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 the story of who we are and why. An epic tale, spanning civilizations and continents, it explores some of the most creative minds in history. But not since the long-popular classic Bertrand Russell's 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 worldviews and moralities before 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. Bringing together these many threads that all too often run parallel, he surveys in tandem the great philosophical traditions of India, China and the Persian-Arabic world.
Accessible for students and revelatory to enthusiasts of philosophy, Grayling's narrative brings to life the work of both famous historical figures and less well-known but influential thinkers, bridging epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics, logic, the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of language, political philosophy and the history of debates within these areas of enquiry. He dramatizes the interchange between and within eras and epochs, making thrilling the grand dance of human thought. He asks what we have learned, but also what progress is still to be made.
Destined to be Grayling's magnum opus, and astonishing in its range and accessibility, this is 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."