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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.

Critic Reviews

“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.” ( review)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Jeff
  • Pickering, Ontario, Canada
  • 04-14-12


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.

36 of 36 people found this review helpful

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  • ESK
  • Moscow, Russia
  • 01-25-13

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.’

54 of 55 people found this review helpful

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  • M
  • United States
  • 05-23-11

As beautiful as it is informative

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

19 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Gary
  • Las Cruces, NM, United States
  • 05-21-12

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.

33 of 34 people found this review helpful

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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.

44 of 46 people found this review helpful

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  • jeff
  • pickering, ON, Canada
  • 10-23-11

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

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Anthony
  • Kernersville, NC, United States
  • 10-14-11

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.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 01-29-15

Excellent but Limited

This is early Durant and his depth and style improved in his later works. This volume is also quite selective including only a few of the most important or pivotal Philosophers and it was written in 1924 thus it does not cover later philosophers. I was more than a bit surprised by the little jump between Aristotle (300 BCE) and Francis Bacon (1600 CE). Nevertheless what is there is fantastic, I only wish there was more, much, much more.

I recommend reading this before Durant’s monumental History of Civilization series.

The narration was excellent.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Insightful But Hard To Listen To

Overall, this is a decent survey of 3,000 years of philosophical thought. Philosophy is difficult to digest in audio format. It is complicated enough to grapple with Kant's metaphysics in written form. As an audiobook, this survey became a confusing jumble of philosophers and philosophical views that was difficult to keep straight.

The audiobook was particularly confusing because the narrator didn't make a clear distinction between the author's commentary and quotations from the original works of the philosophers.

I would not recommend this audiobook. It would be better in written form.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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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!

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Jeremy
  • 04-08-11

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!

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr. R. D. Cox
  • 03-03-11

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

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  • M
  • 06-04-13

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Irena
  • 04-15-15

Interesting but imperfect

The book was first published in 1924. The author tells the history of philosophy through the life and work of philosophers he considers great. The story of each philosopher's life and the summary of his philosophical views and contributions is followed by critique section where the author discusses the legacy of the philosopher's work. Being written in 1924, the chapter on Nietzsche misses any reference to the usage of his teachings made by Nazism. At the same time, probably because of the later editions, it is mentioned that Bergson died in 1941 and Sanatayana in 1952. So there is something chillingly unsatisfying in the chapter on Nietzsche left unupdated, in view of future developments.

I loved that for each philosopher the author discussed the relationship between his personality and his philosophy, how his philosophy is influenced by his personality and is very much its product.

What I did not like was the author's petty and narrow-minded contempt towards mathematics, expressed on many occasions, his inability to accept that pure mathematics can be not less beautiful than philosophical suppositions. More than once he states that logic is "the most boring part of philosophy" (obviously, because of its close relationship with mathematics). According to Will Durant, Bertrand Russel rose to greatness only after he left mathematical logic behind and went into "pure" philosophy.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • joe
  • 05-29-12

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

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  • David
  • 03-17-12

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

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  • James
  • 10-15-15

I am now, finally, fascinated by philosophy.

I loved this audiobook. It is obviously a well-written piece to begin with, and the narration was spot-on.

I am now, finally, fascinated by philosophy, and will continue to pursue the subject happily and eagerly thanks to the foundation and motivation this book has provided.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-05-17

Fantastic Introduction To Philosophy

The read kept me intrigued and entertained for the entire 39 hours! Well worth it

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  • Yehoshua
  • 06-28-16

A Great Storyteller.

Will Durant makes the philosopher subjects of his book come to life. The best overview of western philosophy yet.