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Socrates: A Very Short Introduction Paperback – January 18, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 136 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (January 18, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192854127
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192854124
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 0.5 x 4.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #615,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author


C.C.W. Taylor is Fellow at Corpus Christi College, Oxford University.

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Customer Reviews

I think Taylor's style is too academic for a series like this.
Joe J. Kern
The book also does not provide the historical context of ancient Athens that is important in understanding Socrates, the most inspiring philosopher in history.
Socrates
This book should serve as an enjoyable and informative read for both the casual reader and the philosophical enthusiast.
Will

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Joe J. Kern on September 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is the fifth Very Short Introduction I've read (others included Logic, Ancient Philosophy, Anthropology, and Sociology) and it is the first that wasn't fun to read. I think Taylor's style is too academic for a series like this. Sentences like "I do not wish to suggest that Plato had a clear grasp of the distinction between purely conceptual definitions and the substantive type of account exemplified by the cognitive theory" (60) require entirely too much examination and prior knowledge of the subject to be considered introductory material for most people reading without tutelage. And there are plenty of more detailed books alraedy available that are written in that style.
I do not wish to suggest that I'm an idiot, but I do look for something a bit more breezy in an introduction to a topic. I think many people turn to introductions because the original works can sometimes be a slog to read. I choose carefully which original works I'm going to make the effort to read, and I want introductions to material that will either a) bring me up to speed on things I don't have the time to read, b) give me basic information to choose more wisely which works to read or c) expand works I've already read. Having already read The Republic, I found that none of these 3 goals was accomplished by this volume. Its a shame, too, because VSI has been by far and away my favorite series of introductions. I hope they rethink this Socrates introduction and publish a new one aimed at a more general audience.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Epops on February 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
Prof. Taylor teaches philosophy at Oxford University, and clearly knows his subject. However, his writing style leaves much to be desired. He tends to be convoluted and verbose, with too many parentheses. This is fine for an academic paper, but not for "A Very Short Introduction". He is worst in the first three chapters, in which he reviews Socrates' life and historical context. His discussion of "the Socratic problem" in chapter 3 drags at times, but if you plow through it, ends up being actually pretty good. However, it does not compare for clarity and crispness of reasoning with the discussions of the problem by Prof. Vlastos.

Taylor's style does not improve in Chapter 4, on the Socrates of Plato, but I found that in spite of his occasional incoherence there is something of value in this chapter. He does a good job of laying out Plato's approach to the problem of the nature of morality, and his ultimate failure in that project. His comments on Plato's defense of Socrates against the Sophists are quite good, although I've just started The Republic myself, so I may have to revise this opinion later.

Chapter 5, Socrates' influence on later philosophers, including the Skeptics, Cynics, and Stoics in the Hellenistic period, and then in the 19th century Hegel, Kierkegaard,and Nietzsche, was quite illuminating. All three 19th century philosophers were obsessed with Socrates, and each saw him and used him in his own unique way. He emphasizes the kinship between Socrates and Nietzsche in particular. This is clearly the area that interests Prof. Taylor most, where he put in most of his effort, with good and useful results. His style is noticeable tighter and clearer in this chapter.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Mark I. Vuletic on February 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
Taylor's SOCRATES is detailed and scholarly, and a useful work for those who have already had a fair amount of exposure to the Platonic dialogues. However, its level of technicality is liable to confuse and frustrate beginners, who just want a readable overview of who Socrates was and what he taught. Even these readers will benefit from the first chapter, which discusses the life of Socrates, but the following chapters, which deal with his thought and influence, will be heavy-going for the average reader. As such, this book is recommended to philosophers, but really is too advanced to qualify as a standard introduction.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Gill Patrick on March 5, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is book presents a comprehensive and very detailed introduction to Socrates. The book provides an overview of Socrates' life as well as an overview of the primary and secondary literature regarding Socratic scholarship. Socrates is one of most elusive philosophers of the Western tradition, given that he never wrote a single word. Primary knowledge of Socrates is derived from the Socratic dialogues of Plato and Xenophon, Aristophanes' comedy "The Clouds," and less significant references and fragments. Although I agree with other reviewers that this text is indeed too advanced for the introductory reader, it contains so much detailed information that it will prove to be a useful reference to be consulted over and over again for guidance. Taylor's navigation of Socratic literature (Ch. 3), although perhaps too ambitious for a short introduction, is impressive and shows the signs of true scholarship. As an "introduction for advanced readers," so to speak, the book is a success, given that it is saturated with detailed information regarding Socratic literature. However, for the introductory reader, such detailed information may be too overwhelming.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Socrates on August 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
Like so many classicists, Taylor's writing style will repel all but the most pedantic scholar. Instead of a book that engages general readers as well as scholars (it is possible to do both), this book is a dry summary. Taylor's narrow, unimaginative approach fails to capture the greatness of Socrates. The book also does not provide the historical context of ancient Athens that is important in understanding Socrates, the most inspiring philosopher in history. Interest in the classics has declined considerably in recent years. Sadly, this book will only contribute to the decline.
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