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Socrates, Buddha, Confucius, Jesus: From The Great Philosophers, Volume I Paperback – March 23, 1966

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Amazon.com Review

Arguably the four most influential individuals in human history, Socrates, the Buddha, Confucius and Jesus have cast shadows on history that are nearly inescapable even today. Who were they, what were their doctrines, and what was their influence? These are some of the questions that the 20th-century philosopher Karl Jaspers explores in this short excerpt from his larger volume, Great Philosophers.

Review

Arguably the four most influential individuals in human history, Socrates, the Buddha, Confucius and Jesus have cast shadows on history that are nearly inescapable even today. Who were they, what were their doctrines, and what was their influence? These are some of the questions that the 20th-century philosopher Karl Jaspers explores in this short excerpt from his larger volume, Great Philosophers. (Amazon.com Review ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Socrates, Buddha, Confucius & Jesus (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (March 23, 1966)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156835800
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156835800
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By From_Plano_TX on January 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
Aside from being an intelligently written book, I gave this book 5 stars because it made a big impression on me. Jaspers explanation of Confucius made the strength of Confucious's teaching clear. Now I'm very interested in Confucious and am reading more books about him. In that respect, this slim volume changed my life: It brought Confucious to life. What's more, by explaining Confucius's feelings about Taoism, this slim book did more to explain classic Taoism than the 2 books on the Tao I've already read.
Be aware that this book is due to the editing of Hannah Arendt. This means that Jaspers did not put this book out and say "Ta Da, the 4 Greatest!" No, Jaspers wrote a 2 volume book on the great philosophers due to his post War interest in increasing tolerance among men (per the Encyclopedia Britanica). This book does not appear to have any noticable Existentialist influence.
Finally, if you are a fundamentalist Christian, be warned that it is clear from his writing that Jaspers does not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, nor does he believe the Bible is free of error. He is not disrespectful of Jesus nor of Christianity, but do not think that because Jesus is in this book that the book is strongly pro-Jesus.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Greg on January 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
Karl Jaspers was a somewhat unusual and enigmatic thinker. While being an excellent philosopher, he strongly distanced himself from the dominant philosophical schools of his time, both the continental and the analytical and positivist movements which dominated academic discourse. This was somewhat unfortunate and relegated Jaspers to being a lonely and marginalised figure, yet Jaspers published many works which are of enduring interest.

Of these are his four volumes on the history of philosopy and studies of great philosophers. In this volume Jaspers looks at Jesus, the Buddha, Socrates and Confucius as 'paradigmatic' figures who unleashed new visions which changed the world forever. Jaspers also adopts a somewhat unusual hermeneutical approach to these philosophers, taking the facts of scientific history not as starting points which constrain what can be said about these philsophers, but assessing their thought instead from Jasper's own existentialist framework. It is hard sometimes not to see Jaspers reading his own philosophy and philosophical viewpoint into that of these past philosophers, an approach closer to that of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard than that favoured by modern historians of philosophy.

Even so, Jasper's analysis of these philosopher-sages is fascinating and repays careful study.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Certain Bibliophile on March 15, 2011
Format: Paperback
In an effort to be very fair, I will review this book for what it is, and not what I wanted it to be. What is it? A highly serviceable introduction to the lives, thought, and influence of the four titular historical personages. I cannot stress the word "introduction" enough here. Unless you have had no exposure to the figure that you are curious about, you will be hard-pressed in learning anything new about him. This, however, wasn't my first encounter with any of the four figures.

What did I want this book to be? Considering the reputation of Jaspers, I was expecting something more scholarly, yet I should have known better from the length of the book (just under 100 pages, not including the endnotes and bibliography). Considering he is mostly known for his "Philosophy and Existence," I thought that he might try to take a syncretic approach, blending his own brand of thought with these paradigmatic figures of the past. No such luck. I also thought that it might have had something other than strictly a "summary" type of feel that it did. It reads like lecture notes in that it's somewhat disjointed, a lot of the thoughts he explores do not go fully developed, and you are left wanting more.

Unfortunately, much of the stuff here is derivative and fails to shed any new light on the material it covers. Since this series pulled together from a variety of different sources in Jaspers' own writing (edited by his mentee, Hannah Arendt), it is difficult to tell whether or not this is the way he intended it to be. However, as I mentioned above, the book is not without its audience. It would be very suitable ancillary material for an introductory course in world religions.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jason D. Cavender on October 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is a joy to read. Jaspers has a real talent for breaking down complex thoughts into detailed, easy to read format. Jaspers presents a broad overview that should be attractive to newcomers. More advanced readers will appreciate his style and his refreshing perspective.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 13, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is interesting that two of the four whom Jaspers picks for their great philosophical minds are from the East. This is a contrast to contemporary philosophy departments in the US which rarely look to the east of the English channel and certainly never cross the Danube.

Jaspers himself is a well respected philosopher and his treatment of his four subjects is both insightful and respectful.

The book is thin and cheap, what more can one ask??
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By José Miguel Salmerón on October 19, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It contains a brief but excellent essay on each personality, I highly recommend it for psychiatrists and psychologists that are fond of existential approaches.
This author is a must for anyone into the neuroscience field.
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