Philosophy begins with questions about the nature of reality and how we should live. These were the concerns of Socrates, who spent his days in the ancient Athenian marketplace asking awkward questions, disconcerting the people he met by showing them how little they genuinely understood. This engaging book introduces the great thinkers in Western philosophy and explores their most compelling ideas about the world and how best to live in it.
In forty brief chapters, Nigel Warburton guides us on a chronological tour of the major ideas in the history of philosophy. He provides interesting and often quirky stories of the lives and deaths of thought-provoking philosophers from Socrates, who chose to die by hemlock poisoning rather than live on without the freedom to think for himself, to Peter Singer, who asks the disquieting philosophical and ethical questions that haunt our own times.
Warburton not only makes philosophy accessible, he offers inspiration to think, argue, reason, and ask in the tradition of Socrates. A Little History of Philosophy presents the grand sweep of humanity's search for philosophical understanding and invites all to join in the discussion.
A readable if unremarkable addition to the increasingly crowded shelves of philosophy primers. Warburton (Philosophy Bites) provides a history of the major philosophers of the West from Socrates to Peter Singer with a few surprising exclusions (Bentham but no Foucault, Philippa Foot but no Martin Heidegger). However, in his effort to make the work accessible, the author veers into a sophomoric style that tends to grate quickly. Furthermore, in the quest for brevity, Warburton's decisions about what exactly to emphasize in each philosopher are sometimes questionable; for example, his treatment of John Locke reduces the political philosopher's contributions to a series of musings on how memory influences identity. Still, this brisk primer is, for the neophyte, a good place to start immersing oneself in the history of Western thought. Others may find themselves wishing for a philosophical history that would combine such accessibility with a little more substantiality.