Christopher Blosser's Reviews > Ancient Philosophy

Ancient Philosophy by Anthony Kenny
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Jan 22, 11

Read from January 15 to 22, 2011

A little over a decade after college and wanting to "brush up" (background reading before plunging into some individual works) I was in search of a good history of philosophy. One can always rely on Fr. Copleston's 11-volume history, but between the demands of job and fatherhood I needed something more manageable -- and after finishing the first volume, I believe I've found it.

The first hundred pages present a chronological history of ancient philosophy -- the pre-Socratics, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and the various schools thereafter. The remainder of the book is then broken out into more substantial and stimulating treatments of individual subjects: "Logic", "Epistemology", "Physics, "Metaphysics", "Soul and Mind" and "God" which allow for better comparison/contrast of various positions.

Reminiscent of reading Roger Scruton, Kenny's personality comes through in his characteristically dry English commentary -- as in the following discussion of Plato's description of the soul in the Phaedrus:

"Think of it, he says, as a triad: a charioteer with a pair of horses, one good and one bad, driving towards a heavenly banquet (246b). The good horse strives upwards while the bad horse constantly pulls the chariot downards. The horses are clearly meant to represent the two different parts of the soul, but their exact functions are never made clear. Plato applies his analogy mainly in the course of setting out the lineaments of his ideal philosophical type of homoerotic love. When we reach the point where we have a man and a boy and four horses all in bed together, the metaphor has obviously got quite out of hand. The anatomy of the soul is more soberly described in the Republic. ..."

All in all I'm sufficiently motivated to check out the remaining 3 volumes.
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01/15/2011 page 196

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