- Hardcover: 440 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press (November 17, 1994)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0198242786
- ISBN-13: 978-0198242789
- Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 1.2 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,023,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Oxford History of Western Philosophy
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From Library Journal
Readers might think that the last thing Western philosophy needs is another history. What sets this book apart is the analytic background of its contributors, among them David Pears, Roger Scruton, Anthony Quinton, and editor Kenny, thus presenting familiar names and ideas in a different light and transforming this from a "Socrates said X, Hume said Y" type of history into one in which the ideas and systems are subjected to thorough and clear criticism. Given the explosion of philosophical activity in this century, the decision to exclude living writers was wise, allowing contributors to focus on the roots of many of our ideas and delve into them using modern analytic techniques. The illustrations have been wisely chosen to show the constant play between art and idea. Some familiarity with analytic philosophy would be useful to gain the most from the text, but this is a significant addition to the literature even though it lacks the unity of a single-author volume. Recommended for all academic and larger public libraries.
Terry Skeats, Bishop's Univ. Lib., Lennoxville, Quebec
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Malt may do more than Milton can to justify God's ways to man, but St. Augustine and the rest keep trying to entice us from the taverns to the scriptoria to explain the ways the world works. Oxford's roster of eminent excogitators ranges from Plato to Russell, as summarized by six exceptionally clear-writing teachers. In a subject of, commonly, impenetrable obtuseness and dubious utility to daily life, their essays are apt to pull in the layperson untrained in, but still intrigued by, philosophy's lineage. If the prose doesn't, the riot of illustrations must; there are hundreds, spanning Raphael's School of Athens, statues of Marx, and every thinker in between. Editor Kenny, who takes on the Enlightenment in "Descartes to Kant," divvies up the duties amongst the ancients, the medievals, continental philosophers like Hegel, Nietzsche, and Sartre, and the English analyticals (Bentham and Mill), followed by a survey of political philosophies. As a group, the writers excel at showing how erroneous ideas went wrong, as well as the varieties of explanations for existence, sense, linguistics, and morality. Mead quaffers take note. Gilbert Taylor
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Top customer reviews
The authors did a fine job of explaining how certain philosophers were at odds over various points. For example, Kant did not agree with Hume's views about cause-and-effect. The authors showed how Hegel influenced Schopenhauer, who went in one direction. Marx and Engels were also influenced by Hegellian ideas, but they went in a completely other direction with their philosophical ideas.
This book was written for a collegiate audience that has had some introductory training on the topic. Some of the philosophical jargon at times if difficult to navigate through. There was a lack of clarity at times in presenting the basic ideas of some philosophers. For example, the author in the section on ancient philosophy confused the reader in presenting conflicting views about the basic ideas of Aristotle and Plato. This type of discourse may be helpful for more advanced students, but some of the conclusions presented were difficult to grasp for people with a more introductory knowledge of the topic.
Overall, I thought it was a good book and very interesting. I learned a lot more about the philosophical ideas and influence of Kant, Hegel, Descartes, and Spinoza. It was a valuable experience for me to read this book.
I did continue, however, and the section on the middle ages was actually quite rewarding and much easier to follow. One major lesson was that the philosophical era is unfairly degraded as being empty of meaningful philosophy. It was, in fact, rich with enough thinkers to debunk that. The remaining chapters also were challenging but not as difficult as the opening chapter. The truth is that the subject matter will always be challenging but can be handled better or worse by individual writers. The final chapter on political philosophy resulted in the book ending on a bad note for two reasons: 1) when using pronouns it was not always clear to what the author was referring in the earlier clauses; 2) the author, Anthony Quinton, has an obvious bias against religion and he could not keep it to himself. At one point he refers to Spain as "priest-ridden"; in another section where he is discussing political philosophers using God's granting dominion over creation to Adam to make a case for the divine rights of kings, Quinton gratuitously comments that they did not bother to ask whether Adam at all existed. Well, he may have well asked why they did not inquire whether Anthony Quinton existed.
Finally, there is an odd error at the end of the book, in the afterword. Anthony Kenny writes that in a work like this not all philosophers could be covered so that unfortunately mention of someone like Freidrich von Hayek would sadly be omitted. One problem: on the last page facing the afterword, Anthony Quinton mentions von Hayek in the second-to-last paragraph. Is this the way philosophers joke in books like this, or is it the lazy editing that may have also been responsible for the admission of some non-accessible submissions? Overall the book is definitely worth it. Again, the subject matter is difficult, so one can't take too many point s away for lack of comprehension, and there are enough passages that provide clarity on certain points by certain philosophers.