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A brilliant and concise account of the lives and ideas of the great philosophers—Plato, Aristotle, Bacon, Spinoza, Voltaire, Kant, Schopenhauer, Spencer, Nietzsche, Bergson, Croce, Russell, Santayana, James, and Dewey—The Story of Philosophy is one of the great books of our time. Few write for the non-specialist as well as Will Durant, and this book is a splendid example of his eminently readable scholarship. Durant’s insight and wit never cease to dazzle; The Story of Philosophy is a key book for any reader who wishes to survey the history and development of philosophical ideas in the Western world.

Topics: Enlightenment, Medieval Period, The Renaissance, Panoramic, Philosophers, Ethics, Astrology, Democracy, Existentialism, Humanism, Morality, Death, and Western Civilization

Published: Simon & Schuster on Jul 24, 2012
ISBN: 9781476702605
List price: $8.99
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I always feel that it's cheating to read a book about an author or thinker rather than going straight to the source. Cliffnotes are an abomination; I'm even suspicious of biographies and encyclopedia entries. This is why I had to buy a second bookshelf to house all those ridiculously large books by dead philosophers. Source-snobbery aside, I do think Will Durant is a genius at distilling impossible ideas to their essence and explaining them with a clarity that does not in any way diminish or dumb them down. Sure, his book is frustratingly broad, and since it was written in the 1920s it lacks a handful of vital philosophers like Wittgenstein and Heidegger, but it's the one I'd recommend in a heartbeat to anyone wanting to know more about philosophy but unsure where to begin, or to someone like myself who has read a fair bit of the originals but only half understands.read more
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This book follows the threads of speculative thought in the Western world through certain dominant personalities. It excludes epistemology, which it relegates to psychology, and understands philosophy to be a synthetic interpretation of all experience. Science gives us empirical knowledge. It is the role of philosophy to synthesize that knowledge into wisdom.Is it a difficult read? Yes, at times. This book is not for everyone. But Will Durant is a good guide. No one could make Spinoza or Kant easy, but he makes them accessible, if the reader will apply some effort. Have a notebook handy because you will encounter lots of keepers, bits of priceless wisdom you will want to save.Durant draws critical conclusions about these various philosophers, their strengths and weaknesses, and shows how they relate to one another. A rewarding read, if chewed well and thoroughly digested.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Perfect book if you are new to philosophy. It was for me. I really liked how he mixed the philosophers main ideas with the history of when they presented them. This made it more interesting and helped put into perspective how the times shaped their works. While I enjoyed this book I will need a break before I listen to the second volume.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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I always feel that it's cheating to read a book about an author or thinker rather than going straight to the source. Cliffnotes are an abomination; I'm even suspicious of biographies and encyclopedia entries. This is why I had to buy a second bookshelf to house all those ridiculously large books by dead philosophers. Source-snobbery aside, I do think Will Durant is a genius at distilling impossible ideas to their essence and explaining them with a clarity that does not in any way diminish or dumb them down. Sure, his book is frustratingly broad, and since it was written in the 1920s it lacks a handful of vital philosophers like Wittgenstein and Heidegger, but it's the one I'd recommend in a heartbeat to anyone wanting to know more about philosophy but unsure where to begin, or to someone like myself who has read a fair bit of the originals but only half understands.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This book follows the threads of speculative thought in the Western world through certain dominant personalities. It excludes epistemology, which it relegates to psychology, and understands philosophy to be a synthetic interpretation of all experience. Science gives us empirical knowledge. It is the role of philosophy to synthesize that knowledge into wisdom.Is it a difficult read? Yes, at times. This book is not for everyone. But Will Durant is a good guide. No one could make Spinoza or Kant easy, but he makes them accessible, if the reader will apply some effort. Have a notebook handy because you will encounter lots of keepers, bits of priceless wisdom you will want to save.Durant draws critical conclusions about these various philosophers, their strengths and weaknesses, and shows how they relate to one another. A rewarding read, if chewed well and thoroughly digested.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Perfect book if you are new to philosophy. It was for me. I really liked how he mixed the philosophers main ideas with the history of when they presented them. This made it more interesting and helped put into perspective how the times shaped their works. While I enjoyed this book I will need a break before I listen to the second volume.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This was my first general guide to philosophy. It packs a lot in. This is the book that let me understand Kant and helped me realize how much I like Spinoza.
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Excellent overview of the significant philosophers and their philosophies throughout history.
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Sure this book has a bunch of good background and serves a as nice background to philosophy...but it's ideological bias is strong and unacknowledged.The writer is an academic...and, of course, there is nothing wrong with this. But he seems wholly unaware of how his view totally shapes his reading and critic of the great minds.For example, Plato suggests a society run by the elite who have been schooled in the correct management of a state. This, of course, is a very logical proposition. Durant finds many things to criticize with Plato's proposed society, but seems blissfully ignorant of that the power in Plato's society would reside within university walls since the one who shapes the training of our leaders holds as much power as the leaders themselves...but in fairness, I wouldn't expect someone who comes from the institution to critize a system that would give more power to people like himself.This may seem like a minor critic, and I guess it is, but Durant's book is full of such elitist and academic assumptions. So when combined with page after page of such assumptions and bias, it gets harder and harder to glean fact from his elitist opinions.After reading this book I get the sense that this author hasn't been shaped by the day-to-day performance of real work in the real world, but rather lives in his ivory tower where eloquent speech and high ideals take precedence over "mundane" things like the raising of a family and the struggle of the working class.Finally, Durant seems to revel in anti-Christian assumptions. He fails to give real criticism of some of the horrendous morals promoted by early philosophers (for example, a passing nod to the sanctity of life and the abhorrence of infanticide would have been nice). And his jumping from Aristotle to Francis Bacon seems to be his way of sticking his nose up to great Christian philosophers like Augustine, who, although a theologian, wrote great and influential treatises on subjects like time, truth, and free will. The Greek philosophers' writings were about God and the ultimate reality as well...so why are they included while great Christian thinkers are not? Readers beware.
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