Nov 11 2013

A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell

I read this book twenty years ago, but on rereading it I got much more out of it. This survey begins with the pre-Socratics and ends with John Dewey; it does not include the existentialists or the post-modernists, who were not yet influential when this book was written (1943). Russell gives a synopsis of each of the contributions of the great philosophers and offers his own critique of each as well. Many of the ideas of the philosophers are quite profound, but it must also be said that many of them seem quite foolish. It seems that almost any reasonable idea pushed to its logical extreme will result in folly or madness. Russell implicitly gives assent to the proposition that ultimately the truth is something that can never be known, but he does not, as many modern philosophers do, assert that truth itself does not exist. But this book was a wonderful journey through intellectual history and a marvelous adventure for the mind. A good primer for a difficult subject.

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