The History of Western Philosophy, by Bertrand Russell

What it says on the cover. Quite a long book - it took me around two years to get through it.

Russell looks at philosophers and philosophical ideas of from about 600BC to the 1940s. The thing that gives the book its special character is that Russell is concerned to put things in historical context. So there's a lot of background information about the social conditions through the ages as they affect or relate to the philosophical ideas articulated by the various people he discusses. As he says:

"When an intelligent man expresses a view which seems to us obviously absurd, we should not attempt to prove that it is somehow true, but we should try to understand how it ever came to seem true. This exercise of historical and psychological imagination at once enlarges the scope of our thinking, and helps us to realize how foolish many of our own cherished prejudices will seem to an age which has a different temper of mind" [p47]

Russel criticises, as well as describes, the various ideas that he talks about. Here is an edited selection (seems like I marked a lot of stuff at the start, and at the end, but not much in the middle, which had a lot of stuff about the catholic church) of things I marked as I was reading it:

Not sure if I'll read it all again, but there is some useful reference material in here, and it was quite readable.

Completed : 03-Feb-2007

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