A Passion for Wisdom: A Very Brief History of Philosophy

Robert C. Solomon, Author, Kathleen M. Higgins, With Oxford University Press, USA $25 (160p) ISBN 978-0-19-511208-5
For those who like profound ideas in sound bites, these two professors of philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin offer the ideal book: 3300 years of philosophic thought compressed into 128 pages. Not that there isn't coverage of the world's major ideologies and metaphysical systems. Chinese philosophy is given one and a half pages, the Renaissance three-quarters of a page, while Aristotle is allowed two and a half pages, presumably for in-depth treatment. (In one breakthrough in scholarship we learn that Jesus stressed God's mercy and forgiveness.) The chapters all bear subtle but arresting titles such as ""Why Do Things Happen?,"" ""Who Knows?,"" ""When the Going Gets Tough,"" and ""Where To, Humanity?"" and the section headings show evidence of similar depth. ""Is There Ultimate Truth"" characterizes the reflections of Cro-Magnon people up to the American Indian, and ""Faith and Reason"" is what the 1800 years from Christ to Adam Smith are all about. The last section is titled simply ""From Modernity to Postmodernism,"" perhaps because it cannot be labeled quite as incisively, but Immanuel Kant to Malcolm X is a bit of a reach. However, there is an extensive bibliography of three pages listing one book by Russell, one by Whitehead, and six by Solomon. It's the kind of project that makes one realize how far the decline of the West has gone. As Lily Tomlin once remarked, ""No matter how cynical I get, I can't keep up with it."" (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/28/1997
Release date: 05/01/1997
Paperback - 160 pages - 978-0-19-511209-2
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