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