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Confessions of a Philosopher: A Personal Journey Through Western Philosophy from Plato to Popper (Modern Library Paperbacks) Paperback – May 18, 1999


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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Paperbacks
  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; 1999 Modern Library Pbk. Ed edition (May 18, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375750363
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375750366
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #609,085 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Confessions is a somewhat misleading term in this context: you won't find any lurid tales between these covers. Bryan Magee's memoirs-cum-histories of philosophy aren't even "confessions" in the self-flagellating tradition of St. Augustine and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

So what is Confessions of a Philosopher, then? It's a fascinating excursion through 2,000 years of wondering about the basic nature of existence and reality. As a 20th-century philosopher, Magee has a lot to say about his peers, and he spares no feelings. The "Oxford philosophers," who decided that philosophy was not about the nature of existence but about the nature of language, yet refused to give any consideration to fiction, are particular targets of Magee's intellectual scorn, while the late Karl Popper, a personal acquaintance of the author, is celebrated as a man who persevered in philosophy's true duties in the face of widespread academic frippery.

If you've ever wondered why we exist, you have what it takes to be a philosopher ... or at least to understand one. Bryan Magee's Confessions are thoroughly engaging proof that you don't need a degree to be a deep thinker. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Magee has taught philosophy at Oxford, and in each of these volumes he attempts to make philosophy understandable to the lay reader. The DK book devotes just a few pages to each of the major thinkers and is lavishly illustrated. It would be suitable for high school, college, and public libraries. Great Philosophers is a series of conversations with important contemporary philosophers about the major historical figures, originally produced for the BBC. Confessions is an autobiographical excursion through Western philosophy.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

His greatest talent is the easy expression in writing of this sometimes very complex subject matter.
bronx book nerd
That discovery was for Magee an enormous enrichment of the way he understood himself and could establish in some way a connection between himself and the noumenon.
Ralph Blumenau
I also found it to be a good book to read after Magee's other book "The Story of Philosophy" which started my interest in the subject.
Bradley A. Swope

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Bradley A. Swope on January 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
REVIEW: I've heard it said that "life's a journey, not a destination." This is applicable to this book and its apply named subtitle "A Journey Through Western Philosophy." It follows the author from his philosophical thinking in childhood, through his formal schooling in the subject, and on to his personal relationships with famous philosophers and his advanced study, thinking and writing about the subject. The book is not a destination in that its purpose is not to espouse a particular philosophy or theory, although he does make his own opinions quite clear (e.g. about what is good philosophy and what is not). Even though the book has a few weaknesses, it is highly interesting and easy to read. Especially useful to those who are beginning their own "journey" into philosophy.
This book is also typical of a number of others that I like in that it is hard to categorize. It is not quite: an autobiography, or a book on philosophy, or a biography of other philosophers. It is in some ways all of these and even includes a chapter that is almost a "how-to" on writing a novel. The advanced philosophy reader may not gain much from Magee's book, but an amateur or beginning reader like myself should find it very worthwhile. It helped me understand some of the major schools or trends in philosophy and helped me create a reading program for further study (e.g. which authors to start with and which to avoid for a while). I also found it to be a good book to read after Magee's other book "The Story of Philosophy" which started my interest in the subject. I also highly recommend that as an introduction.
STRENGTHS: For the most part, just the right breadth and depth for the non-advanced philosophy reader.
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47 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
Confessions can be of two kinds: confessions of faith and confessions of failure. Bryan Magee's vividly written intellectual autobiography has the character of both. His convictions make for exhilarating reading; but his failure to find in philosophy a reliable answer to his deepest concerns casts a shadow over the book, which darkens in the last chapter to a tormented despondency.

Magee's basic conviction is that philosophy is hugely important, in that it deals - or should deal - with all our ultimate questions about what the world, and therefore our existence in this world, is really like. His most trenchant attacks are on the Logical Positivists who dominated the Oxford scene at the time when he was an undergraduate there, and for many years afterwards. They ruled out as "non-philosophical" any discussion which was carried on in language that did not meet their narrow criteria of meaningfulness. The Linguistic Philosophers, who gradually took over from the Logical Positivists, were even less concerned with the truth or verifiability of a proposition. Instead, they thought that the principal task of philosophy was to elucidate the way words were used in practice, by examining, for example, the way in which the same word might mean different things to different people. They believed that it was not the business of philosophers to go beyond that and to produce any theories: as Gilbert Ryle defined it, philosophy was merely "talk about talk".

Magee describes these Oxford philosophers as having all the characteristics of a narrow and intolerant sect. They considered that Kant and Schopenhauer, who showed up the limits of empiricism, had so little to say that seemed to them "meaningful" that no acquaintance with them was required of undergraduates.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Paul Gee on January 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
Finishing this book, I more deeply understood a quote from Bertrand Russell --"There is a communion of philosophers as well as saints and it is largely that that keeps me from feeling lonely." I strongly recommend this excellent book if you just feel like kicking your shoes off in the privacy of your own house, and informally enjoy what Plato termed 'that dear delight' of philosophy with one of the keenest and most erudite philosophical minds of whom I am aware. Magee shares in lucid and at times beautiful prose his life of struggle with the enduring existential problems, and in so doing summons the reader to join him and the countless other great minds who have spent a lifetime in the sustained and systematic attempt to understand the world through Reason. Reading it, I felt a deep, spiritual-like pleasure as if I myself were taking part in a gab session with Magee, Kant, Schopenhauer, Popper, Wittgenstein et. al. Is there a more compelling reason to read than to achieve this sort of communion?
The major theme running throughout is an assault on the unbounded arrogance of Analytic Philosophy. Magee hammers home page after page how the fundamental 'raison d'etre' of Philosophy was betrayed by the contented gameplayers of Oxford and Cambridge during the 20th century. Although not as elevating as other parts of the book (and also conspicuously causing Magee to depart from the dispassionate and wise philosopher/narrator role), nonetheless this theme should find sympathetic ears from all those who think And feel that there are in fact 'real' problems that run deeper than just grammar and language; and moreover who think that it is somehow around the grappling with these problems that we are to ultimately gain our humanity.
Mr. Magee, thank you for sharing your life. You have helped me to better understand myself.
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