping ends and so keeps from falling apart, this is especially useful for infrequent readers or for multiple reading of the book by many, something I found out as I went through it. To call it a coffee table book does not do it justice since it is much more than this and does not look out of place on a philosophical bookshelf.

Even though the book covers mainly western philosophy it also takes an aside into Buddhist thought because of its deep philosophical foundations and influence all over the world eg on Schopenhauer. Taoism is not discussed and neither is Confucism but this is not a real drawback.

A superb introduction to philosophy.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 18 October 2013
This is an exciting, intellectually stimulating and comprehensive guide to philosophy. After an excellent brief introduction there are chapters on 'The Greeks and Their World'; 'Christianity and Philosophy'; 'The Beginnings of Modern Science'; 'The Great Rationalists'; 'Revolutionary French Thinkers'; 'A Golden Century of German Philosophy'; 'Democracy and Philosophy' & '20th Century Philosophy'.
This accessible book concludes with a useful Glossary of philosophical terms and a guide to further reading.
Bryan Magee's 'The Story of Philosophy' is a beautifully illustrated and enlightening survey of a fascinating subject which should appeal to the general reader as well as students beginning a philosophy course.
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