A History of Western Philosophy Author:Bertrand Russell When Bertrand Russell was a young student in Berlin, he used to walk down Under den Linden planning his future. He would devote his life to making the concrete abstract, and the abstract concrete-or (to put it another way) he would find the lucid medium for clarifying the riddles of the here and now and also the endless speculations that engage ... more »the thinkers of all ages.
This book is the most splendid fulfillment of that youthful planning. Here, the ideas behind the politics, as well as the politics behind the ideas, meet and fuse in the dry light of Bertrand Russell's reason. Beginning with the Pre-Socratics, this imperturbable skeptic subjects the ideas and motives of Western philosophy to an unflinching scrutiny. He does it with wit, salt, and clarity - in short, like Voltaire's representative on earth. A HISTORY OF WESTERN PHILOSOPHY is the product of a mind that refuses to be awed by anything under the sun-not even the majesty of that latter-day mathematics to which he himself has largely contributed.
The seventy-six chapters of this great history, beginning with "The Rise of Greek Civilization" and ending with "The Philosophy of Logical Analysis," are distributed through three books. Book I (Ancient Philosophy) comprises three parts - The Pre-Socratics; Socrates; Plato; and Aristotle; and Ancient Philosophy after Aristotle. Book II (Catholic Philosophy) is divided into two parts - The Fathers, and The Schoolmen. Book III (Modern Philosophy) also comprises two parts - From the Renaissance to Hume, and From Rousseau to the Present Day.
The present volume is not merely another history of philosophy. "My purpose," Bertrand Russell says in his preface, "is to exhibit philosophy as an integral part of social and political life: not as the isolated speculations of remarkable individuals, but as both an effect and a cause of the character of the various communities in which different systems flourished. ...I have aimed at giving only so much general history as I thought necessary for the sympathetic comprehension of philosophers in relation to the times that formed them and the times that they helped to form. One consequence of this point of view is that the importance which it gives to a philosopher is often not that which he deserves on account of his philosophic merit....Some men-for example, Rousseau and Byron-though not philosophers at all in the academic sense, have so profoundly affected the prevailing philosophic temper that the development of philosophy cannot be understood if they are ignored."
Few authors have attempted the clarification of more thorny problems than Bertrand Russell tackles in this book, but it can be confidently asserted that his effort has been crowned with complete success. The work is utterly lucid: there is nothing here too abstruse for the novice of philosophy. That is, in itself, a great achievement.« less