Since its first publication in 1945? Lord Russell's A History of Western Philosophy has been universally acclaimed as the outstanding one-volume work on the subject -- unparalleled in its comprehensiveness, its clarity, its erudition, its grace and wit. In seventy-six chapters he traces philosophy from the rise of Greek civilization to the emergence of logical analysis in the twentieth century. Among the philosophers considered are: Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, the Atomists, Protagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Cynics, the Sceptics, the Epicureans, the Stoics, Plotinus, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, Benedict, Gregory the Great, John the Scot, Aquinas, Duns Scotus, William of Occam, Machiavelli, Erasmus, More, Bacon, Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, the Utilitarians, Marx, Bergson, James, Dewey, and lastly the philosophers with whom Lord Russell himself is most closely associated -- Cantor, Frege, and Whitehead, co-author with Russell of the monumental Principia Mathematica.
A classic, but flawed.
By David C. Moses - January 14, 2000
Russell's "History of Western Philosophy" is not the best introduction to western philosophy that I have read. That place goes to Antony Flew's "Introduction to Western Philosophy." But for many readers, Russell's is still the better book. Flew's book is purely about philosophy. Russell, on the other hand, strives to place thought in its social context, and he is so successful that the book doubles as an outline history of the western world, and a very interesting one. Also, Russell's deep understanding of the relationship between philosophy and science adds interest. Finally, Russell's clear explanations of difficult concepts should make those concepts clear even to the novice or near-novice; Flew's book, although it assumes no knowledge of philosophy, is more technical, and so is not suitable for all novices.Despite this book's well-deserved status as a classic work, it has some major flaws that a reader should keep in mind, all stemming from... read more
A view from a high peak
By Curtis L. Wilbur "zencoyote" - March 6, 2000
As a novice in the world of formal philosophy, I was entirely grateful for the existence of this book. Russell offers not only an expansive view of western philosophy within rigorous historical context, but manages to convey much of his own philosophy within his critiques. I came, over time, to look at this book as more an expression of Russell's philosophy in relation to the entire course of western thought. How could it be anything different? Russell's perspective is, however well-informed, quite one-sided. So much so that the individual philosophers he takes on have no hope of a fair trial. However much I agree with him about Nietzsche, Russell does not even attempt to be fair. Better to appreciate this book for what it is: a personal view. As such, it is quite expansive, and if you need to know more about western philosophy, you'll easily fill in the missing pieces if you start here. But don't run away hurt if your favorite philosopher gets short shrift - I... read more
...And What a History He Gives Us!
By Kevin Currie-Knight "Education Grad Student" - August 17, 2004
Bertrand Russell's "History of Western Philosophy," quite simply, is the best all-around history I've seen. Will Durant's is accessible but more informative about its subjects lives than their thoughts. Copleston's history is much more informative but much too long (11 vol.) for any but the most serious student. Antony Flew's, for all of its strenghts, presumes much more technical knowlege than the average lay reader will have. Russell's book, then, seems the best all around intro - it is long enough but not too long, detailed enough but not overly technical, and interesting enough while remaining all the while informative. And unlike all of the others, Russell writes with the impeccable clarity we expect from him, and admirable enthusiasm.
Russell's layout is thus: he sets the stage for each section (ancient, scholastic, enlightenment, romantic, modern) by giving a brief historical chapter. Once done, he sets to work on a 10-20 page walk through of each prominent... read more
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