The History of Philosophy

A.C. Grayling. Penguin Press, $35 (704p) ISBN 978-1-9848-7874-8
Grayling (The God Argument), founder of London’s New College of the Humanities, presents an impressive, comprehensive catalogue of great thought and thinkers in this sweeping survey. Focusing on Western philosophy (a concluding section sketches Indian, Chinese, African, and Arabic- and Persian-language philosophical traditions), the volume chronologically surveys significant thinkers—including, but not limited to, Plato, Aristotle, and Kant, who emerge here as the foremost figures—and enlivens discussions of their schooling, influences, and arguments with judiciously applied anecdote, such as how Thomas Aquinas’s brothers smuggled a prostitute into his room in a (futile) attempt to stem his religious fervor. Overviews on related schools of thought are equally enlightening, clearly distinguishing, for instance, between Stoic and Epicurean philosophies of early Rome, 19th-century movements like positivism and pragmatism, and the 20th century’s diverging analytic and Continental schools. Perhaps Grayling’s greatest strength lies in his ability to categorize, contrast, and clarify complex ideas, such as Plato’s theory of forms and Kant’s categorical imperative. Elegant, clear, and precise, Grayling’s sweep through “the principal areas of enquiry” distills philosophy to its main concerns: discerning the nature of reality, the principles of sound society, and how to live a good life. Clearly outlining “the little patch of light” that he pictures as comprising human knowledge, Grayling’s superb work is an indispensable resource for any “serious student of ideas.” (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 08/16/2019
Release date: 11/05/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 682 pages - 978-1-9848-7875-5
Paperback - 704 pages - 978-1-9848-7876-2
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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