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A History of Western Philosophy

Written by: Bertrand Russell
Narrated by: Jonathan Keeble
Length: 38 hrs and 3 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (28 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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 Library section along with the audio.

©1945 Bertrand Russell (P)2013 Naxos AudioBooks

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    4 out of 5 stars

Great For Listening During Personal Recreation

The book follows western philosophy in a very careful and digestible way.

I listen to most of my books while running. I can often get lost or confused sometime during a couple hours of running, and I can't just flip back 30 seconds to mull it over again.This book and more importantly it's excellent reading make a near perfect listening experience for me. Jonathan Keeble's use of tone and character make any of the dialogues interesting and very straightforward to follow.

#Audible1

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating but LONG

The content of the book is great, but it's long - it is after all, the History of Western Philosophy, so it should be. I found the narration made it hard to endure. It became a monotonous drone. I may have to purchase the paper version of the book to actually get through it.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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A great introduction to western philosophy

I had always ha a curiosity about this subject matter, but could not bring myself to read a tomb about it. Also the inquiry scammed as I was intimidated by the matter. This book makes no assumption if your previous knowledge about philosophy and present the topic in a chronological order allowing you to create a solid mental picture of the evolution of philosophy. The author presents his own opinions where logical and allows the reader to form their own opinion from the information presented. The narrator is very enjoyable and his tone makes you just want to keep on listening.

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Greatest book in Audible!

I don’t write reviews very often, but I couldn’t resist this one after listening for the second time.
This book is just phenomenal, interesting and mind blowing. I can’t find words to describe how interesting and well organized it is, separated in three books ancient, medieval and to the modern times it gives you the impression that you are there living it.
Reader is simply phenomenal, I didn’t get tired of him even though is around 40 hours of listening.
Highly recommend for someone who likes Philosophy and history.

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  • Gary
  • 2013-11-21

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.


69 of 72 people found this review helpful

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  • Marcus
  • 2013-12-22

Philosophy and Social Environment

Russell’s account of philosophy is unique and controversial. On can say that he knew it. His exposition, with plenty of appreciation and critics of his own, is sometimes ironic, sometimes sarcastic. He gave to greek philosophy the attention it demands. From that he presented a fair selection of philosophers. He went until John Dewey, his contemporary. In his reflections he tried to situate each philosopher in his social environment and, for that reason, the book contains a good amount of (social) history. This is a great introduction to philosophy and its problems.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • shadowmason
  • 2014-07-27

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.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Collin
  • 2015-11-18

The Summary of My Bachelor's Degree

What made the experience of listening to A History of Western Philosophy the most enjoyable?

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.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

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.

Have you listened to any of Jonathan Keeble’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I am not familiar with Keeble, but his accent is pleasing - despite some rather interestingly pronounced words.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

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.

Any additional comments?

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.

44 of 47 people found this review helpful

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  • Strejer
  • 2015-12-06

A very good book to casually listen to

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

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.

What did you like best about this story?

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.

Why?

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.

What about Jonathan Keeble’s performance did you like?

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.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Don't make a movie from this book

Any additional comments?

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.

Cheers.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Neuron
  • 2015-12-01

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.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • nick
  • 2018-06-21

advice to non-philosophers

This book is as straight forward a read as any book could be on the complex subject of philosophy but that is not to say it is an easy read in general. Philosophy is hard and its authors easy to misinterpret. I recommend to anyone listening to this book, if you don't have a background in philosophy, use Russel as a guide but do supplementary reading of the thinkers he discusses. Without prior education you will most likely walk away from the book falsely thinking you understand these philosophers, underestimating their contributions, and having an ill conceived prejudice against them.

The title of the book is misleading. What makes this book tower above others is its ability to identify what the defining moments of philosophy were, how they define our times, and its lucid criticism of these ideas. Both in how wrong such ideas were and how some lead to destructive irrational political movements. Many books teach philosophy in the spirit of impartiality while giving no commentary. This book is not impartial.

Russel does a good job of inoculating the reader from the seductive arguments of the past and for that even a beginner should start here despite the need for extra strict. If you're just getting started with philosophy and you have the conviction to do supplementary study along with the book. This book will radically change how you think and see the world.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Matt Ranlett
  • 2016-04-06

Wonderful intro, need to go deeper on modern stuff

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

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

What other book might you compare A History of Western Philosophy to and why?

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.

Which character – as performed by Jonathan Keeble – was your favorite?

Narrator - good job

If you could give A History of Western Philosophy a new subtitle, what would it be?

Foundations for philosophical conversations

Any additional comments?

I could have used some printed materials to go with this - there is a ton here.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • erik
  • 2016-02-05

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Paul Burghardt
  • 2015-04-29

Excellent

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • J C Stares
  • 2019-04-05

The absence of plot makes this a goer

A 38-hour book on a stuffy subject seemed like a mountain to climb, but I got through Russell's masterpiece with surprisingly little effort basically because you can skip large chunks without loss of enjoyment. If the hardcore ancient Greek waffling or the mindless theological claptrap from the Middle Ages become too much, you can justifiably fall asleep or fast-forward without losing the plot, because there isn't one.
It might well happen that you then come across a chapter on a philosopher who has something to say to you (Rousseau? Byron?). That's when the magic starts.
Listening pleasure is greatly enhanced both by Russell's humour and the excellent performance of Jonathan Keeble.
Not to be missed are Russell's classic put-downs. I noted two:
"Lacking in intrinsic value" : Russell on Aristotle.
"No virtue which has its roots in fear is much to be admired" : Russell on Christianity and the concept of hell.
This guy had a bus-sized brain, and while a touch too logical to become my own hero, I'd have loved to have had a few drinks with him down the pub, if only to ask him why he had so many wives.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful