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A History of Western Philosophy

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  16,356 ratings  ·  463 reviews
Nearly forty years since its first publication, A History of Western Philosophy remains unchallenged as the ultimate introduction to its subject, while claiming classic status in its own right. It is the bestselling philosophy book of the twentieth century and one of the most important philosophical works of all time. This compact and affordable paperback edition makes thi ...more
Paperback, 842 pages
Published February 1st 1984 by Counterpoint (first published 1945)
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Michael Russell doesn't engage in pedagical reflection in this book except to say that we need less religion and more science in our philosophy; instead he…moreRussell doesn't engage in pedagical reflection in this book except to say that we need less religion and more science in our philosophy; instead he presents a contextualized history of philosophy, though he wears his bias against religiously framed philosophy prominently on his shirtsleeve, and a banner on his forehead.

His theory can best be summed up as, philosophy is good when it cleaves to the scientific method in defining and answering the important questions, and bad when it veers into religious-based metaphysics to answer the same questions.(less)
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There's a throwaway remark in this book which has haunted me ever since I read it some time in the mid-70s. Russell is talking about Socrates, and he wonders if Socrates actually existed. Maybe Plato made him up.

"I don't think many people would have been able to make up Socrates," muses Russell. "But Plato could have done it."

It's hard not to continue this line of reasoning. If Socrates turns out to be fictional, who else is? And which fictional characters of today will later be accepted as hist
This is a remarkable book. Over the years I have found various reasons to look into it now and again, but have never read the whole thing. Mostly I’ve read the bits about particular philosophers: Heraclitus, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Marx for example. I hadn’t realised that ‘dipping’ in this way was missing much of the point of the book.

This is not just a history of Western Philosophy, but also a bit of a ‘how do all of the main schools of Western Philosophy fit into their culture and times'.
Ian Pagan-Szary

Bertrand Russell's History consists of 76 Chapters, almost all under 20 pages.

Each Chapter contains a summary of one major philosopher's key arguments interlaced with criticism that reflects Russell's own priorities and perspectives.

In a sense, it is one philosopher judging the work of another.

We therefore need to exercise caution in relying on Russell's methodology, perspectives and conclusions.

Apart from this reservation, I actually really enjoy his style. He is very clear and seems t
Not only is this an excellent primer on all the major Western philosophers and an impressive synthesis of the evolution of philosophic thought over a 2500-year span, it's also one of the wittier books I've ever read. I'd be quite interested to hear Bertrand Russell's thoughts on the past 65 years; I did stumble upon his remarkable final statement, written two days before his death at age 97, which shows him putting his formidable powers of rationality to work in succinctly and accurately assessi ...more
Mark Lawrence
I stole this off my father's shelves many years ago. The indications on the inside cover was that he read it in Finland in 1959 - I think he once missed a train there and the next one wasn't for a week.

It's true that this is in many respects a heavy, dry, and testing read. On the other hand it's full of interesting anecdotes about the philosophers themselves, from the earliest of ancient Greeks to Russell's contemporaries in the 20th century. And Russell, a mathematician of the highest order as
Russell's History of Philosophy is a good little introduction to a massive field. His biases will be a problem for those who are aligned with the ones he critiques. This is because he frequently lets his biases cloud his thinking. For example, he writes,

"So little is known of him [Leucippus] that Epicurus (a later follower of Democritus) was thought to have denied his existence all together, and some moderns have revived this theory. There are, however, a number of allusions to him in Aristotle,
Dylan Popowicz
At first it seems impressive that a single individual could accumulate such a vast understanding of Werstern Philosophy from Thales to Dewey. At first it seems that the work is well researched, objective, and only humorously judgemental at times. . . And for the first five-hundred pages these feelings seem to preside. Yet, when Russell reaches what, to me, is the important period of Philosophy, namely the modern period from the Rennaisance till the present, I find that Russell's analysis of each ...more
For someone like myself, without much of a proper background in Philosophy (most of my knowledge comes from what I learned in school, which isn't that much anyway, mostly lacking in regards to the newer stuff; Bergson, William James, John Dewey...) I'll say this is a very complete book. The way Mr Russell sets up the historic timeline I found it quite useful to help tighten-up or associate the different mentioned philosophers, explaining in what ways they influenced each other. He accomplishes t ...more
Ray Monk
"A History of Western Philosophy remains unchallenged as the perfect introduction to its subject. Russell...writes with the kind of verve, freshness and personal engagement that lesser spirits would never have permitted themselves. This boldness, together with the astonishing breadth of his general historical knowledge, allows him to put philosophers into their social and cultural context... The result is exactly the kind of philosophy that most people would like to read, but which only
This is of course an analytic philosopher's history of western philosophy, which means that Russell presupposes that there is a single rational goal which all philosophers are seeking to reach through collective progress. Unfortunately, philosophy is not mathematics, nor is it science. Russell's account is sometimes troubling, sometimes funny, as he methodically points out every logical error in the Ancient Greeks, the rationalists, the empiricists, etc. The notion of progress as it pertains to ...more
Jared Colley
This book is invaluable to me. I first read it as a high schooler & young college student, and I have never stopped reading it since. This has served as a resource/reference for countless various reasons. Mr. Russell offers a pretty comprehensive account of Western, intellectual history here, but he also provides erudite commentary on almost all major philosophers & philosophies of the Western tradition. The only reason I give this 4 and not 5 stars is Mr. Russell's glaring ommission of ...more
I enjoyed this a bit too much. The History of Western Philosophy is exactly my kind of book, and so this review will be biased.

This, however, illustrates my first point. One’s opinion of this work will largely depend on one’s opinion of Russell. This is because he frequently injects his views, ideas, and opinions into the text. I happen to love the guy; I’m sure reactions will differ.

In this history, Russell does not entirely succeed in his stated goal. What he was trying to do was to firmly sit
This book is really a fantasitic work! I really like the cover. A broad way to the western philosophy! I bought this book last week, and fell in love with it suddenly. I have read it many times already. The book is divided by three parts, ancient philosophy, catholic philosophy, and modern philosophy. I love 'the schoolmen' best. By the way, the table of contents is very nice, too.
Many histories of philosophy exist, and it has not been my purpose merely to add one to their number. My purpose is
There is no doubt that Russell ignores some important elements in the history of western thought in his History of Western Philosophy. I am not as much annoyed as some who consider this book worthless for that matter. I may be biased toward him and the importance he gives to the scientific method in considering the various schools of philosophy. He obviously aims at a philosophy based on the scientific knowledge acquired at his time. However, I see it somewhat unfair to totally ignore some figur ...more
This is the mother of all books!

This tome was apparently dictated by Bertrand Russell to his secretary during his lecture trips in America as he traveled by train across the country in the 1920s.

It is witty, provocative, profound, and informative all at the same time.

If you want to know what genius is, then read this book. It is the encapsulation of the entire philosophical thoughts of the western world, written (well, dictated) in the most engaging way possible. Need I say more?

Read it.

I first read this book when I was an undergrad after devouring Russell's compact and excoriating compilation of essays titled Why I am not a Christian which, for first year philosophy students, serves as a pretty compelling account for why religious belief is not only harmful but woefully inadequate for addressing most of the serious issues that face humanity in the modern world. It was just nice to read somebody who talked sense and could write about complicated issues in a reasonably intelligi ...more
A very subjective history of philosophy. Russell makes it very clear what he thinks of every philosopher mentioned and it's not very hard to see who he likes and who he dislikes.

The first part of the book on Ancient Philosophy I thought was excellent and very fascinating. The variety of thought and ideas here was really incredible and made for very easy and interesting reading throughout. In fact, once I had finished Russell's examination of Plato I decided to read three of Plato's dialogues, a
Paul 'Pezski' Perry
Apr 06, 2012 Paul 'Pezski' Perry rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone iterested in ideas and great writing
In this wonderfully wide-ranging, intelligent and humane book Russell not only introduces the most important philosophers and philosophies from the ancient Greeks onward (in the Western tradition, that is, he alludes occasionally to oriental traditions where they influence western philosophy, but on the whole they are outside his remit), he gives the historical and social context from which the philosophies rose. I found this to be particularly valuable; my modern mind often has difficulty how s ...more
Mar 17, 2008 Richard rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs, pastors, aspiring intelligensia
Reading Bertrand Russell was a great surprise because his writing is so clear. He relates philosophers to their cultural contexts, an idea overused today, but Russell acheives a balance between philosophy as a mere expression of culture versus philosophy as having claims we can test and which we must take into account. Some surprising chapters include figures not usually reckoned as philosophers- Lord Byron, most notably- but included for their influence on the history of thought. His taxonomy o ...more
howl of minerva
Entertaining but unreliable introduction.
My introduction to Western Philosophy, an overview of some twenty-five hundred years of thought about what constitutes existence and the best manner for man to conduct himself whilst a part of a grand metaphysical theatre. Russell makes a perfect guide, combining a deft and engrossing gift for writing with a warm humanity, impressive erudition, and the ability to impart remarkable clarity to what can, in other hands, be very complex and abstruse subject matter. While I have come to believe his j ...more
This is fucking huuuuge. The subject as well. If you think Rome was wicked, just wait and see what happens after Christ. To go through Christianity and the Dark Ages was dreadful, let alone live it. But as philosophers come closer to our times it gets more and more interesting, familiar but not necessary easier to comprehend. I still could not summarize what Kant and Hegel are all about and probably I lack the curiosity to ever will.

"A History of Western Philosophy" is exactly what the title say
Fil Krynicki
This one was a marathon. I finished six weeks to the day from taking the book out from the library. At times, it was captivating. At other times, it put me to sleep. For some philosophers, I now know with some clarity their philosophy, parts of their lives and their fallacies. For others, I can remember not much more than that they existed, at a certain time, and were either Catholic or not (hint - the prefix "Saint" implies a Catholic bent).

In the end, the book enlightened me as to the difficul
Finally! It took several months, but I finally finished. And this book was worth every minute. It's the best history of philosophy I've read. Not that I have read enough histories to determine that this is the best out there. But I have read a few which I can compare it to. Many histories of philosophy are far too simplistic, written at a level appropriate for a junior high student. I tried to break away from that type by reading Frederick Coppleston's history, but that was over-correcting the p ...more
a very comprehensive history that ranges from the pre-socratics to the early 20th century (ending with bergson and dewey)-- the history needs to be taken for what it's worth (russell doesn't really try to hide his prejudices and he gets less objective as he nears his present time; nietzsche and marx do not get fair consideration at all), but it is an extremely helpful tool for chronological and conceptual organization and i wish i'd have come to it sooner-- philosophy, as it exists in my mind, i ...more
تاريخ الفلسفة الغربية لبرتراند راسل ، بأجزائه الثلاثة ،
الفلسفة اليونانية ،
وفلسفة العصور الوسطي،
والفلسفة الحديثة
من أهم الكتب لدارسي الفلسفة ، ويمكن القول إنه لا غني عنها ، فانت هنا تعرف تاريخ الفسلفة بقلم فيلسوف
والذي يشرح لك الفلسفة فيلسوف
والذي يؤرخ وينقد ويحاورك فيلسوف
تخيل حين تفهم أفكار الفلاسفة بفكر فيلسوف
أكثر من رائع ، خاصة في ظل اسلوب رسل السهل والمتواضع أيضاً
فنراه يعترف في الكتاب أن نظرية الزمان والمكان لكانط صعبة الفهم
وأنه نفسه عاني ليفهمها
The book falls apart as soon as it gets to the modern philosophy, but I really enjoyed the parts on the more obscure pieces of philosophy (pre-socrates and post-aristotle to Descartes).
Steven L.
A fabulous read. Certainly a bit dated, however for a nice overview of the main threads in philosophy up to Hegel and a smattering after, this was delightful. Russell takes great care in embedding philosophical movements in their historical context which is for the most part well done and still relevant. He is witty, opinionated, selective, and insightful. Interesting that he excluded his former student Wittgenstein (who by all accounts he adored even though they disagreed profoundly) and includ ...more
Mahmoud Ashour


Russell exhibited the history of philosophy in chronological order, All the way from Thales to his own personal philosophy (the philosophy of logical analysis).

He divided the history of western philosophy into three book.

BOOK 1 Ancient Philosophy
From Thales to Plotinius
Plotinius was very unclear for me I almost did not understand any of his ideas.

BOOK 2 Catholic Philosophy
from John the Scott to the Franciscan schoolmen

BOOK 3 Modern Philosophy
from Machialvilli to John Dewey

The author d
Every once in a while a book comes along that neatly fits everything into place. This is one of those books for me. Prior to reading Bertrand Russell's The History of Western Philosophy I had at best a fragmented picture of Western philosophy. The problem is one I do not generally encounter in my other interests. In philosophy the names of intellectual giants are treated as being as important as good ideas.

It is not enough to remember an idea. Often you must also recall whose idea it was, and ho
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Classics and the ...: Philosophy 8 67 Jan 14, 2015 07:30PM  
  • Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
  • A Treatise of Human Nature
  • A History of Philosophy 1: Greece and Rome
  • The Oxford Companion to Philosophy
  • The Open Society and Its Enemies, Volume 1 : The Spell of Plato
  • The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas that Have Shaped Our World View
  • Practical Ethics
  • Wittgenstein's Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers
  • Complete Works
  • From a Logical Point of View: Nine Logico-Philosophical Essays
  • Language, Truth, and Logic
  • A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge
  • Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy
  • The Story of Philosophy
  • On Liberty
  • Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature
  • Confessions of a Philosopher: A Personal Journey Through Western Philosophy from Plato to Popper
Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS, was a Welsh philosopher, historian, logician, mathematician, advocate for social reform, pacifist, and prominent rationalist. Although he was usually regarded as English, as he spent the majority of his life in England, he was born in Wales, where he also died.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1950 "in recognition of his var
More about Bertrand Russell...
Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects The Problems of Philosophy The Conquest of Happiness Religion and Science In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays

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“A stupid man's report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.” 358 likes
“To teach how to live without certainty, and yet without being paralyzed by hesitation, is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy, in our age, can still do for those who study it.” 325 likes
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