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Ideas of the Great Philosophers Hardcover – 1993

3.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 181 pages
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble (1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566192714
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566192712
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,589,481 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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By Dr. Lee D. Carlson HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on January 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
I found this book on my dining room table one morning, my older brother having brought it home to read. And like any eighteen-year old teenager, I was contemplating the mysteries of life, and after picking up this book and reading it, I was sent on a quest for knowledge that has lasted almost three decades. The book is short, cost $1.75 at the time I read it, is a mere 181 pages, but its contents serve to introduce the reader to the contemplations of many of the major philosophers throughout the ages. All of the ideas in the book have found their way into the 21st century, as it is the nature of ideas to have a long decay time.
In Part One on epistemology, the authors acknowledge that an exploration of the entire scope of epistemology and logic would require many volumes and a lifetime of study. However, they bring the reader through a summary of the main problems, touching on how to distinguish truth from error, how to analyze the fallacies of reasoning, and the nature and attainability of truth itself. These considerations are not vacuous, for they are all immediately practical, and, most importantly, they are deeply embedded in the still elusive goal of bringing about the rise of intelligent machines.
Part Two contemplates the "good life": the philosophical construction of ethical theories of correct conduct. The mere fact that humans can choose freely different courses of action is proof of the need and truth of ethics. The finding of the correct one though cannot be done without careful consideration. The authors give the reader many approaches taken throughout the history of philosophy. These approaches have been institutionalized and codified, but ethical philosophy has not exhausted itself.
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Format: Hardcover
Along with Hector Hawton's Philosophy for Pleasure, this is the best brief into to philosophy that I've ever seen. At less than 200 pages, it's really a little gem of a primer. Be aware that you need to read more than this book, but for getting your feet wet, it's fine. The author is an excellent writer and covers the various ideas succinctly and clearly, without getting too technical. One problem with philosophy, is at least to us scientists types, is that the level of technical difficulty in professional level philosophy doesn't seem to correlate very well with any actual "reality" or actual results. In other words, it sounds great, but it seems to tell us very little about the world of reality in contrast, to say, the sciences that developed from 19th century natural philosophy. So it's useful to get a basic background before taking on the more voluminous texts.

By the way, Sahakian was a very widely learned scholar who also wrote a great book on psychology, which was his Learning Theory book. It was better than any book that I read on the subject by a psychologist writer, and I used it to study for the advanced GRE in psychology. Last time I heard, Sahakian was at Syracuse University, and I hope he's still alive and well. He was a great scholar and writer who could present difficult subjects clearly, concisely, and enjoyably. I owe him a great debt for much of my early education in subjects I might have otherwise avoided because the writer couldn't present the subject as interestingly as Sahakian could.
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Format: Hardcover
In one volume, at first glance, this book seems to give the reader quick handy access to the ideas of many of the greatest philosophers: Beginning with Socrates and ending with Karl Marx, their ideas are discussed in turn. However, it is often done so inaccurately, sloppily, and without situating them in the context of the times in which the ideas arose.

Although the first chapter does give a very cleanly written summary of the mechanics of epistemology: listing many of the criteria of truth, the problems of truth, and the main fallacies of reasoning, it is still selective rather than exhaustive (category errors for instance are not mentioned). But most egregiously, the essential philosophical definitions needed to understand the explanations are not given here: but are "assumed to be understood" by the reader.

Things actually get worse from there:

It is as if the rest of the content of the book was carelessly gleaned from more robust sources. Almost all of the pieces are just too cryptic, shallow and poorly written to be of any lasting value. And some of the sections, such as the one on dialectic materialism, are simply wrong. The discussions on the existence of God are also muddled as well as incomplete.

After this, nothing about the book can be trusted.

The last chapter, chapter six, makes a valiant effort to try to save the volume by discussing philosophies by type, and here, except for the philosophy of science, the main schools, including Phenomenology and Existentialism, are included, but again the discussions are not done in any depth that would reflect serious understanding of the substance in question, or of the context of the times in which the ideas evolved.
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