Introduced by A. C. Grayling
This essential introduction to philosophy is engaging, entertaining and filled with Russell’s passion for the subject.
‘Almost all the questions of interest to speculative minds are such that science cannot answer … Is the world divided into mind and matter, and if so, what is mind and what is matter?’
‘A great philosopher’s lucid and magisterial look at the history of his own subject, wonderfully readable and enlightening’
In this engrossing book, Russell set out to ‘exhibit philosophy as an integral part of social and political life, not as the isolated speculations of remarkable individuals’. His approach is bold, comprehensive and chronological: with its accessible, lively summaries of exemplary ideas and thinkers, History of Western Philosophy can be used as an encyclopaedia or read as social history. It compares and explains general trends not only in philosophy but in the development of human society, relating individuals to their historical context and describing each philosopher’s impact on the cultural and political spheres of the day.
From the rise of Greek civilisation and the ideas of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, through Machiavelli, Descartes, Locke, Rousseau, Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, to Einstein (Russell’s distinguished contemporary) and the world of quantum theory, 2,500 years of philosophy are boldly, lucidly and entertainingly made available to anyone interested in the most fundamental questions posed by the world and mankind’s place in it. Russell, whose own appetite for life was prodigious, filled his book with history, humour and anecdote. In his introduction to this edition, A. C. Grayling examines how Russell’s love for history permeates his work, and praises his ‘beautifully clear and lucid prose’.
Bertrand Russell was a philosopher, a logician and a social reformer, also known as a campaigner for peace and as a popular writer on multiple subjects. In 1918 he famously served six months in Brixton Prison for lecturing against inviting the United States to join the war, and he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1950 – History of Western Philosophy was cited as one of his many important works, and during the ceremony he was described as ‘eminently successful in keeping alive the interest in philosophy’.
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