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A Brief History of Western Philosophy Hardcover – November 10, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0631187912 ISBN-10: 063118791X Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 365 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (November 10, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 063118791X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0631187912
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 7.2 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,490,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"The author not only has a remarkable grasp of the broad sweep of philosophical ideas, but is also an authority in his own right. The fluency and elegance of the writing, and the sensitivity to cultural and historical context, together with the eminence of the author, will ensure a wide international readership." John Cottingham, University of Reading <!--end-->

"The 22 chapters of this history are lucidly written and with enough humour in them to cheer up the educated general reader even in the midst of the most arid of philosophical discussions." Shabbir Akhtar, Times Higher Education Supplement

"The book's great merit is its lucidity and approachability, and it probably does convey some of the excitement which Kenny claims belongs to the subject." David Hamlyn, Times Literary Supplement

"This is simply a jolly good read, with pithy historical and biographical scene-setters, authoritative accounts of how successive philosophers have contributed to the development of Western thought, and often brilliant single-sentence summaries." Church Times

"A Brief History of Western Philosophy is a stimulating, impressive work by one of Britain's leading philosophers. It is valuable both as an introduction to the history of ideas as well as a record of a distinguished philosopher's mature reflections...It is a richly detailed, critical look at philosophy, displaying both Kenny's love for philosophical engagement and for good history...Kenny's style is unpretentious, effective, and at times wonderfully informal and amiable." Charles Talifierro, the Review of Metaphysics

From the Back Cover

In this lucid and masterful work, the eminent scholar Anthony Kenny offers an indispensable resource - the most concise and compelling story of the complete development of philosophy available.

Spanning 2,500 years of thought, this superb volume provides essential coverage of the most influential philosophers of the Western world, including Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Jesus, Augustine, Aquinas, Machiavelli, Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Berkeley, Hume, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Mill, Nietzsche, Darwin, Freud, Frege, Russell, and Wittgenstein, amongst many others.

Unrivaled in its authority and range, the book is ideal for anyone with an interest in Western thought.

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Andrew N. Carpenter on July 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
Anthony Kenny's magnificent new history of philosophy is a remarkable achievement. The book is accessible yet sophisticated, concise yet comprehensive.
Its main weaknesses are Kenny's sometimes surprising and dramatic editorial decisions and his periodic idiosyncratic application of twentieth-century analytic philosophy. Also, Kenny provides no references for the quotations he uses. Happily, these flaws take away little from the stupendous success of Kenny's history.
The book consists of twenty-two chapters occupying 345 pages, followed by an afterword, suggestions for further reading, and a comprehensive index. The chapters, which range from "Philosophy in its Infancy" to "the Philosophy of Wittgenstein," include detailed discussions of nearly all canonical philosophers, brief discussions a few non-canonical philosophers (e.g., Hypatia, Bonaventure, Marsilius of Padua), and numerous extremely helpful discussions of the interaction between western philosophy and many non-philosophical figures and institutions. Philosophy students of all levels will benefit from this book, and their instructors will find much to admire and enjoy in it.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Gene C. Bammel on November 30, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Anthony Kenny, who deserves the title of greatest historian of philosophy of the twentieth century, added a few choice pictures to his "Brief History of Western Philosophy." The text itself presents accurate and perceptive summaries of the greatest figures in philosophical history, and the pictures, some of them rare, make the text more enjoyable. This is an excellent, brief history of western philosophy. Highly recommended, for those who do not want to tackle either Copleston's 9 volumes, or Kenny's four. Superb.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 2, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Anthony Kenny is, in my opinion, a first-rank philosopher. He is also a very good writer. He writes in a nice conversational way, yet has a remarkable skill at knowing, and sufficently explaining, those areas that will give the average reader a bit of difficulty. I bought this book yesterday and have made my way through quite a bit. Kenny's background gives him a particular competence at writing a history of philosophy (he first studied Aristotelian-scholastic philosophy at the Gregorianum in Rome, then analytical-linguistic philosopy at Oxford University). I already have a degree in philosophy (w/ honours), and I only wish it had been at the feet of a master like Kenny (btw, he is now Warden of Rhodes House, Oxford U., formerly Master of Balliol). We are in Dr. Kenny's debt for anything he writes, especially with this latest work.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A curious mind on October 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
This work is ideal for those interested in philosophy but who have been previously intimidated by the profuse professional jargon of material on this topic.

The most influential minds, from philosophy's earliest beginnings to Wittgenstein, are covered in a compact, readable, yet highly scholarly manner. Readers must remember that philosophy is an unbelievably vast area that is continually evolving, and that one's personal affiliations and beliefs influence one's perception of it. No single book can cover each and every philosophical concept, nor can a single volume please every reader in its space allocations. While certain subjects might have been covered more thoroughly, do not let inevitable restrictions prevent you from reading this work. It will broaden your horizons.

'A Brief History of Western Philosophy' lays the groundwork for any further explorations, providing both the novice and the professional with invaluable information - in short, it is an ideal and indispensable reference work.

Reading this work will give a thorough overview of philosophy, and, in my opinion, is one of the best written so far. Intrepid minds can gladly go on to do in-depth research on particular figures, something that this book will certainly inspire.

Perhaps I am especially partial to this book because of my personal interest in the thought of Kant and Wittgenstein, philosophers given particular attention here. In fact, the chapter on Kant is one worth reading for any student in the area - it presents the ideas very cohesively.

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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jonas Vestlund on January 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I find this history of philosophy very fun and interesting to read. Without forgetting the importance of ideas Kenny also gives a background in the corresponding culture and society.
Jesus and Freud are unusual but very interesting choices and especially the part about Freud I find very good.
Given the importance of the ideas of Hume for twentieth century philosophy it is a little bit strange to give Hume 6.5 pages and Kant 21 pages. But Kant is an important but difficult philosopher and perhaps one should be grateful for every help one can get when it comes to understanding him.
As a student of theoretical philosophy in the analytical tradition four things makes me very happy:
1. Stoic logic is mentioned and explained.
2. Not just the Monadology of Leibniz are treated but also Leibniz as a great logic mind. Maybe one day Leibniz will be remembered more as a great logic mind that inspired Russell and others, than as the builder of the sometimes strange and weird feeling system of monads.
3. The logic and logical analysis of Frege and Russell are given one chapter.
4. Twentieth century philosophy is exemplified not with Sartre or Heidegger as with some Norwegian history's of philosophy, but with Wittgenstein.
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