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The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the Greater Philosophers | [Will Durant]

The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the Greater Philosophers

Durant lucidly describes the philosophical systems of such world-famous “monarchs of the mind” as Plato, Aristotle, Francis Bacon, Spinoza, Kant, Voltaire, and Nietzsche. Along with their ideas, he offers their flesh-and-blood biographies, placing their thoughts within their own time and place and elucidating their influence on our modern intellectual heritage. This book is packed with wisdom and wit.
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Publisher's Summary

The product of 11 years of research, The Story of Philosophy is an endlessly inspiring and instructive chronicle of the world’s greatest thinkers, from Socrates to Santayana. Written with exacting and scrupulous scholarship, it was designed both to command the respect of educators and to capture the interest of the layman.

Durant lucidly describes the philosophical systems of such world-famous “monarchs of the mind” as Plato, Aristotle, Francis Bacon, Spinoza, Kant, Voltaire, and Nietzsche. Along with their ideas, he offers their flesh-and-blood biographies, placing their thoughts within their own time and place and elucidating their influence on our modern intellectual heritage. This book is packed with wisdom and wit.

Will Durant (1885-1981) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He spent over 50 years writing his critically acclaimed 11-volume series The Story of Civilization. A champion of human-rights issues such as social reform and the brotherhood of man long before they were popular, he continues to educate and entertain readers and listeners worldwide through his writings.

©1926 Will Durant (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“A delight.” (New York Times)

“Easily the most engaging writer of Western intellectual history in the English language, Will Durant breathes life into philosophers and their ideas. He is colorful, witty, and above all, informative.” (Amazon.com review)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (586 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Arthur United States 12-07-12
    Arthur United States 12-07-12 Member Since 2011

    Ghost writer of over 100 unpublished works...;).

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Beginners start here! This is the one you want!"

    I picked up this audiobook because I wanted to begin studying philosophy and I needed a starting point. I am not disappointed. Durant gave me the direction I was seeking and a lot more.

    One of the most valuable things it provides is the context in which each philosopher wrote their philosophy. Durant shows how the time and place of each philosopher affected each work. He also highlights the influence of other philosophers in each work.The great works of philosophy weren't created in a vacuum.

    I had never heard of Will Durant but as I listened I got the impression that whoever this guy was he really did his homework. How little did I know! Suffice to say that I believe he is qualified to write such an ambitious work. Look him up on Wikipedia if you are as ignorant as I.

    And what a narration! I can't speak highly enough of the way this sometimes difficult work was tackled by Gardner. I don't know how he did it, it's like he wrote the book himself and was conveying his own thoughts on the complicated mind of Kant or Nietzsche.

    If you don't know much about philosophy, you really can't go wrong with using this as a starting or reference point. I imagine even those with experience in the field will find Durant's insight beneficial.

    I was greatly pleased to find William James included in the discussion, but was disappointed not to find more on Descartes, Hume, Locke, and others.

    For reference, from wikipedia:

    "Philosophers profiled are, in order: Plato, Aristotle, Francis Bacon, Baruch Spinoza (with a section on Descartes), Voltaire (with a section on Rousseau), Immanuel Kant (with a section on Hegel), Arthur Schopenhauer, Herbert Spencer, and Friedrich Nietzsche." Also Henri Bergson, Benedetto Croce, Bertrand Russell, George Santayana, William James, and John Dewey.

    34 of 34 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ESK Moscow, Russia 01-25-13
    ESK Moscow, Russia 01-25-13 Member Since 2011

    There are books of the same chemical composition as dynamite. The only difference is that a piece of dynamite explodes once, whereas a book explodes a thousand times. ― Yevgeny Zamyatin

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fantastic and insightful book"

    Solid listen and masterly narration! I particularly enjoyed the section on Spinoza.
    The SoP gives an overview of the lives and works of the most renowned philosophers, and analyzes their ideas in terms of social, political, religious and psychological contexts.
    The book is made up of the following chapters:
    1. Plato (as well as analysis of Socrates’ life and teaching)
    2. Aristotle
    3. Francis Bacon
    4. Baruch Spinoza (also reference to Descartes)
    5. Voltaire
    6. Immanuel Kant (a brief look at Locke, Rousseau and a note on Hegel)
    7. Arthur Schopenhauer
    8. Herbert Spencer (and Darwinism)
    9. Friedrich Nietzsche (N. and Wagner)
    10. Henri Bergson
    11. Benedetto Croce
    12. Bertrand Russell
    13. George Santayana
    14. William James
    15. John Dewey
    Here’s an inspiring quotation from the SoP. ‘Every science begins as philosophy and ends as art. It arises in hypothesis and flows into achievement. Philosophy is a hypothetical interpretation of the unknown or of the inexactly known ; it is the front trench in the siege of truth.’

    22 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 05-21-12
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 05-21-12 Member Since 2001

    Letting the rest of the world go by

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Benefits from because of its 1926 perspective"

    After reading this book, I feel like I'm a philosopher. Durant really knows how to engage the reader and make him feel smart. He gives enough biography and then summaries for each philosopher covered. The book really profits from the fact it was originally written in 1926 and I get to experience knowing the history that followed. He's such a good writer that the book stands up regardless of the unfolding history.

    18 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeff Pickering, Ontario, Canada 04-14-12
    Jeff Pickering, Ontario, Canada 04-14-12 Member Since 2007

    50yrs old / audible member for 5 yrs library. 75% nonfiction, 15% classics and 10% fiction. History/Science/biography/Eng.18th cent fiction

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "AN ALL TIME FAVORITE"

    I dont leave home without it. Its the only book that has permanent status on my Ipod. For me its that good. Will Durants amazing writing takes on philosophy, and gets read by Grover Gardner. That somehow creates a transcendent experience for me. Its become a kind of Lynus blanket. I just love it.

    18 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    M United States 05-23-11
    M United States 05-23-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "As beautiful as it is informative"

    This is an outstanding history of philosophy. The writing is beautiful, even moving, and the narrator marvelous.

    14 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jeff pickering, ON, Canada 10-23-11
    jeff pickering, ON, Canada 10-23-11 Member Since 2007

    Non fiction- science, history,biography,80% classics 10% other fiction 5% misfits 5%

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "as good as it gets !!"

    take a fascinating topic and match it to a truly unique writer of matchless finesse and warranted worship and this little wonder is what you get.
    I've read it twice in a row and know that this is the rarest of books, one that Ill read many times more. Im having a hard time deleting it from my Ipod.. lol . A really rare gem. 5.stars

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anthony Kernersville, NC, United States 10-14-11
    Anthony Kernersville, NC, United States 10-14-11 Member Since 2003
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    "Philosophy primer"

    I really like Will Durant's writting style. The book was interesting from start to finish. For me this was a great first book about the greater philosophers and provided ideas for further reading. I think Grover Gardner's narration was first rate and added to the listening pleasure.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    yesenia Denver, Colorado 07-03-12
    yesenia Denver, Colorado 07-03-12
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    "Amazing work by Will Durant!"
    Where does The Story of Philosophy rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    The rank I gave to this Audiobook is ranking among the highest, for me is a magnificent compression of Philosophical History.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    For me the most compelling aspect of the narrative was the objective and factual way that Durant used to create this great compression of Philosophical History.


    What about Grover Gardner’s performance did you like?

    The performance was also good, well spoken and well emphasized with some dramatization added.


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    In my case I love History and Philosophy, for me the hole book was a tidbit!


    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ramesh United States 05-25-11
    Ramesh United States 05-25-11

    New Orleans

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    "A treasure to a Superman"

    Though bias, the story of philosophy is a very good introduction to a beginner. It is very useful to anybody who wants to extend the basic understanding of how philosopher's ideas helped to shape human civilization. Narration is so good. It feels like I am listening my favorite music.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    david chesapeake, VA, United States 01-26-13
    david chesapeake, VA, United States 01-26-13 Member Since 2009

    A fellow listener inclined to share my opinion on these productions. Maybe even inspire someone toward a powerful, or educational audiobook!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Beginners Guide."

    I may wax philosophically once in awhile, but by no means call myself a philosopher. After reading this; what I would describe as an introduction to the giants of philosophy, would be less than ever likely to compare even my most perpending thoughts to those of these great thinkers. Will Durant does a wonderful job at sharing the concepts of these pillars of philosophy, as well as expressing how their ideologies may have effected the societies and cultures of the relative time.
    This is a book for people like me, who have heard the names, Friedrich Nietzsche, John Stewart Mill, or Francis Bacon, but understand them vicariously through brief mentionings and opinions of other authors(for me authors not even in this field). I began this book with ignorant curiosity, and finished with a love of the subject. There is so much information here, you must read it more than one time just to take away from it a basal construct of the philosophies tought within. I suggest bookmarking this cover to the hilt, because it reads like a reference book. More than worth the single credit! Have at it fellow Audible fans!

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 34 results PREVIOUS124NEXT
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  • Jeremy
    Malvern Wells, United Kingdom
    4/8/11
    Overall
    "Motley Bunch of Philosophers!"

    These three volumes are a very pleasant easy ride through the philosophies of Plato & Aristotle (in detail), and then Bacon, Spinoza, Voltaire, Schopenhauer, Spencer, Nietzsche and on into 'contemporary' i.e. early 20th century European (Bergson, Croce and Russell) and US philosophers (James & Dewey).

    The thing is they are a very odd selection to choose from, and not necessarily the key figures who have shaped Western thinking! However, it is an interesting journey, well told... and well read with authoritative american easiness.

    I found myself drifting into a reverie during some bits, and it didn't seem to matter. The book is not a concise set of factoids, but a gentle swim through the enlightenment in some slightly strange company!

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Ralph
    Bexleyheath, United Kingdom
    3/3/11
    Overall
    "Learn about the greats - a little dry"

    This is a great way to learn about the greats

    Written before the 2nd world war - but can predict many modern society problems

    Voice is dry and writing too equivocal in places - but a classic

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • David
    Stockton-on-Tees, United Kingdom
    3/17/12
    Overall
    "A fantastic contextual development of epistemology"

    An excellent work that would serve as both an introduction to some of key themes in Western philosophical thought since the pre-Socratics for the uninitiated or as a consolidation of these key themes to anyone not already an expert in the field. It is not a comprehensive introduction but instead focusses on the development of significant themes. The book works through the historical and political context of the development of epistemological thought and does so (with the justifable exception of Kant!) mostly in the philosophers' own words. What makes the book outstanding is that it deals not only with some of the better known names, such as Plato and Kant, but misses out some of the more obvious names (such as Descartes) to develop their thought through the work of brilliant and often overlooked modern thinkers, such as William James. Excellently read and compelling listening. One of the best summative accounts of philosophy I've come across. If you are at all interested in philosophy you should download this.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • joe
    LONDON, United Kingdom
    5/29/12
    Overall
    "Very good book but the voice is annoying."

    My apologies, Grover Gardner, honestly, but please please stop reading audibooks. You sound like a computer program reading out text. It ruined this book for me which, because of your voice, I still have not finished. What I have heard of Durant so far is intelligent, extremely eloquent, very easy to follow and supremely interesting. Hats off to the author, but the voice, oh my god, the voice.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • M
    Wakefield, United Kingdom
    6/4/13
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    "A classic."


    This is a wonderful book; beautifully written and narrated. Not only does the author manage to draw you through the metaphysical mazes that these men dream up (and yes, they’re all men) but he also humanises the people, and put their lives into historical and social context. Whether it’s the spark and sizzle of Voltaire, or the repulsive (to me, at least) doctrine that Nietzsche espoused, you can’t help but empathise with them. Thoroughly enjoyable - if at times quite hard work (Kant comes to mind) - I’d recommend this classic work to anyone attempting to find a way into philosophy.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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