The Problems of Philosophy

Narrated by: James Langton
Length: 4 hrs and 31 mins
Categories: Classics, Nonfiction
4.5 out of 5 stars (266 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The Problems of Philosophy discusses Bertrand Russell's views on philosophy and the problems that arise in the field. Russell's views focus on knowledge rather than the metaphysical realm of philosophy. The Problems with Philosophy revolves around the central question that Russell asks in his opening line of Chapter 1 - Is there any knowledge in the world which is so certain that no reasonable man could doubt it? He examines this question by delving into the idea of reality versus appearance, as for Russell and other philosophers who share his ideas it is sensory perception of the world around them that shapes their knowledge. It is in this work that he discusses his idea of sense-data to help explain the differences between appearance and reality. The Problems of Philosophy is Russell's first attempt at recording and working through a theory of epistemology, which is the theory of the nature of human knowledge.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) was an English philosopher, logician, mathematician, social critic, and historian. He is remembered as being a leader in the British revolt against idealism, as well as a founding father of the field of analytic philosophy. He was also well known for his very public anti-war and anti-imperialist stances.

Public Domain (P)2012 Enunciation LLC

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    3 out of 5 stars

Either be smart or be not smart

My usual definition for a philosopher is somebody who writes on a simple everyday concept in such a way that the simple is considered complexly in such way that a person knows more and more about less and less until eventually they know everything about nothing. By that definition, Russell fails because he writes clearly and the reader will actually understand what he is getting at.

Not only will the reader understand, he’ll be able to explain it to others. For example, one of the most important concepts is what Russell called in this book, ‘the laws of thought’. There are three and only three and they are considered absolute in the world of dichotomies, 1) A=A (the thing is the thing), 2) a thing must either be or not be (excluded middle), and 3) a thing can’t be and be at the same time (law of contradiction). Everything within logic (rational analytical thought) must fall under those rules of thought.

Russell clearly sees the world from an ‘event ontology’ perspective. When asked later in life ‘what about the White Cliffs of Dover’ he replied ‘they are an event that is just happening slowly’. Experiences are the atoms that make up his world view, and he believes there is a knowable reality because the truth is out there and discoverable. There is nothing wrong with thinking that, but it is a bias and it does shade how he explains philosophy (mostly epistemology in this short book) over all. Also, at the time of this book he still thinks mathematics has a firm foundation, he believes wrongly that one doesn’t need set theory to go from logic to mathematics as Godel will shortly show.

If one were to only have time to read one book on philosophy, this is the one I would recommend. Hopefully, the reader will take his criticisms of Kant and Hegel, but end up reading them themselves to see why they are still relevant today.

10 people found this helpful

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Not a first foray into philosophy

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

Time well spent, yes, but...Unless someone truly appreciates philosophy for what it is, and what it isn't, then this book probably will not be for you. Each chapter is in itself a premise to logically conclude a greater argument, which the author does very well.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

The narration. The voice needed more emotion, energy and excitement in the subject matter. It felt dry, uninspired, and can lull the listener to sleep (which is bad for my 1-2 hr driving commute).

5 people found this helpful

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A good philosophical essay, mainly on epistemology

Any additional comments?

The essay is going to be a good read for any one interested in epistemology and philosophy of science. Although the title refers to philosophy as a whole, virtually all the problems expanded on in this relatively short essay concern the problems of knowledge - that is what we can and cannot know and in what sens.

4 people found this helpful

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Solid

An interesting text - concise and to the point, but also not particularly compelling. Meh

1 person found this helpful

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Logically Atomistic

As usual, Bertie employs his analytic style for which he is famous, while at the same time showing the reader why his other important work, 'A History of Western Philosophy', was an outstanding literary success. Russell seamlessly slices through difficult philosophy with succinct and relevant observations; he gives the reader a clear description (forgive the expression) of how complex ideas operate. The Third Earl is a master at synthesizing concepts, and knitting them together in manner which at first seems odd, but at last seems almost blatantly obvious. James Lagdon performs really well in this one, and apart from a few missed inflections, which one may forgive considering the nature of the subject, his voice is not a a nuisance, but in fact a delight when listening to things which are logically complex and somewhat mathematic-sounding. It comes, if you didn't already suspect, with my highest recommendation.

3 people found this helpful

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Interesting, but a bit soporiphic

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

Oh yes. I like to listen to books like this just before I drift off to sleep. The ideas were stimulating and the voice droned a bit so it helped me to fall asleep in no time.

What did you like best about this story?

Basic ideas of philosophy that were reasonably clearly expressed.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Not appropriate.

3 people found this helpful

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"OF" - not "WITH"!

If you could sum up The Problems with Philosophy in three words, what would they be?

Good philosophical introduction

Who was your favorite character and why?

Russell himself, quite the "character"...

Which scene was your favorite?

I always enjoy his attacks on pragmatists like me. He misunderstands and is unsympathetic to our view, but in a highly entertaining fashion.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

You could, but if you're philosophically inclined you'll want to come back to it again.

Any additional comments?

Russell had his prejudices and blind-spots, and I prefer his popular essays ("Why I Am Not a Christian" etc.) and his book "Conquest of Happiness." But this is still great.

[In an earlier "review" I complained intemperately about the title error, listed initially on the audible site as "Problems With Philosophy"... don't know if that was somebody's idea of a joke or just a slip. I'm not even sure I didn't slip myself, and complain about the wrong "pronoun" when of course I meant "preposition". Anyway, as Russell would point out: to err is only human.]

3 people found this helpful

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Clear and informative, but distracting narration

I am very fond of most of Russell's writings and this was no different. He writes clearly and informatively, and is in general a very approachavle philosopher. This book is intended as an introduction to non-philosophers to some problems in analytic philosophy (mostly in epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of mind). It has perfect scope and depth for a book of this kind. The narration is a bit distracting though.

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What Problems can be Solved?

A great way to start your study into philosophy. Russell is complex, yet clear. I recommend this to anyone wanting to start. I only give this a 4 star for my own disagreements with the book, but outside of this, it’s fantastic.

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  • J
  • 01-16-20

British Newscaster-like undulations, if you don’t mind this style of narration.

Perhaps a second recording? I feel the style of narration is a bit distracting from Bertrand’s discussion.

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  • liam
  • 06-12-18

Bertrand The Great

A great philosopher and a great book beautifully narrated, for non-students and students of philosophy alike.

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  • Jem
  • 01-10-17

The problems with philosophy!

I'm sure there was some interesting philosophy here but could not hear past the monotone presentation by the reader. I gave up with two hours to go.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Dingani
  • 12-23-12

Excellent

Very interesting for sociology students and those who are interested in early philosophy. I suppose it's up to the individual to choose what is relevant and what is not.

2 people found this helpful