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The Story of Philosophy (Touchstone Books) Paperback – October 30, 1967

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Product Details

  • Series: Touchstone Books
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Revised edition (October 30, 1967)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067120159X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671201593
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (176 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #270,767 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Easily the most engaging writer of Western intellectual history in the English language, Will Durant breathes life into philosophers and their ideas. He is colorful, witty, and above all, informative. Beginning with Socrates and ending with American philosopher John Dewey, Durant summarizes the lives and influence of philosophy's greatest thinkers, painting them with humanity and adding a few of his own wise platitudes. Seventy-some years after its first printing, The Story of Philosophy still stands as one of the best of its kind.


The New York Times A delight.

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Customer Reviews

I like the author's writing style.
C. Bryson
I highly recommend this book as a wonderful introduction to philosophy and the great philosophers.
Jeffrey Van Wagoner
First and foremost this is one of the best books I have ever read.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

373 of 382 people found the following review helpful By Leonard R. Reitz on January 25, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I did a search for ''The Story of Philosophy'' and only the Mass Market version of this book came up (ISBN 0-671-73916-6) which I ordered. The print was so unreadable due, at least to my copy, of a very heavy, black, flared type-setting. There was no chance of reading the book with any enjoyment....lo and behold I find a second book (ISBN 0-671-69500-2) which is excellently type-set, and very readable. Even though this second book format is twice the price of the cheaply done Mass Market format, it is eminently worth it. I make these comments, in order to save some poor soul from the hassle I went through to get a readable copy of this most excellent book.
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149 of 155 people found the following review helpful By Christopher on March 19, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
There is no pre-requisite to the enjoyment of philosophy, and there is no pre-requisite to the Story of Philosophy. Simply bring a mind that is famished for an injection of joy.

"That is very good; but there is an infinitely worthier subject for philosophers than all these trees and stones, and even all those stars; there is the mind of man. What is man, and what can he become?" (Durant summarizing Socrates)

Philosophy is the night that you looked up at those 100 billion stars and 100 billion galaxies and realized that you were beginning to ask the right questions. "To know what to ask is already to know half." (Durant summarizing Aristotle) Philosophy is the one great conversation in your past that echoes in every conversation since. When will that time come again? "All excellent things are as difficult as they are rare." (Durant summarizing Spinoza)

That phenomenon of wonder will return when you open the "Story of Philosophy". A further taste of Durant's warming liquor:

"Every science begins as philosophy and ends as art; it arises in hypothesis and flows into achievement."
"How many a debate would have been deflated into a paragraph if the disputants had dared to define their terms."
"Political science does not make men, but must take them as they come from nature."
"The chief condition of happiness, barring certain physical prerequisites, is the life of reason--the specific glory and power of man."

Durant's approach is linear in time, but immense in breadth. Beginning with Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, we are not only granted access to their treasure chests of wisdom, we are also given insights into the men.
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50 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Guy Cutting on June 13, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I usually look down on philosophical "collections" because they tend to give an inadequate picture of any single philosopher and they also tend to lack cohesion. But this book is not just a collection - it is more like a narrative. The name "The STORY of Philosophy" indicates the focus, which is not just to present the work of various philosophers but to weave them together. Durant's choice of philosophers may seem to be unreasonable, but it serves his purpose. He presents a wide range of thought, from ancient Greek to modern. His analysis is always deep - his insights are fascinating. His understanding of the nuances of these thinkers is not in question. Each section presents Durant's analysis alongside material quoted directly from the philosopher being discussed. In this way both the original material and thoughtful analysis are given. In broader terms, Durant brings all this diverse thought together. He describes the progression of thought through careful comparison and contrast and gives each of these philosophers a position in reference to one another and to a unified picture. Each of these thinkers is put into a broader context than simply their own writings; parallels between these philosophers emerge alongside a portryal of their historical significance. All in all a real achievement and a worthwhile read for almost anyone (as an introduction to philosophy or as a valuable new perspective on material you're already familiar with). Recommended...
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Pletko on October 10, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback

The author, U.S. historian and Pulitzer Prize winner Will Durant (1885-1981) has written an exceptional book for any reader who wants to survey the history and development of philosophical ideas of the Western world. However, this book is just not your typical survey! It is also a stimulating introduction and enthusiastic invitation to philosophy of the Western world.

This book concerns itself with fifteen influential Western world philosophers. Each of them has their own chapter title. These thinkers are as follows:

(i) Spinoza, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Bergson*(ii) Croce* (iii) Plato, Aristotle, Kant, James^(iv) Spencer, Dewey^, Russell* and (v) Bacon, Voltaire, Satayana^. (The three *asterisked* names are under the chapter title "Contemporary European Philosophers" and the three ^arrowed^ names are under the chapter title "Contemporary American Philosopers.")

Other Western philosophers that are not as thoroughly discussed have their own sections (or sections in collaboration with others) within these chapters. These include Socrates, Locke, Rousseau, Hegel, and Comte. As well, yet other Western philosopers are briefly mentioned in the main body of the book.

Why do I call this book a Magnum Opus (that is, a Masterpiece)? There are several reasons for this:

(1) The INTRODUCTION. Even though it is brief, it is written brilliantly and is a treat to read. The reader, especially the first-time reader of Durant's works (such as myself) gets an idea at how skillful Durant is with words. I even recognized some disguised Shakespeare!

(2) The BOOK'S CONTENT. This book is not just about philosophies but also about philosophers and the time in which they lived.
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