- Hardcover: 160 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 1, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195112083
- ISBN-13: 978-0195112085
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 16 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #886,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Passion for Wisdom: A Very Brief History of Philosophy 1st Edition
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From School Library Journal
YA. Two University of Texas professors provide a multicultural account of philosophical thought and developments across nearly 4000 years. The volume is necessarily simplified but not simplistic, and the thoughts themselves are given precedent over the biographies of the thinkers. Divided into three historical movements?the search for singular truth, the conflict between faith and reason, modernism and postmodernism?terms are explained without condescension either to the subject or to readers. This is a book for serious yet not fully educated readers who want a clear and approachable introduction to an area of human endeavor. YAs who have discovered Jostein Gaarder's Sophie's World (Farrar, 1994) or Camus's The Stranger will delight in finding a larger discussion of what, to them, may be wholly new ideas. While not a necessary purchase for YA collections where users have ready access to other adult materials, this small volume is an excellent purchase for secondary schools.?Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
"Short" histories of philosophy often have at least one of the following defects: they ignore some philosophers or movements that are significant in the discipline; they try to cover too much ground and give nothing more than a simplistic overview; or they wholly ignore philosophy that is not part of the Western tradition. Solomon and Higgins (A Short History of Philosophy, LJ 11/15/95) have happily avoided all three pitfalls here. Part one not only examines the Greek roots of Western philosophy but also looks at philosophical traditions in India, elsewhere in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Part two covers the period from the origins of Christianity to the rise of Islam to Adam Smith; Part three begins with Kant and ends with a brief look at postmodernism. Considering the ground covered in 132 pages, Solomon and Higgins have managed to keep their history clear and understandable, and the newcomer should have no difficulty tracing its development. Recommended for public libraries.?Terry C. Skeats, Bishop's Univ. Lib., Lennoxville, Quebec
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
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Although it's dense, the book remains readible because the authors write clearly and unpretentiously, yet without condescending to "dummies" or "idiots": the book is intelligently written for intelligent readers who are prepared to give it the sustained concentration it deserves.
Another strength is that the authors include a good dose of non-Western philosophy, especially in the first third of the book, and they link this nicely with Western philosophy, showing how many Western ideas were probably derived from non-Western antecedents, or at least co-evolved with them.
As far as the ideal audience for the book, I see that as a tricky question. While one might be inclined to classify this book as an ideal introduction to philosophy, I think the density of the book could present a challenge for many novices, but they could perhaps address that by reading the book more than once. And even if novices can't quite absorb the book, it could still serve as an effective primer for longer introductions where things can be explained at greater leisure (such as A Short History of Philosophy itself).
For readers who are already reasonably versed in philosophy, I think this book would serve as an excellent and quick survey/review of the subject, and I can highly recommend the book to that audience. In fact, this is by far the best short book I know of for that purpose.
Like other survey texts by Dr. Solomon, I highly recommend this book.
Speaking of Russell, the authors's treatment of him is characteristically sly: Noting that Russell turned his attention to more worldly matters after his youth (and the Principia Mathematica), they add that "he wrote an elegant and impassioned autobiography, conclusively documenting his political commitments, his love of philosophy, and what we might politely call his love of love. He also declared--as the First World War had clearly shown--that 'the world is horrible.' Formal philosophy, by comparison, seemed both a refuge and a waste of time." (p. 115)
Solomon and Higgins cover Eastern philosophy (which many Western books do not), and they bring us up to the postmodern era, although they scrupulously avoid discussing philosophers still living--a wise decision no doubt since most of us are still trying to cope with what happen to philosophy after the logical positivists got a hold of it early in the 20th century. Solomon and Higgins also address religious philosophy, which again is right, especially when you consider that most of Western philosophy since the Greeks has been strongly influenced by Christian values and ideas--and of course, the Eastern "philosophies" from the Vedas, the Buddha, Lao Tzu, etc., cannot really be separated from religion.
It is good to compare this to Russell's best-selling opus since Solomon and Higgins do very well exactly what Russell did very well, that is make philosophy interesting and even exciting for the general reader; and like Russell they write with unusual clarity. Unlike Russell however they refrain (mostly) from taking sides in the various philosophic disputes and they don't reveal who their favorites are. I guess I could say that Russell's approach was a critical one as he found fault with many of the icons of philosophy, even--or perhaps especially--Plato, whereas Solomon and Higgins try for a more descriptive and informative approach. I love Russell. He was a delight to me when I first read him as a teenager, but I must say that the approach of Solomon and Higgins is the more judicious.
Philosophy is like history in this respect. We cannot adequately critique the ideas of today because we are so completely immersed in them that we have no real objectivity. As the authors put it so very well on page 113, "Philosophy is never isolated or immune from its time and place, no matter how abstract it may be or however 'eternal' or 'untimely' it may declare itself. Philosophy may be prophetic, it can be nostalgic, or it can act as a mirror, a reflection of a culture. But more often than not, it expresses in abstract terms the ideals and aspirations of society."
This follows their observation that Nietzsche had predicted the horrible wars of the 20th century. Their treatment of Nietzsche (and virtually all of the philosophers) is generous although there is just the slightest hint that his ideas may have been in some part responsible for the rise of the kind of mentality exhibited by the Nazis. They recall Nietzsche's "incredible suggestion that human beings...[are] nothing but a bridge between the ape and the Ubermensch ('superman')" Personally, I am not a big fan of Nietzsche; nonetheless it is striking to consider that he may be exactly right: the science of the 21st century may fuse us with our machines, and through genetic engineering allow us to become something "more" than human.
The book is in three parts, Part I: "Is There Ultimate Truth?"; Part II: "Faith and Reason"; and Part III: "From Modernity to Postmodernism." I think this is just perfect. The search for what is true and/or to what extent we can know what is true is at the very heart of the philosophic urge. And the struggle between faith and reason rages on today as it has since before the Greeks. And what we have experienced in our lifetimes is the rise of postmodernism which is a serious critique of the self-satisfied modernity that grew out of the Enlightenment.
I guess what I like best about this book is a sense that it is a return to the kind of philosophy that I loved as a young man. As the authors put it, while they are excited "by the bewildering variety of ideas" that we have today in philosophy, they are "at the same time...disturbed by the fact that the old ideal of philosophy, as a search for wisdom rather than a peculiar professional skill or a merely clever game, has gotten lost." (p. 128)
This book brings some of the excitement back.