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An Introduction to Western Philosophy Paperback – November 21, 1989

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Thames and Hudson; Rev Sub edition (November 21, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500275475
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500275474
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,092 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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68 of 69 people found the following review helpful By David C. Moses on June 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
Clearly Antony Flew was on a mission when he wrote his "Introduction to Western Philosophy." It is very carefully crafted, providing an unparalleled introduction not only to Western philosophers and their ideas, but also to approaches to philosophical thought. Flew assumes that his readers are willing to try to think like philosophers, and he provides a great deal of guidance in terms of both basic information that one ought to know (such as some relevant history of science), and pitfalls that one should avoid (such as fallacies and philosophical "diversions").
In contrast to the chronological, philosopher-centered approach that some introductions to philosophy take, Flew's book is idea-centered, with each chapter focusing on a particular philosophical issue. Within a given chapter, the arguments of philosophers from different times are presented side-by-side. So, for example, Plato's objectivism can face off directly against Hume's subjectivism -- one does not have to read Plato's ideas and wait until many chapters later, when Plato has long been forgotten, for Hume's reply to them. This strategy produces the feeling of live debate as opposed to the rehashing of dead ideas. Flew takes his readers through the major debates on each issue, taking care to point out questions that remain unresolved. He provides long quotations from primary sources to show key arguments unfolding in their original contexts, and follows them up with clear explanations. The book is thick, but words are not wasted; I underline key points that I want to remember, and I set a personal underlining record reading this book. Finally, Flew is enjoyable to read -- professional and serious as the subject demands, but also personable and witty.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
Flew is one of the best known proponents of linguistic philosophy, which explores many of the misunderstandings language causes in the realm of ideas. He is eminently British, and his gentle humor shows it. The work has none of the pizazz and color of the newer, showier, philosophy texts. But it has understandable prose, long useful excerpts, and a willingness to leave behind strictly "philosphical" sources to search for meaning in poetry. There are several shortcomings; for instance, the book starts with an essay on "progress in philosophy," a notion which Flew never proves happens. Also, it really is NOT an "introduction" for beginners, despite the title; it is not approachable by the novice. And if you are looking for modern existentialist philosophy, or work by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Hegel, Habermas, Husserl and Heidegger), you had best look elsewhere. (But, then, reading those quasi-thinkers is rather like like looking for prostitutes: embarrassing and useless after a few cheap thrills.) I have had the pleasure of meeting Flew upon his visits to American University in recent years; he is a kind spirit who freely shares his thoughts when his lips are plied with brewed beverages. The book is neatly executed, but not for beginners.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
Others have remarked that Flew's style is... dense... which is true. But as Einstein said, everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler. Philosophy is complex. If you dumb it down, it is no longer philosophy. No one reviews books on quantum mechanics and complains that they are difficult. Because quantum mechanics is hard. If you want to understand philosophy--not on a superficial, cocktail-party level, but on the level of the ideas themselves--you will have to put in some work. When I read the book, I realized that every 10 pages or so, I would need to stop, look up from the book, and think for a few minutes about what I had just read. It is a not a book to be skimmed.

I argue so intensely because this is the most important book I have ever read. It changed the way I think, by allowing me to spot holes in arguments which I always suspected were weak, although I could not articulate precisely why. It also gives a thorough explanation of the major debates in philosophy throughout history. Flew organizes them by idea rather than by chronology, so that the philosophers' arguments make sense in the context of their debates with other philosophers.

If you want to begin to understand philosophy, read the book. However, if you are not looking for a challenge, or if you only want to get a basic feel for the philosophers' opinions, without digging into their detailed arguments, then there are other books out there more suited to your goals. This book is hard-core. It is for readers who are ambitious and who want to learn something important.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Peter Feuerstein on June 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
I have read this book more than 30 years ago as a student in Cambridge/England and was quite fascinated by it (and still am), as it shows how specific philosophical ideas evolved in different centuries and returned in a different disguise and how these changes came about. I found it to be the only book dealing with these eternal questions: which values are prevailing, why and how are they applied in a 'new society'! It is a good complimentary to Bertrand Russelll's: History of Western Philosophy.

Hard to read and understand? Sorry, just the opposite.
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