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A Little History of PhilosophyBook review

by Nigel Warburton

If you are looking for an introduction to the history and evolution of philosophy over the ages this book is a good place to start. It is in chronological order, starting with the ancient Greeks and moving through to the twentieth century. With some exceptions, each chapter deals with a single philosopher and briefly summarises their thoughts and position on the ideas that they are most famous for. The exceptions are when two or more contemporaries addressed the same questions but maybe from a different perspective. (Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn share a chapter, for example.) Some people are included even though they might not usually be classed as philosophers (Freud and Marx, as examples) but they are there because their work had a significant influence on the intellectual life of the world.

The book requires no specialist knowledge of philosophical practice or traditions and is ideal for readers who are interested in the way that thinking about important issues has evolved (or maybe stayed the same) over the generations. It's not a complete history of philosophy and doesn't pretend to be. Everyone will be able to think of some writer or thinker who is not represented in the book, but almost nobody will come away from it without learning something they didn't know before and having a better understanding of how philosophy influences and affects our daily lives.

Highly recommended.


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