Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy serves as the perfect introduction to its subject; it remains unchallenged as the greatest account of the history of Western thought. 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.
©1945 Bertrand Russell (P)2013 Naxos AudioBooks
Letting the rest of the world go by
There doesn't seem to be a wasted section in this book because all the pieces seem to tie together from early to modern times. The author will first tell you the relevant history and social conditions at the time and how they went about influencing the philosophy he's going to discuss.
You get a really interesting peak into the mindset of a writer during the end of WW II. The author would often bring in the Germans (Nazis) and Japanese and how what he is telling you is relevant to what was going on in the world at the time he wrote the book. Those parts of the books alone are worth reading the whole book.
There was one part of the book during the discussion of Plato when I got overwhelmed, because he kept going on and on and soon as I was understanding one part he'd go on to another part and I wanted to stop listening. I'm glad I didn't, because what he does next is introduce another philosopher by saying how the philosopher disagreed with Plato for the following reasons and then I would start to understand what Plato really meant. It's like studying math. One doesn't really understand the algebra until one learns the calculus and so on.
The book covers a lot, but I retain major parts of it. For example, I remember that Hegel believed that you couldn't understand the part without understanding the whole universe (uncle doesn't exist without nephew), and Marx's class struggle comes from Hegel's ideas about nations and so on.
The narrator does a superb job.
The book is also interesting for another reason. It might be my last foray into a grand survey of philosophy because it does such a good job. As the book preceded through out time, I realized the role of philosophy was getting smaller and smaller as the role of science (and math) was getting larger and larger. The book goes a long way towards showing me how much more important science has become, and how less important philosophy is.
I usually listen to science books, but this book did fill in some gaps for me and I highly recommend it even for lovers of science books.
The book traces the history of philosophy's tought from the presocratics to John Dewey. Bertrand Russell presents the ideas of majors thinkers of the period and the social enviroment in which they live and work. The author discuss the diverse concepts and gives his reasons of agreement and/or disagreement. The narration of Jonathan Keeble is good and has distinct emphasis that help the listener/reader understanding of the work. Definitely an insightful reading in philosophy's field.
This is interesting, educational, and well performed. Love how it interweaves western history,philosopher lives, and philosophy into one entertaining and informative blend. GREAT BOOK. I did whispersync which I am sure helped. Annotated portions that I could review at a later date.
This is possibly the best narration/performance of a non-fiction book—or any book, really—that I have ever heard. Keeble is an outstanding narrator, and not just because he has a lovely voice. The problem with many narrators, especially in philosophy books, is that they just read the words with a steady, flat tone and at a brisk speed (with not enough pauses) that often gives me the impression that they don't understand what they're reading...and the result is that I, as the listener, have a hard time following the sense of what they're reading. Keeble is outstanding and unusual because he clearly understands what he's reading, and he reads with pauses at appropriate points, so that it's very easy for the listener to understand what's being said. He also conveys Russell's little humorous asides perfectly.
The audiobook is not necessarily "better" than the print book. I would say that it makes a wonderful companion to the print book.
Russel is brilliant in this work of immense scope. He analyzes almost all major philosophers from Ancient Greece up to his time and gives his opinion on their thought. He is sometimes critical, sometimes supportive but remains unbiased and deeply respectful. This is an enormous work. Its only weakness is that probably due to its scope some of the topics are not so deeply analyzed as they would have been in a special dedicated work. I highly recommend this book if you are interested in a non-obscurantist yet rigorous and entertaining review of philosophy from Plato to Schoppenhauer.
This is the longest book i've listened to, however it is thought provoking and enjoyable.
No...it's almost 40 hours long.
The reader does a great job acting out other characters, and is very pleasant to listen to. Also in his reading he sounds very natural, almost as if he has the pages memorized. Very impressive!
Remarkably insightful and still well worth Reading. The boom relates philosophical position to the time and circumstances. It gives philosophy an unavoidable place next to science.
An almost incredible amount of knowledge in so many fields accumulated in a single book but there certainly are flaws..
Clearly the work of a great mind, it is all the more surprising and disappointing to find out that Russell was apparently incapable of understanding especially Schopenhauer let alone appreciating his work and that he's so obviously biased throughout the book. Kierkegaard is also largely ignored, among others. He seems to have been more interested in the fact that Schopenhauer himself couldn't live up to his own Philosophy. Since when can you judge a Philosophy by how well the Author himself applies it in his daily life? Even more shocking is how much time he wastes on talking about Nietzsche, by far the most overestimated Philopher in history, partly no doubt due to Bertrand Russell. Nietzsche never had anything original to say and was good only as a critic of other Writers, of Religion and so on. And as Russell himself says, it's so much easier to criticise the ideas of others than to be creative oneself. Russell concludes the chapter on Nietzsche by quoting Shakespeare, saying: "this is Nietzsche's philosophy in a nutshell". Well, if that's the case then what do we need Nietzsche for? Shakespeare's work has been there a lot longer than Nietzsche's. The best explanation for the two erroneous chapters on Schopenhauer and Nietzsche would be that maybe Russell's wife and not he himself wrote them. It's well known after all that Russell's wife assisted him with this book.
professor. like great and VERY good books, fiction and history, mainly
PROBABLY RUSSELL'S BIASED INTERPRETATIONS -- I CHUCKLED.
THE AUTHOR. HE IS COMICALLY PARTISAN AND SO SURE OF HIMSELF.
EVERYTHING ABOUT PLATO AND ARISTOTLE IS DISTORTED ENOUGH TO MAKE ME CROSS.
DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU ARE NEW TO PHILOSOPHY AND WANT AN OVERVIEW. IT IS JUST TOO BIASED. IT IS INTERESTING IF YOU ARE ABLE TO EVALUATE THE SYNOPSES BASED ON YOUR READINGS OF ORIGINAL SOURCES.
Bertrand Russell displays an excellent example of Protestant polemic thinking in this masterwork opinion on the craft of philosophy. In his panoramic exploration of philosophy, he best provides an excellent dissection of ancient Greek philosophy. It is clear Russell's historical accuracy is only limited by his lifespan (1870s-1970), and by his obvious brainwashing by Protestant polemics in England. It would come as a great irony to Russell, who confessed his near obsession with needing to feel loved, that the Catholic Church now has more parishioners in England than the Church of England itself. This is relevant because this work is clearly skewed in thought by the Protestant polemic thought process of the past 500 years. You will not find any inkling of recognition of the vast steps forward in historical analysis and forensics of the era of database historical research. Russell did not have this knowledge available to him, and his continual jabs at anything related to the Holy See indicate a man who believed the Spanish Inquisition was an evil force, that the Catholic Church was corrupt and doomed to failure and that the Enlightenment was actually enlightening. This latter point is critical. Russell was ultimately a failure at politics, and probably his misunderstanding of history is why. He shows no indication of understanding the influence of secular infiltration of the Catholic Church in the medieval era, not a smidgen of understanding that thoughtful man was moving from a world of kingdoms to a world of nation states and not nary a notion war is a natural consequence of politics. Countless failed attempts to secure a seat in Parliament and his odd, maybe eccentric, adherence to anti-Vietnam policy and peacenik thought reveal a man lost in a search for any kind of power over his own conscience. A great cartoon would be of Pope Paul or John banging their heads against this "mad bugger's wall." It is a shame Russell wielded academic power in such a way as to push the Protestant polemic further along, saddling untold numbers of admirers with the same skewed perspective that led to his many failures in politics. And the greatest irony was his self-confessed near-constant need to feel loved. Would that he could have been young enough during the Second Vatican Council to participate with the hundreds of other Protestant thinkers at that landmark congregation. He might not have filled his book with so much vitriolic opinion and it would have made the excellent, systematic discussion of ancient Greek philosophy much more enjoyable. In the main, this is a fine book to read to understand the outdated mindset of Protestant polemics in the world of philosophy. Russell wrote no less than five autobiographical works to promote his fullness of self. This book is far better than any of them even with the glaring ignorance of reality inherent in its core.
"A complex story superbly told."
Expertly addresses editorial biases created by political and religious overlaps. So well narrated that you forget that you are not reading the book yourself. Makes for a useful reference book in the future.
"Lots of smart people with muddled ideas"
An interesting overview of philosophy which highlights just why sitting down and thinking about the world and then dogmatically defending your views is no substitute for sitting down and thinking about the world and falsifying that world view. Still, well written and performed.
"Great set of lectures"
This book came from Bertrand Russell's war time lectures in the US for the Barnes Foundation. Because they started out as lectures, it works well as an audio book.
I particularly enjoyed the early chapters on Pythagoras and other pre-Socratic philosophers. Russell's characteristic wit shines through in many places, my favourite quote is his suggestion that Pythagoras was a mixture of Einstein and Mrs Eddy.
"Extensive well researched account of philosophy"
I am studying Philosophy at the Open University and found this account very interesting. It gives the background, personal details of philosophers which makes it come alive and memorable. It was a long listen but well worth the effort and I might very well listen to it again.
"A must for all philosophers!"
Equal, it is nice to have it read but I also have the book. The audio did help to pronounce some of the odd words. I would suggest reading it and having it read aloud would help with understanding the different philosophies.
It was a history of Western Philosophy!
"A master teacher"
Not an appropriate question.
Not an appropriate question.
There are some brilliant lecturers out there on audible and there are many engrossing and well structured courses on philosophy but they cannot compare to Russell. He is a master teacher who grasps the breadth of subject and makes it his own as a philosopher himself. Not easy and perhaps caught in its time but still an incomparable guide to western philosophy. It should be read by everyone who wants to ponder these things ... Well read too.
The content of this book is amazing - very interesting. The first chapter is extremely interesting. Sometimes it is a bit dry but then again what would you expect?
Sometimes the contents are a bit complex, it could have been made easier to follow.
Jonathan Keeble is authoritative and clear and reads the text well.
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