Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Short History of PhilosophyA Short History of Philosophy by Robert C. Soloman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This will not be a review of the book per se, for the simple reason that I am not qualified to do so adequately. I have studied a little classical philosophy at university, but that was years back. I am interested in philosophy, but hardly have the level of expertise needed to do an adequate review. So instead I will limit myself to what I liked, and what I disliked.

There are two main areas of philosophy that intrigue me at the moment: pre-Socratic Greek philosophy and medieval Scholasticism. Both do not seem to be dealt with in any depth of understanding that I would expect from professors of philosophy at a major university. For instance, when discussing Thales we are helpfully told that Thales did not really think that the world was literally made out of water. Well, no shit. Fortunately, the section on Scholasticism is a little more satisfying in its treatment of figures like Abelard and Duns Scotus.

Throughout the book makes forays into non-Western philosophy to provide a balance and make it more of a worldwide overview. On the one hand, this is useful. On the other hand, these sections are necessarily overly perfunctory, especially the sections on Indian philosophy. The latter has such a rich philosophical history and really needs a book length overview of its own. I would much rather that the authors had stuck to western philosophy. As it is, the book has a self-consciously "look how multicultural I am!" feel to it, especially in the later sections, which was more irritating than informative.

On the other hand, the book did hit all the major figures of western philosophy from Plato to Wittgenstein, so is valuable to anyone needing an overview, such as myself. As such, although I only gave it two stars (as "It was OK"), I would still recommend it.

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