This book, which first appeared in 1946 and went on to become the best-selling philosophy book of the twentieth century, is a history of Western philosophy. It remains unrivaled to this day as the ultimate introduction to Western philosophy, despite being a dazzlingly ambitious undertaking.
Russell’s History of Western Philosophy, which provides a sophisticated overview of the ideas that have perplexed people since the beginning of time, is characterized by a ‘long on wit, intelligence, and curmudgeonly skepticism,’ as the New York Times put it, and it is this, combined with the sheer brilliance of its scholarship, that has elevated Russell’s History of Western Philosophy to the status of one of the most important philosophical works of all time.
May 18, 1872, in Wales, was the date of the birth of Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, and Viscount Amberley. During World War I, he was imprisoned for four months as a pacifist, during which time he wrote Introduction to Mathematics and Philosophy. In 1910, he collaborated with Alfred Whitehead to publish the first volume of Principia Mathematica. In 1920, he traveled to Russia and delivered a philosophy lecture at the University of Peking.
From 1927 to 1932, he lived in England and ran a progressive school for young children in Sussex with his wife, who died in the same year. He moved to the United States, where he taught philosophy at various institutions, including the University of Chicago, the University of California at Los Angeles, Harvard, and the City College of New York. In 1950, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Bertrand Russell has been active in the anti-nuclear-testing and anti-disarmament movements while continuing to add to his large number of published books, which include Philosophical Essays (1910), The ABC of Relativity (1925), Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits (1948), Why I Am Not a Christian (1957), and The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell (published in 1957). (1967).
See The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell for a chronological list of Russell’s most important works and for more information on Russell himself (Simon and Schuster).
This book, which has been hailed as “lucid and authoritative” by The Observer, is widely regarded as the definitive one-volume treatise on the topic of Western philosophy.
The History of Western Philosophy is widely regarded as one of the most important philosophical books of all time. It is a dazzlingly original investigation of the ideologies of prominent thinkers throughout history, from Plato and Aristotle through Spinoza, Kant, and the twentieth century. Written by a man who altered the course of philosophical history himself, this tale has stood the test of time since it was originally published more than sixty years ago.
Despite the fact that it was originally published in 1945, Lord Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy remains unsurpassed in terms of its comprehensiveness, clarity, erudition, elegance, and humor, among other qualities. Philosophical thought is traced over seventy-six chapters, starting with the birth of Greek culture and concluding with the development of logical analysis in the twentieth century.
The following philosophers are among those who are considered: Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, the Atomists, Protagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Cynics, the Sceptics, the Epicureans, the Stoics, Plotinus, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, Benedict, Gregory the Great, John the Scot, Aquinas, Duns Scotus, William of Occam, Machiavelli, Erasmus, More, Bacon, Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, the Utilitarians, Marx, Bergson, James, Dewey, and lastly the philosophers with whom Lord Russell himself is most closely associated—Cantor, Frege, and Whitehead, coauthor with Russell of the monumental Principia Mathematica.
Since its debut publication in 1945, how long has it been in print? A History of Western Philosophy, written by Lord Russell, has been unanimously recognized as the best single-volume book on the topic ever written — unrivaled in its comprehensiveness, clarity, erudition, elegance, and humor. Philosophical thought is traced over seventy-six chapters, starting with the birth of Greek culture and concluding with the development of logical analysis in the twentieth century.
‘Remains unchallenged as the perfect introduction to its subject … exactly the kind of philosophy that most people would like to read, but which only Russell could possibly have written.’ – Ray Monk, University of Southampton, UK
‘Beautiful and luminous prose, not merely classically clear but scrupulously honest.’ – Isaiah Berlin
‘It is a witty bird’s-eye view of the main figures in Western thought enlivened by references to the personalities and quirks of the thinkers themselves.’ – The Week
‘A great philosopher’s lucid and magisterial look at the history of his own subject, wonderfully readable and enlightening.’ – The Observer
It is customary to refer to all Western philosophers who lived before Socrates as “presocratics.” The birth of Western philosophy took place during the Archaic period of Greece (ca. 800-500 BC), when Greek intellectuals moved away from primarily mythical explanations of the universe and attempted to understand nature rationally for themselves.
There are three basic periods of Western philosophy. There are three eras to consider: the ancient period, the medieval era, and the contemporary era.
Western philosophy began in Greece in 585 BC with the arrival of the first philosopher, Thales of Miletus. From there, it spread throughout the rest of the Greek peninsula. In order to explain all that was in the universe, the great philosophers Plato and Aristotle developed an entire system.
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