- Paperback: 1098 pages
- Publisher: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press; Revised edition (March 4, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674001877
- ISBN-13: 978-0674001879
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 17 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #798,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change Revised Edition
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The Sociology of Philosophies is a truly astonishing work of scholarship based on a vast global erudition...it offers rich, highly illuminating and provocative insights on a vast array of topics. (Benjamin I. Schwartz, author of The World of Thought in Ancient China)
[A] rich, systematic and empirically grounded account of intellectual change in three civilizations. The Sociology of Philosophies is an ambitious, comprehensive, and brilliant account of the rationalization process of three world philosophies: Western, Indian, and Asian. In Collins' analysis, this developmental process is shown to be generated via social and conceptual networks...The book expounds upon an immense range of intellectual history, and certainly makes inspiring and interesting reading. And, despite the heavy subject and incredible scope, Collins' writing style resembles an oral lecture more than an abstruse disquisition. (Ilan Talmud European Sociological Review)
The one work that all sociologists of ideas, novices and veterans alike, hereafter must read It is beyond question Randall Collins' masterpiece. (Charles Camic European Journal of Sociology)
No sociologist who is seriously concerned with understanding intellectual life can afford to ignore it...Randall Collins has rendered a service to sociology second to none. (Peter Baehr Canadian Journal of Sociology)
What an impressive book Randall Collins has written...so broadly learned, so ambitious in its analysis, and readable to boot! (William H. Mcnaeill, author of The Rise of the West)
This astonishing book testifies to decades of research through the greater part of philosophy-East and West...It reaches out to the ordinary reader, who could acquire a rich education in the humanities just by following it through. (Leslie Armour Library Journal)
About the Author
Randall Collins is Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania.
Top customer reviews
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For me, this was an interesting and useful book for a couple of reasons:
1. It discusses philosophers in the context of social networks, where the thinkers are linked by relationships such as: was the student of, reacted against, was married to the sister of, etc.
Often, philosophy is taught (or studied) by looking only at the works of philosophers, in isolation from the philosophers' relationships with others around them. Placing a philosopher in the context of a network of relationships helps considerably in understanding what the philosopher is trying to do, and why. In short, it can help you better to understand any particular philosopher that you are studying.
2. I found the author's notion of an "attention space" very interesting. The notion of an "attention space" in the history of philosophy seems to me similar to Thomas Kuhn's notion of a "paradigm" in the history of science. Philosophers' roles in the history of philosophy are described as moving the attention space, or elaborating within the attention space, and so on, where moving the attention space is comparable to Kuhn's "paradigm shift" and elaborating within the attention space is comparable to Kuhn's "normal science". This approach to the history of philosophy is, I think helpful. It gives you genuine insight into the history of philosophy.
I recommend this book. You may not wish to read it all -- I didn't -- but if you dip into it here and there, at spots that look interesting to you, you will encounter ideas and concepts that are useful, stimulating and thought-provoking.
First, each section on a particular philosophical tradition (e.g. ancient Greece, Indian, Medieval Islamic, Chinese, Modern) is an interesting high-level history of tradition in its own rights. This alone makes the price tag worthwhile.
More importantly, Collins included very interesting insights about individual period that is not covered by other general histories:
1) How some schools of thoughts become popular not because they are correct but because they are extreme
2) Parallelisms that occur in different periods of the same tradition (e.g. Post-Shankara positions in India has its parallel during the hey-day of Buddhist philosophy)
3) Parallelisms that occur across traditions (e.g. compelling coverage of how medieval Christian & Islamic philospophy shares a similar structure)
With these characteristics, I think this book clearly satisfies the need us interested in global history of philosophy, for which Collins is clearly very passionate about.
On the sociology theoretical piece, I think the theory is fine: it articulates a lot of aspects of which most students of philosophy has a vague sense. The theory is almost 'common sense'-- just that it doesn't seem to have been clearly articulated that way in academic circles. As such, the theory piece is less interesting, but it is not intruding and it provides a sound umbrella thesis for Collins' insights on individual traditions.
Lastly, one point about the 'data' that Collins use-- the 'maps' that link the different philosophers in networks. I think it is interesting to read (because it includes a lot of interesting names-- familiar or otherwise), but they don't really provide the 'data' on which the sociological theory can be based. I think Collins himself recognized this-- and thus his appendix about the important 'isolates' like Ibn Sina.