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A History of Western Philosophy & its Connection with Political & Social Circumstances from the Earliest Times to the Present Day

4.05  ·  Rating Details  ·  19,091 Ratings  ·  562 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 th ...more
Paperback, 848 pages
Published August 14th 1993 by Routledge (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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Riku Sayuj

A Critical (& Patronizing) Survey of Western Philosophy

Russell is consistently opinionated throughout his presentation and it might confuse some of the readers that he is so casual in writing off some of the major philosophers and their key ideas. This is because the book is not a mere history of philosophy, a mere account of ideas, by any stretch. Instead it is a critical survey, a long catalogue of what Russell agrees and disagrees with among all the major doctrines. The format followed is
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
Jul 02, 2009 Trevor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
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'.
Mark Lawrence
Mar 10, 2016 Mark Lawrence rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Ian Vinogradus

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
Jul 14, 2011 Bram rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 10, 2015 Mahdi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
کتاب رو با ترجمه ی نجف دریابندری خوندم. ترجمه خیلی خوب بود، هر چند گاهی جملات قابل فهم نبود، که نمیدونم مشکل از قصور فهم من بود یا از ترجمه.

تاریخ انتقادی فلسفه
اسم درست این کتاب، "تاریخ انتقادی فلسفه" است، نه "تاریخ فلسفه". هر فصل از کتاب، تقسیم شده به دو قسمت: قسمت کوتاه (و گاه نارسای) نخست، به معرفی اجمالی بخشی (و نه تمام) از فلسفه ی فیلسوف خاص میپردازه. قسمت بلند و مفصل دوم، به انتقاد از فلسفه ش. هر چند خیلی این انتقادها دقیق و لذت بخش بودن، (مخصوصاً با نثرِ گاه طنز آمیز کتاب که نمی دونم کار ر
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
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
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,
Oct 07, 2008 Mr. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Dec 23, 2007 Adam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Ahmad Sharabiani
شرح نقادانه «تاریخ فلسفه» در غرب، از هزاره اول پیش از میلاد مسیح، تا اواسط قرن بیستم میلادی. «نجف دریابندری» در مقدمه ی خود بر کتاب مینویسد: «احساس خواننده ی تاریخ «راسل»، همانند احساس جوان کنجکاوی ست، که همراه پدر ستیهنده و زبان آور خود به دیدار بزرگان تاریخ تفکر میرود، و به گفت و گوی پرحرارت پدر با آنها گوش میدهد؛ و بسیار چیزها - چه از باب معلومات فلسفی و چه از باب شیوه های جدل - میآموزد.». تاریخ فلسفه ی غرب، بازنویس سلسله درس هایی ست که «راسل» از 1940 تا 1943 در آمریکا داده بود که در تابستان ...more
Ahmad Ardy
Lewat buku ‘History of Western Philosophy’ ini, Bertrand Russel berjaya ‘mencari gaduh’ dengan semua pengikut-pengikut mana-mana mazhab falsafah. Aku merujuk di sini kepada gaya Russell mendekati subjek-subjek kajian beliau; Russell akan bermula dengan bercerita tentang biografi ringkas faylasuf tersebut, diikuti dengan latar zaman, karya-karya definitif faylasuf tersebut, garis-garis besar pemikiran beliau, diikuti dengan kritikan Russell terhadap faylasuf tersebut. Kaedah diskursif sebegini be ...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
Cassandra Kay Silva
Apr 12, 2015 Cassandra Kay Silva rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
I much preferred "The Dream of Reason" as a philosophical overview to this one. To be honest they are both subjective and fairly biased views of historical philosophy but I just prefer Gotliebs bias more! I don't know what that says about me, perhaps I should be looking for something more objective but I don't know if I want objective anyway. Russell focuses a bit too much on the matching up of philosophers to their works and not as much as he says he was going to on how that relates to society. ...more
Jul 28, 2012 Carlo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 24, 2007 Animesh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

Sep 08, 2014 Sophia_yang rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 17, 2015 Nahed.E rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: للدراسة
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
Mar 17, 2008 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  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
Mar 05, 2015 howl of minerva rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, philosophy
Entertaining but unreliable introduction.
Jose Gaona
Apr 03, 2015 Jose Gaona rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: no-ficción

(...) Si nos atenemos a los criterios al uso, la obra de Russell podría ser considerada severamente defectuosa. Su descompensación temática le hace tener piernas esbeltas pero carentes de fuerza allí donde la filosofía moderna toma el protagonismo, una barriga cervecera digna de cualquier abadía medieval allí donde se trata la filosofía católica, y una joroba sobredimensionada en todo lo concerniente a la filosofía antigua. Y por si fuera poco, a veces pec
Paul  Perry
Apr 06, 2012 Paul Perry rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Read this right after undergraduate when I was all jazzed about going through with a Dphil. Have nothing intelligent to say about it, but I remember enjoying it. Now that I've read some Russell I'd be interested in re-reading to account for his bias. It's on the list and I'll get to it in the next 10 years or so.

In the meantime, just read Lotz's review on this.
Viji Sarath (Bookish endeavors)
As a book,this one is excellent. It tells about different philosophical ideas and philosophers with their socio-political background. You get to see how or why a philosopher said so,what in his life inspired him or her. But as a book on philosophy,this lacks content. You will see things about philosophy in this book,but not any real philosophy. I felt dejected because I had high expectations.
Roderick Vincent
Jul 27, 2016 Roderick Vincent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great introduction to all of the heavy weight philosophers. The last chapter summed up well why Russell had the habit of crushing each of the philosophers in turn throughout the book. Certainly some spankings were in order. Russell had a great mind, and this book had an interesting historical accompaniment along with each summary. (Spoiler) He was not a fan of Nietzsche.
Jan 30, 2016 Manab rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
পুরাই টাইম টরাভেল।
লরড রাসেলের সেনস অফ আয়রনি আমার দেখা সবচে ভয়ংকরগুলির একটা। পলেটোর কবি ভাললাগে না, এইটা বলতে গিয়ে তিনি যেই রেফারেনস টানছেন, এবং সেইনট সিরিলের তিনি যেই বরণনা একসবরে দিয়ে গেছেন, বা উবারমেনশ, বা উইলিয়াম জেমস ইসযুতে, অদভূত। একটা ননফিকশন লেখার জোরে বোধহয় এর চে ইনটারেসটিং হয় না।
অযারিসটারকাসের কথা বলতে বলতে নেপো, পৃথিবীর সব পরানতে টমাস অযাকুইনাস, টাইম টরাভেল, সপেইস টরাভেল, সে যে কী সপেসটাইম। পলিটিকস একটা বড় জায়গা জুড়ে ছিলো, শেষে গিয়ে, যত আগাইছে, তিনি তত পারসোনালি ইনভলভড হয়ে পড়ছেন, নিজের
Apr 04, 2016 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading about the history of philosophy is my favorite hobby and it took me several months to scrutinize this B. Russel narration of western philosophy (though there were some hints about Avicenna and some other non-western philosophers as well). The book is written in a way as if you are sitting next to Mr. Russel and he is talking to you about what he knows of philosophy and of course, he displays traces of his own biases in what he recounts. However, he insists on having a scientific approach ...more
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Philosophy Books ...: * Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy Forum 9 31 Jan 02, 2016 03:37PM  
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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
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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.” 543 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.” 386 likes
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