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The History of Philosophy

Written by: A. C. Grayling
Narrated by: Neil Gardner
Length: 28 hrs and 6 mins
5.0 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The first authoritative and accessible single-volume history of philosophy to cover both Western and Eastern traditions, from one of the world's most eminent thinkers

The story of philosophy is the story of who we are and why. An epic tale, spanning civilizations and continents, it explores some of the most creative minds in history. But not since the long-popular classic Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy, published in 1945, has there been a comprehensive and entertaining single-volume history of this great, intellectual, world-shaping journey.

With characteristic clarity and elegance, A. C. Grayling takes the listener from the worldviews and moralities before the age of the Buddha, Confucius, and Socrates through Christianity's capture of the European mind, from the Renaissance and Enlightenment on to Mill, Nietzsche, Sartre, and, finally, philosophy today. Bringing together these many threads that all too often run parallel, he surveys in tandem the great philosophical traditions of India, China, and the Persian-Arabic world.

Accessible for students and revelatory to enthusiasts of philosophy, Grayling's narrative brings to life the work of both famous historical figures and less well-known but influential thinkers, bridging epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics, logic, the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of language, political philosophy, and the history of debates within these areas of enquiry. He dramatizes the interchange between and within eras and epochs, making thrilling the grand dance of human thought. He asks what we have learned, but also what progress is still to be made.

Destined to be Grayling's magnum opus, and astonishing in its range and accessibility, this is a landmark work.

©2019 A. C. Grayling (P)2019 Penguin Audio

What the critics say

"Grayling presents an impressive, comprehensive catalogue of great thought and thinkers in this sweeping survey [....] 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 superb work is an indispensable resource for any “serious student of ideas.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

"Grayling offers a remarkably comprehensive history of philosophy from ancient Greece to the present. He covers not only Western philosophy but Indian, Chinese, Arabic-Persian, and African philosophy as well, and his skill as an expositor is apparent.... This work will interest readers of philosophy and intellectual history. It aims at general audiences, but scholars will also find it valuable." (Library Journal, starred review)

“A magnificent recapping of the history of philosophy, as it stands apart from theology, in the classic model of Bertrand Russell, as ‘an invitation and an entrance’.... [I]t is a delight to engage in this sweeping history of the great thinkers throughout the ages, from pre-Socratics to the present.... Grayling's accessible omnibus will provide a stepping stone for the student or novice.” (Kirkus Reviews

What listeners say about The History of Philosophy

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2020-06-27

A much needed update to Bertrand Russell's classic

Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy is one of my favorite books ever; it ignited my love for philosophy and history. It is not a perfect book however. Russell spends way too much time on Catholic philosophy for my tastes (almost 200 pages). Russell doesn't touch on any eastern philosophy, other than mentioning that the east was flourishing in philosophy, technology, and science during our middle ages. Going through the history of western philosophy for me was very exciting, but also depressing; it seemed to be a bunch of dead ends using the same tired premises that were derived by the ancient Greeks. Wonderful, refreshing ideas were happening throughout history in ancient India, China, and the middle east. A.C. Graylings books touches on all of this. Grayling has a wonderful way of wrapping complex ideas up very brief and digestible. He does talk about the middle ages, which is definitely important. I am interested in the prominent figures like Augustine and Aquinas. But he also dedicated sections to Indian, Chinese, Arabic, and even African philosophy. He admits that he is more of an observer and admirer of these philosophies rather than an expert, but he does a great job. The longest section of his book is analytical philosophy, which starts with a very robust section on Bertrand Russell himself. All in all, this a shorter, more concise version of Russell's book, with the much needed eastern philosophies, and a bigger section on analytical philosophy. Neil Gardner does a fine job narrating this book; it is no easy feat to keep a book like this engaging. My one gripe has nothing to do with the author or narrator but with Audible itself. The chapter selection is very lazy. The chapter selection on Russell's book is perfect; if I want to listen to the section on Hegel only, I can just go in a click it. Grayling's version only does this for Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. The rest of it is just broad sections such as 'Philosophy in Medieval Times,' 'Analytical Philosophy,' etc. But when you listen to them, Grayling does goes over individuals just like Russell's book, so you will hear the author say "Thomas Aquinas, " or "Bertrand Russell," etc. I would love to just be able to click on individuals I want to hear about. Analytical philosophy is 6+ hours, so I have no choice but to either just listen to the whole thing, or jump around trying to find the person I want to hear about.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2020-06-24

Good overall

Good overview of the history of philosophy, I specially enjoyed the focus, rejecting Theology as a Philosophical inquiry. I would have enjoyed it more if the bias towards Analytic philosophy wouldn't be so evident, as only a cursory overview of certain Continental thinkers was evident.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2020-08-08

Over-seasoned Meat

While the meat of the work is fantastic, the author's over-seasoned personal opinions make it hard to swallow. The book is comprehensive and covered the exact information I expected, but the author's bias is hard to ignore and makes getting through the already massive work even more difficult. It's a pretty good book that had the potential to be amazing.

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  • Paul H Aube
  • 2020-06-20

Well-rounded book of knowledge

To describe the concept of philosophy in time, place and perspective provides an all-encompassing presentation. It is a very good reference for the student, but provides plenty to the practitioner. It proves that philosophy is a human process, granted in different intensity or maturity or orientation, but it is the way to answer those “great questions”.

1 person found this helpful