The History of Philosophy
“A witty, learned, authoritative survey of philosophical thought.” —The New York Times Book Review
The first authoritative and accessible single-volume history of philosophy to cover both Western and Eastern traditions, from one of the world’s most eminent thinkers
The story of philosophy is an epic tale, spanning civilizations and continents. It explores some of the most creative minds in history. But not since the long-popular classic by Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy, published in 1945, has there been a comprehensive and entertaining single-volume history of this great, intellectual, world-shaping journey.
With characteristic clarity and elegance, A. C. Grayling takes the reader from the age of the Buddha, Confucius, and Socrates through Christianity’s capture of the European mind, from the Renaissance and Enlightenment on to Mill, Nietzsche, Sartre and, finally, philosophy today. Surveying in tandem the great philosophical traditions of India, China, and the Persian-Arabic world, and astonishing in its range and accessibility, Grayling’s The History of Philosophy is destined to be a landmark work.
Grayling (The God Argument), founder of London's New College of the Humanities, presents an impressive, comprehensive catalogue of great thought and thinkers in this sweeping survey. Focusing on Western philosophy (a concluding section sketches Indian, Chinese, African, and Arabic- and Persian-language philosophical traditions), the volume chronologically surveys significant thinkers including, but not limited to, Plato, Aristotle, and Kant, who emerge here as the foremost figures and enlivens discussions of their schooling, influences, and arguments with judiciously applied anecdote, such as how Thomas Aquinas's brothers smuggled a prostitute into his room in a (futile) attempt to stem his religious fervor. Overviews on related schools of thought are equally enlightening, clearly distinguishing, for instance, between Stoic and Epicurean philosophies of early Rome, 19th-century movements like positivism and pragmatism, and the 20th century's diverging analytic and Continental schools. Perhaps Grayling's greatest strength lies in his ability to categorize, contrast, and clarify complex ideas, such as Plato's theory of forms and Kant's categorical imperative. Elegant, clear, and precise, Grayling's sweep through "the principal areas of enquiry" distills philosophy to its main concerns: discerning the nature of reality, the principles of sound society, and how to live a good life. Clearly outlining "the little patch of light" that he pictures as comprising human knowledge, Grayling's superb work is an indispensable resource for any "serious student of ideas."