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In the tradition of grand sweeping histories such as From Dawn To Decadence, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and A History of God, Hecht champions doubt and questioning as one of the great and noble, if unheralded, intellectual traditions that distinguish the Western mind especially-from Socrates to Galileo and Darwin to Wittgenstein and Hawking. This is an account of the world's greatest ‘intellectual virtuosos,' who are also humanity's greatest doubters and disbelievers, from the ancient Greek philosophers, Jesus, and the Eastern religions, to modern secular equivalents Marx, Freud and Darwin—and their attempts to reconcile the seeming meaninglessness of the universe with the human need for meaning,

This remarkable book ranges from the early Greeks, Hebrew figures such as Job and Ecclesiastes, Eastern critical wisdom, Roman stoicism, Jesus as a man of doubt, Gnosticism and Christian mystics, medieval Islamic, Jewish and Christian skeptics, secularism, the rise of science, modern and contemporary critical thinkers such as Schopenhauer, Darwin, Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, the existentialists.

Topics: Philosophers, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Jesus, Politics, Ethics, Atheism, Philosophical, Art & Artists, Spirituality , Political Commentary, and Essays

Published: HarperCollins on Oct 1, 2003
ISBN: 9780062031396
List price: $12.49
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This book put me on the path of atheism and the discovery of Hitchens, Dawkins, Denett, Harris, and Grayling what a great book. read more
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Every year on my visit to Taipei I buy a book of philosophy at the Eslite bookstore - as a kind of homage to how wonderful their selection of philosophy titles is (even if they no longer stock French and German originals along with Chinese and English translations). I was considering Habermas' latest collection of pieces from Verso, as well as a Isaiah Berlin on Romanticism, but then decided on this - just because I thought it would look good on my bookshelf. I have to say I am utterly charmed by the introduction and first chapter. Big ideas, lightly put across. Superb writing.Have to say I hate the subtitle though. Bad addition by agent or published. Doubt: a History would have been just fine.read more
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Just like the title says -- this is a history of skepticism about received religion, from the Greeks to the current day. The book begins with an extensive discussion of Greek and Roman philosophy, almost of all of which was skeptical to one degree or another. It proceeds through the coming of Christianity, the middle ages, the Renaissance, the age of enlightenment, the 19th century, and on the present day. The author ascribes much of the scientific progress of earlier ages to those who were to one degree or another doubters, which seems a fair judgement. All in all, a most interesting book, which presents an unusual and enlightening perspective on the intellectual history of our culture.read more
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This book put me on the path of atheism and the discovery of Hitchens, Dawkins, Denett, Harris, and Grayling what a great book.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Every year on my visit to Taipei I buy a book of philosophy at the Eslite bookstore - as a kind of homage to how wonderful their selection of philosophy titles is (even if they no longer stock French and German originals along with Chinese and English translations). I was considering Habermas' latest collection of pieces from Verso, as well as a Isaiah Berlin on Romanticism, but then decided on this - just because I thought it would look good on my bookshelf. I have to say I am utterly charmed by the introduction and first chapter. Big ideas, lightly put across. Superb writing.Have to say I hate the subtitle though. Bad addition by agent or published. Doubt: a History would have been just fine.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Just like the title says -- this is a history of skepticism about received religion, from the Greeks to the current day. The book begins with an extensive discussion of Greek and Roman philosophy, almost of all of which was skeptical to one degree or another. It proceeds through the coming of Christianity, the middle ages, the Renaissance, the age of enlightenment, the 19th century, and on the present day. The author ascribes much of the scientific progress of earlier ages to those who were to one degree or another doubters, which seems a fair judgement. All in all, a most interesting book, which presents an unusual and enlightening perspective on the intellectual history of our culture.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A good read, but more importantly, a really solid education; Not simply in terms of the history of doubters, but the history of, well, thought. Of philosophy. For someone who didn't quite get the education he might have liked, this book is a great tour through different ways of thinking about the world, freed from the gauze and blur of supernaturalism.
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Doubt has as rich and deep of a history as belief does. It has its heroes and heroines, as well as its demons. People have been persecuted, prosecuted, and executed for their doubts as much as for their beliefs. After all, doubt is just a belief in something else.This book chronicles the lives and musings of great doubters from 600 BCE to the present day. It is thick (literally and figuratively) with material, and the density makes it impossible to fully comprehend. I think I remember about one-eighth of the information given.Citations, notes, bibliographies, and an index are provided. The author knows the material intimately and has managed to gracefully tackle this enormous issue. This book is not for the faint-of-heart, and it took me months to read. One cannot read more than 15 to 20 pages in one sitting. It was eye-opening, informative, and intriguing. It is a great for reference to individuals and times/places, but difficult to take in. I am definitely glad that I read it, but also relieved that it is over.
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I probably should have read the reviews better on this. I was hoping it would be a broader look at the role of doubt, skepticism, and critical thinking in all aspects of history. Really, it's just an intellectual and cultural history of atheism and agnosticism that the publisher was afraid to market as such.On those terms, it's decent. I learned about a lot of more minor figures in the history of freethought that I hadn't come across before, and got quite a bit more context for the major ones I already knew about. The main thing I had problems with was the prose. By the time I got halfway through the book I felt like I was reading the same paragraph over and over again with new names and places plugged in. It got to be a real slog to read, even though the subject matter was stuff I'm definitely interested in. On the bright side, it didn't suffer as much from the condescension, myopia, and just plain assholery that most overtly atheist books tend to indulge in these days. It was balanced, well-researched, and charitable, if a little tendentious at times. Worth reading all-in-all, but it won't be the most enjoyable read you ever have. A good book for filling in the gaps if you're interested in the history of freethought, atheism, and heresies of all sorts.
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