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A History of Western Philosophy
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A History of Western Philosophy
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A History of Western Philosophy
Audiobook38 hours

A History of Western Philosophy

Written by Bertrand Russell

Narrated by Jonathan Keeble

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

4/5

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About this audiobook

Bertrand Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy serves as the perfect introduction to its subject. Charting philosophy’s course from the pre-Socratics up to the early twentieth century, Russell relates each philosopher and school to their respective historical and cultural contexts, providing erudite commentary throughout his invaluable survey. This engaging and comprehensive work has done much to educate and inform generations of general readers; it is written in accessible and elegantly crafted prose and allows for an easy grasp of complex ideas.
LanguageEnglish
Release dateOct 13, 2013
ISBN9781843797401
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A History of Western Philosophy
Author

Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, social reformer, and pacifist. Although he spent the majority of his life in England, he was born in Wales, where he also died. Russell led the British “revolt against Idealism” in the early twentieth century and is one of the founders of analytic philosophy along with his protégé Wittgenstein and his elder Frege. He co-authored, with A. N. Whitehead, Principia Mathematica, an attempt to ground mathematics on logic. His philosophical essay “On Denoting” has been considered a “paradigm of philosophy.” Both works have had a considerable influence on logic, mathematics, set theory, linguistics and analytic philosophy. He was a prominent anti-war activist, championing free trade between nations and anti-imperialism. Russell was imprisoned for his pacifist activism during World War I, campaigned against Adolf Hitler, for nuclear disarmament. He criticized Soviet totalitarianism and the United States of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. In 1950, Russell was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, “in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought.”

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Reviews for A History of Western Philosophy

Rating: 4.085409252669039 out of 5 stars
4/5

843 ratings30 reviews

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  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Destijds (begin jaren 80) grotendeels gelezen, als aanvulling op een filosofie-cursus. Indrukwekkend en zeer bevattelijk geschreven
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    An encyclopedic account of the main thinkers of the Western tradition from a brilliant thinker.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Destijds (begin jaren 80) grotendeels gelezen, als aanvulling op een filosofie-cursus. Indrukwekkend en zeer bevattelijk geschreven
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Bertrand Russell is one of my heroes; however, this is far from his best work. Amazingly for him, it manages to be rather ... shallow. Perhaps that is inevitable, given the amount of ground it attempts to cover.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    ignorant of religious ideas/arguments, but an enjoyable, good-hearted philosophy overview.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Book One (and bits of Book Three) read 2020. Magisterial is the only word for it. The breadth of knowledge here is enormous, and it is immensely readable - it feels chatty but never shallow. It does occasionally drift into long-windedness, though perhaps that's only a result of some things being more interesting than others (sorry Plotinus). Book Two next, after a break...
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    This is a great book but this version has an infuriatingly bad arrangements of chapters with half the book in "chapter" 31 and no chance of being able to home in on sections or passages about specific philosophers. It needs a better file structure and the ability to browse through "real" chapter headings.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    A lot of it went over my head and the chapters were all jumbled up. I did however gain more insight into philosophy and philosophers. I liked the narrators voice.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    I enjoyed this book thoroughly. As one important philosopher that made big contribution to the development of philosophical thinking, I believe Russell studied and understood the key ideas of his predecessors in depth and breadth very few can, and yet he explained those ideas and concepts so clearly that any layman can understand and find interesting. I particularly like his own views and criticisms on the philosophers he described, which could be very subjective or even biased sometimes, but that makes this book unique and interesting. Who else is qualified to criticise the greatest minds in history, except the very best? I also think these statements he made back then are becoming even more true today — “To frame a philosophy capable of coping with men intoxicated with the prospect of almost unlimited power and also with the apathy of the powerless is the most pressing task of our time”. “In all this I feel a grave danger, the danger of what might be called cosmic impiety. The concept of truth as something dependent upon facts largely outside human control has been one of the ways in which philosophy hitherto has inculcated the necessary element of humility. When this check upon pride is removed, a further step is taken on the road towards a certain kind of madness - the intoxication of power which invaded philosophy with Fitche, and to which modern men, whether philosophers or not, are prone. I am persuaded that this intoxication is the greatest danger of our time, and that any philosophy which, however unintentionally, contributes to it is increasing the danger of vast social disaster.”
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    One of the best and most extensive books ever written, so many words....
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Absolutely gripping. Brilliant. If you love philosophy listen to this.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    What a journey!
    Very informative books and essential as introduction to philosophy and it’s history
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    So very long, but so very informative. I have been meaning to read this book for years, thanks for recording it.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Important and inspiring. I actually listened to the audio book, which took a week. And to my surprise, at the end of each day I found myself reluctant to turn it off. In gulping it down so quickly I think I was able to see big picture more clearly than if i had read it slowly and focused the individual philosophies. Russel is eloquent, easy to understand and engaging. One leaves this book inspired with a deep desire for more, which is clearly the author's intent.
  • Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
    2/5
    Much as I am fond of Mr. Russell, the book doesn't live up to its title. Renaissance Neo-Platonism is skipped? (for instance) I can understand how it doesn't have any appeal to Mr. Russell, but it was there and is a part of that history.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    An important point was left out of this book: The history of philosophy is also a history of drunks.

    Bertrand Russell has attempted to give a brief overview of the History of Western Philosophy. In this 900 page tome he touches on the major figures, major fields of thought, and the socio-political backgrounds that influenced (and were influenced by) them. Russell also offers up some critique on these aspects, because it wouldn't be a philosophy book if it wasn't doing so.

    This description sounds like anathema to entertaining reading, and it would be if it wasn't being tackled by someone like Russell. Bertrand has a very clear, concise, and accessible writing style, and is easily able to explain in plain language even the most complex of philosophical ideas. Normally reading philosophy reminds me of reading genetics textbooks, as it is overstuffed with pedantry and jargon, Russell makes it feel like he is uses no jargon or technical terms.

    It should also be noted that Russell is snarky to the point that you find yourself having to laugh and share his comment with someone. His comments are withering and witty, but they also serve as a great way of highlighting the flaws with certain arguments or "great" thinkers. If there are a few takeaway points from this book it is that the great minds were way ahead of their time, but that those same minds were confined by the structures of their time. It makes you wonder how many of today's ideas are going to look silly and biased to future peoples.

    This isn't really a book to read about certain philosophers, nor fields of thought. A History of Western Philosophy is more a cliff notes version of several thousand years of thinking. Definitely an emphasis on the history and context. And it is all viewed through Russell's eyes, his snarky, snarky, eyes.

    3 people found this helpful

  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Excellent! That was the first book on history of philosophy I really enjoyed. Russell personal yet rigorous style is addictive. The book does not cover his own period, so many philosophers are missed (such as Wittgenstein or Russell himself). A must read.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    This book its about philosophers (some of them) and philosophies. Russell, in a clear and concise style, exposes the ideas and the social context of the most important philosophers in the Western until Dewey. The philosophers’s main arguments are examined and criticized. Russell gives his thoughts about the main questions and presents the alternatives one may have when study the distincts systems of thought conceived by different men in diverse epocs. An amazing work about philosophy.
  • Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
    2/5
    I've been working on this for months, which is no big deal because the book has independent sections covering each philosophical epoch and its representative philosophers. Russell is dry but knowledgeable. I'm not a fan of his strict materialism, but he is what he is.

    ***

    7/15/09: Floating on the surface of Saint Augustine's intrigues. A little boring. I'm told that someone of my disposition is better suited to Tarnas's book, The Passion of the Western Mind.

    ***

    9/4/09: Finally finished Book II, Catholic Philosophy. Talk about an oxymoron: if you didn't toe the party line, they burned you at the stake; sometimes they burned you even if you did (particularly if you got in the way of the Pope politically, had a little money or piece of property). The most interesting individual to begin to extricate himself from the medieval morass was John Wycliffe (ca. 1320-84). He was excommunicated in 1366 because he preached "communistic opinions" (i.e., "property is the result of sin; Christ and the Apostles had no property, and the clergy ought to have none." He also denied transubstantiation and passively encouraged The Peasants Revolt of 1381. [p. 485:]). Most importantly, though, is that while his followers were eventually driven underground, "the revolt against the papacy remained in men's thoughts, and prepared the soil for Protestantism." [p. 486:] Ergo, Protestantism is an outcropping of "communistic opinions." Sadly, it has slid into a unique orthodoxy all its own. I am reminded of a quote by André Malraux, "Christ: an anarchist who succeeded. That's all." On to Book III and the Moderns.

    ***

    9/7/09: "Almost everything that distinguishes the modern world from earlier centuries is attributable to science." [p. 525:] Francis Bacon died "of a chill caught while experimenting on refrigeration by stuffing a chicken full of snow." [p. 542:] Descartes "was not industrious; he worked short hours, and read little." [p. 560:] Spinoza, my favorite philosopher, is "the noblest and most lovable of the great philosophers." [p. 569:]

    ***

    10/19/09: Russell has it out for the romantics, particularly Rousseau, and, to a lesser extent, the quasi-romanticism of Nietzsche. But he doesn't seem to appreciate the (necessary?) reaction against materialism. After reading 836 pages on philosophy, I am reminded why I'm a fan of fiction. Theory can spin off into tedious abstractions and only becomes interesting where the rubber-meets-the-road (i.e., political philosophy). Besides, psychology has all the answers anyway, right?
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Bertrand Russell is one of my heroes; however, this is far from his best work. Amazingly for him, it manages to be rather ... shallow. Perhaps that is inevitable, given the amount of ground it attempts to cover.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    In a word: awesome. This book is the best introduction to Western thought (which means: to the Western mind and the way it thinks) that I have yet read. Russell does an excellent job in his choice of subject matter, his explanations of the various philosophies that Westerners have adhered to since the most ancient ones of Greece, and in his evaluations of each of those. He is fair, balanced, insightful, and witty from cover to cover in this book; even when I found myself disagreeing with him, I had to admit that he made a good point and he made it well. The only complaint that I have is that I think he shortchanged much of the philosophy of the Middle Ages, either skipping it entirely or only giving a brief mention to certain individuals and movements that I think had much more importance than he gives credit for. Aside from that, this is a simply amazing book. I recommend it to anyone who wants to familiarize themselves with Western thought and/or better understand their own thinking.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    I don't think for a moment that Russell is trying to be fair in this philosophical overview, but it makes for good reading, and he does give you his take on a wide range of philosophical and political issues over this long & detailed trip through the history of philosophy up to his own time.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Important and inspiring. I actually listened to the audio book, which took a week. And to my surprise, at the end of each day I found myself reluctant to turn it off. In gulping it down so quickly I think I was able to see big picture more clearly than if i had read it slowly and focused the individual philosophies. Russel is eloquent, easy to understand and engaging. One leaves this book inspired with a deep desire for more, which is clearly the author's intent.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    I started this book after having it on my shelves since college, although I vaguely remember a spasm of self improvement in which I had read the first chapter. I spent many airplane hours with a copy of it on the Kindle, and found that that eased the process of highlighting and saving favorite passages, of which there were many. Russell’s style is clear, opinionated, acerbic, and he has a tremendous erudition. Starting with the ancient Greeks, stopping with William James and John Dewey, philosophers that Russell knew, he tries to put the thoughts of the philosophers in the context of their times. He obviously has prejudices against Communism, and is neutral to hostile to religion, but he covers the great church fathers of early medieval times and Thomas Aquinas with care. This book was prepared from public lectures delivered at the Barne’s foundation in 1943, and probably is too breezy to satisfy the professional philosopher. It is necessarily dated, but Russell’s voice remains clear and compelling.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Still one of the best introductions to western philosophy.