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The Dream of Reason: A History of Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance Paperback – November 17, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0393323658 ISBN-10: 039332365X Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (November 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039332365X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393323658
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #189,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Histories of philosophy tend either to be prodigious, learned works, like F.C. Copleston's A History of Philosophy, or idiosyncratic tracts of scholarly obfuscation, like Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy, and they often present their subject through narrow, ideological lenses. Gottlieb's elegant survey brings a breath of fresh air. Executive editor of The Economist, Gottlieb mines primary sources with a remarkably even hand. He demonstrates that, while cosmological questions dominated early philosophy, Plato and Aristotle investigated metaphysical, epistemological and ethical conundrums as well. He shows how the later Hellenistic schools, like the Epicureans and Stoics; medieval thinkers, such as Augustine and Aquinas; and Renaissance philosophers, including Machiavelli and Bacon, built their systems either on Plato or Aristotle. But Gottlieb's book is not just another plodding survey. His attention to cultural context provides insight into why various thinkers thought as they did about certain matters. Plato wrote his Republic, for example, because he detested the kind of democracy in fashion in Athens, and he wanted to return to the oligarchy of his childhood. Unfortunately, the book suffers from a distorted perspective, covering almost 1,000 years of history, from late antiquity to the Renaissance, in just under 100 pages, while giving more than that to early Greek philosophy, most of which consists of fragmentary sources. Thus, Hobbes and Machiavelli, who deserve their own chapters more than do Democritus or Empedocles, are allotted only a few brief paragraphs. Gottlieb also engages in some debatable readings: many find that Kant's theory of self-consciousness, for instance, leads not to relativism but to absolutism. Nonetheless, this eloquent book offers a lively chronicle of the evolution of Western philosophy.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

A delight....written with both wit and scholarship, providing a wonderful overall picture of Western philosophy up to the Renaissance. -- Sir Roger Penrose

A wonderful book. -- Myles Burnyeat, New York Review of Books

Gottlieb is as enjoyable as he is intellectually stimulating. -- Robert Conquest, Los Angeles Times

His book...supplant[s] all others, even the immensely successful History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell. -- A. C. Grayling

[Gottlieb] writes with fluency and lucidity, with a gift for making even difficult matters seem comprehensible. -- Richard Jenkins, New York Times

Customer Reviews

Take her course if you must, but read Gottlieb's book.
Thomas L. Jeffers
The good news is how deftly the author, Anthony Gottlieb, covers the topics and philosophers selected.
Ricky Hunter
An interesting look at the history of Ancient Greek and medieval philosophy.
Ronald Gentile

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Ricky Hunter on December 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
The subtitle of this book is a history of philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance, but that can be slightly misleading. It is in fact what it claims but it is also much more and a little less. The little less is that only the book's last two chapters cover the period after the death of Aristotle but anyone who has slogged through medieval philosophy will appreciate and understand the author's choices. The good news is how deftly the author, Anthony Gottlieb, covers the topics and philosophers selected. The Dream of Reason is a wonderfully comprehensible volume that glorifies the Greeks, certainly not for getting it precisely right, but for expanding the attempts to actually get it (it, of course, being a simple word covering a multitude of complex ideas.) This book is always intelligent and very entertaining. There is no better single place for a reader to go to cover this vast period of time.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Noreen M. Novak on June 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
I am currently reading both The Dream of Reason AND A History of Western Philosophy in tandem. While the claims can be made of one's superiority to the other, I find it immensely helpful to read them together. Gottlieb references Russell a number of times, so having the work right there to read is a must. What Gottlieb lacks in deep understanding, Russell is there to fill in. Likewise, what Russell lacks in outright readability (brilliant beyond belief, but it does tend to get dry), Gottlieb makes up for in his flowing writing style.

I cannot and will not mar either work, as I think they (begrudgingly or not) feed off of and make each other that much better.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By N N Taleb on July 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
I could not put it down. It hit me at some point that I was at the intersection of readability and scholarship. Clearly the value of this book lies beyond its readability: Gottlieb is both a philosopher and a journalist (in the good sense), not a journalist who writes about philosophy. He investigates and provides a fresh look at the material: For instance what we bemoan as the flaws of Aristotelianism during the scholastic period came 2000 years after his work. Aristotle had an empirical bent --his followers are the ones to blame.
I liked his constant questioning of the labels put on philosophers and philosophies by the second hand readers.
Clearly he missed a few authors who deserve real coverage like Algazali, but I take what I can get.
The only other readable history of philosophy is Russell's. This one was less hurriedly put together.

Someone should bug the author to hurry with the sequel on Locke, Hume, etc.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Thomas L. Jeffers on April 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
As other reviewers have mentioned, Anthony Gottlieb's competition is Bertrand Russell, whose potboiler History of Philosophy has turned out to be his most enduring work, and (not mentioned) Will Durant's popularizing Story of Philosophy, much disdained by people who've never read it, and fondly remembered by those who, usually in youth, were through it glad to discover that philosophy could be more stimulating, and in the end less dogmatic, than religion. Gottlieb has directly earned a place in Russell and Durant's company, and one can only hope he'll someday bring the tale into the 20th century. His exposition is masterly--free of jargon, funny, common-sensical--and his feel for metaphor almost always perfect. A lone example: "While Plato wanted to leave the dark Cave of physical reality and find something better, Aristotle said that the Cave was not so bad once you turned the lights on--particularly if you started dissecting the animals in it. The beauty which Plato appreciated best in unrealized, unworldly ideals, Aristotle saw all around him" (p. 233). Your garden-variety philosophy professor isn't half so good. Take her course if you must, but read Gottlieb's book.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By "hsgfrombc" on December 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
Anthony Gottlieb delivers a readable, enjoyable history of philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance in The Dream of Reason, although the history is predominantly of the Greeks, particularly the big three, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle (only the last two chapters cover the period after the death of Aristotle but the author makes a healthy, believable excuse for this). The book makes the ideas comprehensible and, often, funny which four years of medieval and classical studes at university often failed to do. Passing over the more scholastic medieval arguments now seems like a wise choice the author made. The history of philosophy, in this author's capable hands, seems important, relevant and, most suprising, quite interesting. At times he may seem a tad generous to each of the ancient philosophers but he cleverly backs up everything he states. A good book for those looking to plunge into this topic.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dennis L. Hughes on May 1, 2009
Format: Paperback
I've read quite a bit more than average of philosophy and the history thereof, including Copleston's 9 volumes of which the first is History of Philosophy, Volume 1. I believe this book passes muster as far as accuracy goes.

But where it excels is in the extremely entertaining and often humorous way in which the story is told. I think to read it as a straightforward history might be a mistake. This is story-telling and very well done. To compare it to Copleston or Russell is to miss the point.

I've had 2 college courses on Greek philosophy, read some additional history thereof, and of course read a number of the primary sources. But I didn't find this boring.

And if you're new to philosophy this is the best way I know to start.

I think there was supposed to be a second volume. If so, its not available yet. Pity.
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