Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy serves as the perfect introduction to its subject; it remains unchallenged as the greatest account of the history of Western thought. Charting philosophy's course from the pre-Socratics up to the early twentieth century, Russell relates each philosopher and school to their respective historical and cultural contexts, providing erudite commentary throughout his invaluable survey. This engaging and comprehensive work has done much to educate and inform generations of general readers; it is written in accessible and elegantly crafted prose and allows for an easy grasp of complex ideas.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.
©1945 Bertrand Russell (P)2013 Naxos AudioBooks
This book came from Bertrand Russell's war time lectures in the US for the Barnes Foundation. Because they started out as lectures, it works well as an audio book.
I particularly enjoyed the early chapters on Pythagoras and other pre-Socratic philosophers. Russell's characteristic wit shines through in many places, my favourite quote is his suggestion that Pythagoras was a mixture of Einstein and Mrs Eddy.
I am studying Philosophy at the Open University and found this account very interesting. It gives the background, personal details of philosophers which makes it come alive and memorable. It was a long listen but well worth the effort and I might very well listen to it again.
Equal, it is nice to have it read but I also have the book. The audio did help to pronounce some of the odd words. I would suggest reading it and having it read aloud would help with understanding the different philosophies.
It was a history of Western Philosophy!
A beautiful summary of main philosophical ideas. Very well read. I bought the printed book first but found it too long. The audiobook allowed me to listen at times when I had to do manual jobs.
History of thought.
The sheer scope of this work is more than I would have sat down to read, but listening to it and learning about the history of philosophy and how it helped build the way the West views the world, the universe, itself, culture, science and art is more than I expected.
At 38 hours long, it would have taken some effort to listen to it one sitting. However, I did listen to it in large chunks of 4-6 hours at a time, which gives some idea of how interesting I found it.
This is the first of its kind that I have read, so is worth remembering it is Bertrand Russell's view and comes out of his own world view, though does well to treat fairly viewpoints that differ from his own. As far as sources go, Russell is excellent, but I would be curious how others have tackled the topic.
Not an appropriate question.
Not an appropriate question.
There are some brilliant lecturers out there on audible and there are many engrossing and well structured courses on philosophy but they cannot compare to Russell. He is a master teacher who grasps the breadth of subject and makes it his own as a philosopher himself. Not easy and perhaps caught in its time but still an incomparable guide to western philosophy. It should be read by everyone who wants to ponder these things ... Well read too.
Expertly addresses editorial biases created by political and religious overlaps. So well narrated that you forget that you are not reading the book yourself. Makes for a useful reference book in the future.
This is a history of Western philosophy in relation to the changing social and political climate through the ages. The conclusion is that philosophers are mainly a product of their times, and politics and society are only shaped in a small part by philosophy.
Aside from the descriptions of philosophy in relation to historical events, the emphasis is mainly on metaphysics and epistemology, ie those aspects of philosophy that are now mainly the domain of the sciences. Where it does touch upon ethics the book is somewhat dated, especially with regard to Atistotle's virtue ethics, which barely get a mention despite their importance in modern philosophy.
Nevertheless this is a highly informative account of philosophy's social history. Most entertaining perhaps is the brilliant and scathing chapter on Nietzsche, in which Russell places the German philosopher in a dialogue with Buddha. And the account of the hereditary principle with regard to economics remains even today a fascinating and relevant insight.
A special mention must go to Jonathan Keeble and his brilliant reading throughout. He perfectly distills Russell's humour throughout, adding a tone of witty irreverence to the book. He also takes every opportunity to show off his acting chops; the Frankenstein's Monster excerpts were particularly entertaining.
Worth a listen if you have 38 hours to spare! Though perhaps worth it just for certain chapters, particularly, Pythagoras, The Hellenistic Period, Spinoza, and especially Nietzsche.
A family doctor listening to books while walking to work in London
The book has an antiquated and slightly parochial feel to it. The latter few chapters feature philosophers which might have ranked as being important in the 1930s when this was written but no longer seem so. The strongest sections to my mind are the sections of the classical Greek philosophers and the closer to modernity we get the less interesting Russell. His tone and style is authoritative and imperious and of its time. The proximity to the wars of the 20th century and also the preeminence of state dictatorships added some piquancy to some of his comments and insights. These reflections are sometimes interesting at other times less so.
Jonathan Keeble reads the book well. I have not listened to any other performances.
Overall this is a long listen, narrated well, but suffering from its old-fashioned format and the mathematical bent of Russell as a philosopher. As it misses many great modern philosophers and thinkers and covers giants like Marx only very superficially, I don't think I can recommend the numbers of hours needed to soldier on through it.
"Works on all levels"
There doesn't seem to be a wasted section in this book because all the pieces seem to tie together from early to modern times. The author will first tell you the relevant history and social conditions at the time and how they went about influencing the philosophy he's going to discuss.
You get a really interesting peak into the mindset of a writer during the end of WW II. The author would often bring in the Germans (Nazis) and Japanese and how what he is telling you is relevant to what was going on in the world at the time he wrote the book. Those parts of the books alone are worth reading the whole book.
There was one part of the book during the discussion of Plato when I got overwhelmed, because he kept going on and on and soon as I was understanding one part he'd go on to another part and I wanted to stop listening. I'm glad I didn't, because what he does next is introduce another philosopher by saying how the philosopher disagreed with Plato for the following reasons and then I would start to understand what Plato really meant. It's like studying math. One doesn't really understand the algebra until one learns the calculus and so on.
The book covers a lot, but I retain major parts of it. For example, I remember that Hegel believed that you couldn't understand the part without understanding the whole universe (uncle doesn't exist without nephew), and Marx's class struggle comes from Hegel's ideas about nations and so on.
The narrator does a superb job.
The book is also interesting for another reason. It might be my last foray into a grand survey of philosophy because it does such a good job. As the book preceded through out time, I realized the role of philosophy was getting smaller and smaller as the role of science (and math) was getting larger and larger. The book goes a long way towards showing me how much more important science has become, and how less important philosophy is.
I usually listen to science books, but this book did fill in some gaps for me and I highly recommend it even for lovers of science books.
"The Summary of My Bachelor's Degree"
The reminder of each of the greatest philosophers most influential ideas. While I hold a bachelors degree in the subject, this reminder was an enjoyable return to a time when I had left Plato's cave to see more than just shadows on a wall.
The Historical background information, though interesting, tended to be longer than I had anticipated. However, in the grand scheme of the book, it turned out to shed wonderful light on the pillars on which platforms each mentioned philosopher stood. Most compelling, however, was the summation of each philosophers contributions to the whole, while giving just enough detail to whet one's appetite to read more about each.
I am not familiar with Keeble, but his accent is pleasing - despite some rather interestingly pronounced words.
There are several embedded jokes for both newcomers to philosophy and veterans of the subject. The Orphic denial of beans in the diet, for instance, is treated by Russell with as much humor as one would expect for such silly nonsense.
During my bachelors degree, philosophy was divided into four sections of historical classes (ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary), Metaphysics I and II, Ethics, two seminars, and Logic - all of which are tested in the final comprehensive exam. This one book encompasses all four historical, Metaphysics I and II, Ethics, and easily also a minor in history, and misses only symbolic logic. While some may argue that this book is no substitute for a classical college education, I would say that an intent listener, who pauses to reflect between chapters and eagerly reads more on each subject he or she finds of particular interest, would gain just as much true knowledge as I did in four years of University. Especially since they would have listened to these lecture much less hungover than I did.
"An Insightful Work"
The book traces the history of philosophy's tought from the presocratics to John Dewey. Bertrand Russell presents the ideas of majors thinkers of the period and the social enviroment in which they live and work. The author discuss the diverse concepts and gives his reasons of agreement and/or disagreement. The narration of Jonathan Keeble is good and has distinct emphasis that help the listener/reader understanding of the work. Definitely an insightful reading in philosophy's field.
"I'm not a Philosophy Major"
This is interesting, educational, and well performed. Love how it interweaves western history,philosopher lives, and philosophy into one entertaining and informative blend. GREAT BOOK. I did whispersync which I am sure helped. Annotated portions that I could review at a later date.
"Better used as a reference"
Bertrand Russell is one of my favorite philosophers. Many other philosophers are, at least to me, incomprehensible. I often don’t understand their arguments and their conclusions seem to come from out of the blue. What I like about Russell is his clarity in explaining philosophical arguments, his own as well as others, in something that at least resembles pure English.
In this extremely ambitious book, Russell goes through pretty much all of western (and some eastern) philosophy. As he moves from one philosophical epoch to the next, he always sets the scene by describing the historical context that helps the reader understand where the ideas came from.
After describing the historical context, and the resulting philosophical ideas he critiques the ideas, explaining their weaknesses as well as their strengths. I don't know if it is because he is a clear thinker or a good communicator, but he his critique of philosophical ideas seem to make sense. For a philosopher, Russell also seems relatively humble. He does not, like certain other philosophers dismiss the scientific endeavour as just imperfect empiricism. Of course, being a logician he does not dismiss deductions either. For an amateur philosopher such as myself, he comes across as balanced.
Having said that, it is hard to stay focused throughout the book, and I would recommend using it more as a companion reference book if you are taking a course in philosophy. So read it, but maybe not all at once.
Remarkably insightful and still well worth Reading. The boom relates philosophical position to the time and circumstances. It gives philosophy an unavoidable place next to science.
"Wonderful intro, need to go deeper on modern stuff"
This is a great introduction and I really like the analysis of what's going on in the world at the time of the philosopher's activity. I also like the fact that the author wrote this book 70+ years ago, asking contemporary questions we can see answers to
This is a survey course in history and like most histories it spends so much time on the ancient past that the recent past and present are sparsely covered.
Narrator - good job
Foundations for philosophical conversations
I could have used some printed materials to go with this - there is a ton here.
"An excellent book, brilliantly narrated!"
Other than his one-dimensional and unfair assessment of Nietzche, which was no doubt a product of the propaganda of the time in which this book was written, Russell delivers a beautiful and highly entertaining portrait of Western thought. This book does far more than simply expound the thoughts of philosophers; it teaches philosophy in a manner that only a genuine philosopher could. In that regard I found it far more compelling than any course or lecture series. The 38 hours of listening time flew by and I was sad when it ended.
"A very good book to casually listen to"
Having listened to all this, I have to say I am going to recommend it to anyone who wants to get a birds' eye view of philosophy from antiquity to the modern times, up ww2.
I don't mean strictly birds' eye, there are areas where Betrand Russel goes in quite the detail and offers you insight into the mind of many philosophers throughout the ages. I especially like it when he describes the thoughts of the ancients and medieval scholars and philosophers.
owever, I do have one thing to complain about in regards to Bertrand Russell and that is that by the end of the video, the biases have gotten the better of him. He is an internationalist, a socialist (not in the american sense, and I don't mean it in a bad way either) and has certain opinions that color his views. These things become more clear as he gets into the more recent philosophers though one can spot them when discussing the "4 doctors of the Church" and other medieval and Renaissance scholars. So this is a fair warning to people who would listen to this audio book, keep in mind and don't let his bias become yours. Don't let his personal interjections color your views. But more importantly, don't let this put you off from enjoying and listening to this wonderful audio book cover to cover.
Because once you went through it, you can and will be able to find your footing and know what you want to learn about more. Maybe his comments on Descartes sparked your interest. Maybe his descriptions of Pythagoras' quite curious world view made you giggle and laugh and want to go out and explore other curiosities and absurdities that people believed. And so on and so forth.
As for the reader, I have to say, it was brilliant. Johnathan Keeble does so much for the book. He immerses himself and you in the book and what he says, acts out the scenes, respects punctuation and gives life and meaning and joy in listening to this audio book.
Don't make a movie from this book
Yes, as I said, while Bertrand Russells' views color his opinions and his bias becomes evident when speaking about the more recent philosophers, he doesn't really try and conceal it, or try and persuade you that his view is the correct one. So don't let his bias become yours. Get the information and the benefit of listening to so you can find your footing in the world of philosophy and know for what you want to go for next.
"Philosophy according to Bertie"
Russell's analysis of the highlights of Western intellectual history is insightful and Keeble's narration makes it an enjoyable learning opportunity.
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