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The Oxford Illustrated History of Western Philosophy (Oxford Illustrated Histories) Paperback – June 28, 2001

6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0192854407 ISBN-10: 0192854402

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Paperback, June 28, 2001
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Editorial Reviews Review

What does philosophy look like? Can you take a picture of it? The Oxford Illustrated History of Western Philosophy may not answer these questions, but it manages to ask them artfully with just a hint of schizophrenia. Sometimes it is a concise but substantive account of the history of Western philosophy; other times it is a coffee-table book that lends itself to casual thumbing-through. Pause long enough to wonder at Kant's silhouette, Jeremy Bentham's infamous Panopticon, a photo of Machiavelli's writing desk, or the Ephesian wall painting of Socrates. The volume lives up to its name: there are over two dozen full-color pictures--such as Paul Gauguin's arresting painting Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?--and myriad black-and-white illustrations of all varieties.

Editor Anthony Kenny parses his history into just six chunks of philosophy--ancient, medieval, three flavors of modern, and political--but amazingly the book does not seem to skimp on details. The reader will find everything from a treatise on Pseudo-Dionysius to an explanation of Kant's Paralogisms of Pure Reason to an analysis of Wittgenstein's private language argument. The six contributors to this book are philosophical heavyweights, and their accounts are inevitably colored by their respective likes and dislikes. But in sum The Oxford History of Western Philosophy is first-rate scholarship that succeeds where almost all academic histories fail: it's fun! --Eric de Place


"A wonderfully lucid exposition of difficult ideas."--Tablet

"Anthony Kenny, the editor of this courageously erudite compendium, reminds us that philosophy has always been fascinated by the interweaving of words and images, while artists have played upon philosophic concepts."--Observer


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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford Illustrated Histories
  • Paperback: 440 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (June 28, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192854402
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192854407
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 0.9 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,677,459 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By "ceaser27" on May 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
A marvel of a book! This wonderful book gives a detailed chronological insight of all the famous and influential philosophers in six parts- Ancient Philosophy, Medivial Philosophy, Descartes to Kant, Continental Philosophy from Fichete to Sartre, Mill to Wittgenstein and Political Philosophy. The authors breifly discuss the main philosophical issues of each period and those that propounded them. Some beautiful plates illustrate and help set the mood of each section. The book is well designed, easy to read and provides a comprehensive history of philosophy. It is also a great book to introduce yourself to the different eras in philosophy and to aquaint yourself with the works of the different philosophers, that is if you are a new reader in philosophy. An extended bibliography (well arranged) provides further information to other texts in philosophy. I must say this book is worth every dollar!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Hawker on December 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
In the introduction, Sir Anthony Kenny says "it is not immediately obvious what kinds of picture provide fit material to adorn a philosophical narrative". It might show pictures of objects and places associated with the philosophers, he thinks, and some illustrations of the texts and "a history of philosophy must contain portraits". By far the largest number of illustrations are just that: full-page b&w reproductions of portraits and marble busts of philosophers through the ages. But that phrase, "material to adorn a philosophical narrative", it sounds as if he thinks these pictures are, at best, a decoration. So this isn't like an illustrated car-manual or medical text, where the pictures help you understand the writing; or a good children's story, where the pictures develop the narrative; or an art book, where the text analyses the pictures. Instead, there is this kind of thing, on p.208: a full-page photo of the old British Museum Reading Room, with the caption that it opened in 1842 and was where Marx worked on Das Kapital.

The drawing of Bentham's Panopticon, mentioned above--it's the grandfather of all prison and hospital design, because one person located at the building's centre can monitor all the prisoners/patients, and it is disturbing because it shows how easy it is to control a large group of people. It is perfect for this book, except that the caption has no explanation of what we are looking at, or how it worked! The writers, Kenny and five others, just don't seem to have their hearts in a graphic presentation. At the back is a 'Chronology' section, where you see what else was happening in the world during the lives of the philosophers. It would have been much easier to read in colour, but you just get two typed b&w lists.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Battleship on September 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This was a series of essays by some experts in the field of philosophical study. The quality of the essays is good and the book is informative. Some sections were especially clear. The sections on Kant and Hegel were outstanding. It explained the importance of the works of the authors and how their disciples interpreted and built upon the works to form new philosophic ideas. I enjoyed the section on medieval philosophy. This was an illuminating work that described the works of Augustine, Aquinas, and Anselm. This was a section written with great clarity.

The authors did a fine job of explaining how certain philosophers were at odds over various points. For example, Kant did not agree with Hume's views about cause-and-effect. The authors showed how Hegel influenced Schopenhauer, who went in one direction. Marx and Engels were also influenced by Hegellian ideas, but they went in a completely other direction with their philosophical ideas.

This book was written for a collegiate audience that has had some introductory training on the topic. Some of the philosophical jargon at times if difficult to navigate through. There was a lack of clarity at times in presenting the basic ideas of some philosophers. For example, the author in the section on ancient philosophy confused the reader in presenting conflicting views about the basic ideas of Aristotle and Plato. This type of discourse may be helpful for more advanced students, but some of the conclusions presented were difficult to grasp for people with a more introductory knowledge of the topic.

Overall, I thought it was a good book and very interesting. I learned a lot more about the philosophical ideas and influence of Kant, Hegel, Descartes, and Spinoza. It was a valuable experience for me to read this book.
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