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A Little History of Philosophy

(Little History)

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  7,922 ratings  ·  818 reviews
Philosophy begins with questions about the nature of reality and how we should live. These were the concerns of Socrates, who spent his days in the ancient Athenian marketplace asking awkward questions, disconcerting the people he met by showing them how little they genuinely understood. This engaging book introduces the great thinkers in Western philosophy and explores th ...more
Hardcover, 252 pages
Published October 25th 2011 by Yale University Press
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Lucy Whitaker
Dec 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I'm a Philosophy student and my teacher recommended this book as she is a fan of Warburton. It's extremely clear and accessible - a true enjoyment for beginners and philosophy veterans alike!

I particularly enjoyed how he linked the theories together (Brentham to Mill, Mill to Russell etc) so one could clearly see where each philosopher fit into the grand scheme of things.

Reading this book I also discovered new Philosophers I hadn't come across in my class and my next step is to go onto readi
Alec Rogers
Jan 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Reading Nigel Warburton’s A Little History of Philosophy makes me appreciate even more (if that is possible) EH Gombrich’s A Little History of the World. In about 300 pages, Gombrich relayed just about every event of significance in world history in an erudite, extraordinarily humane way. His book has been in print for so long and in so many languages, it has inspired an attempt to do the same for philosophy. Unfortunately, Warburton’s efforts fall short in many respects, despite providing a del ...more
Wiebke (1book1review)
This was an easy to understand and informative overview of philosophers and their ideas. I especially liked how each chapter/philosopher connected to the next. And how despite the amount of information it never felt over my head or confusing.
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you want a clear understanding of many major philosophical ideas and the context their authors were writing in, this is an excellent book to work with.
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a cool little history.

This is about one person after another thinking hard about stuff, with helpful little thumbnail sketches of the conclusions they came up with. It was also interesting to see how they influenced one another like billiard balls knocking together across the ages.

After reading this, I find that I still don’t like Nietzsche, but I did find John Stuart Mill to be very likeable.
This book didn't work for me. There were two philosophers in the entire book that I wasn't familiar with already, and the ones that were covered were covered in a very facile, superficial way. I know enough about a couple of them--like Hume and the stoics--to know that the treatment in this book missed their most interesting / important ideas and/or got their basic outlook wrong. That's kind of sad. Especially when a non-philosopher can do such a better job contextualizing these folks. (See Nich ...more
Oct 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A great aerial view of western philosophy. Neither too much nor too little.

The author is great at putting really complex ideas into short, accessible chapters.

I think it’s a great starting point to decide which philosophies you want to delve further into.
Dec 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
An awesome "little" account of the history of Western philosophy. It makes a good introduction to those who intend to walk into this exciting world of philosophy, It's a refreshment of philosophical thoughts to those who are more familiar with the concepts. However, don't expect too much of deep philosophical discussions since it's not the goal of this book as the title suggests. I liked learning more about the 20th c. philosophy. A. j. Ayer was interesting, and Russell was brilliant. The book, ...more
Nov 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Really superb. I like Sarah Bakewell's blurb: "A primer in human existence: philosophy has rarely seemed so lucid, so important, so worth doing and so easy to enter into. " Also, the way she speaks of "the subject presented as a history of ideas rather than of timeless concepts." Warburton managed to interest me in a ridiculously wide range of ideas, and too, in their history, and I suspect a number of books he introduced me to will show up soon in my lists here.
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant introduction to Western philosophy, from Socrates all the way to Peter Singer. LOVED it.
Noël Ward
May 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Delivers exactly what is promised. A brief overview which includes almost all the major philosophers and a few modern ones as well. It’s well written. I can’t give more stars because it’s not the kind of book you will re-read and there is nothing special about the presentation and no insights of any kind but I do recommend it for anyone looking to dip their toes in and perhaps see where they would like to take the plunge into philosophy.
Jim Goodrich
Jun 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book was like a nice drive-by tour of the lives and philosophy of many of the most influential philosophers from Socrates to the current day. Nothing too deep on any one philosopher's work, but that is not the point. It was nice to get an entertaining 1,000 foot in the air perspective of the field in general.
Apr 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
A really good book that introduces basic concepts in philosophy and its greatest thinkers. It was engaging and easy to read, using simple examples to illustrate (assumably) much complicated theories. I like the way philosophers make their arguments and reasoning about important questions of human existence and how we perceive the world as well as how we should live our life in the right and meaningful way.
Jun 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A well-written, accessible, and brief account of some of the major figures and thoughts in Philosophy. I’m glad I picked this one up.
May 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Provides clear insight regarding important ideas in philosophy. This book is a great reading material for those who are new to the field of philosophy.
Marc-Y Quinten
Oct 27, 2016 rated it liked it
The history of Philosophy is a book that task about the nature of reality and to what extent we can believe what we hear and get told. It all started with Socrates who lived in the ancient Greece about 2,400 years ago. It had been started before but, people consider Socrates the person who started it all. Socrates was order the death penalty because he asked too many questions. Before Socrates died he had brought up a student so that when Socrates would die there would be someone to follow him u ...more
Sam Strickland
Jan 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Warburton accomplishes his goal in a surprisingly concise manner. I never thought you could talk about more than forty different philosophers in such a short space. My only disappointment is his lack of attention to other issues in Christian thought apart from the existence of God. Augustine, Anselm, Thomas, and Pascal do have other things to argue and prove besides God’s existence. Warburton ends up reading the concerns of current day analytic philosophy back into these authors to the detriment ...more
Mar 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most mind opening book I've been exposed to. It talks about history and how it shaped today's philosophy. I love philosophy because its determined to question the unquestionable. I do admit I didn't appreciate Nigel's writing because I didn't pay much attention while reading. I regret not focusing but hell no am I gonna read the book again. (sorry Nigel) I recommend this book for the ones who are inspired by questioning reality. It gives a lot of great examples on how to live ...more
David Cerruti
Apr 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Four stars for content, broad scope, clarity, and good editing. However, Goodreads equates a four star rating with “really liked it.” I even thought a few parts were amazing (five stars), but the rest, not so much. So I give it three stars, which equals “liked it.” I did like it, or I wouldn’t have finished it.
Oct 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
A great overview of all the important philosophers and their beliefs and approaches from Socrates to Singer. For everyone interested in philosophy, this is a great introduction. Not too complicated and really interesting.
Rechelle Rozwadowski
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Love this book. Clear, concise and thought provoking, without the jargon or academic pompousness. Chronological and well woven, Warburton highlights what each philosopher has brought to our world within the context of their era. It's a book to keep and return to.
Jeremy Stock
Jul 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
A very quick and easy read for a suscinct and not overly simplistic review of the history of philosophy
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Really clear, succinct and chronological overview of the history of philosophy.

Arguably a shorter and more digestible version of Bertrand Russel's "A History of Western Philosophy".
Moussa K
Apr 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Philosophy. Perhaps one of the most difficult study human species have ever encountered, because humans have always been a special kind that have been ever seeking the truth in the abstract, in the reflection of themselves, in the ethics, about the way we should live or the truth about the existence. Some of the truth-seekers asked the right questions at the right time and have been awarded for their pursuit, whereas some of them were exiled or even killed because of their thinking about thinkin ...more
Max Hristov
Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
For years I had questions, that I wanted answered that could be qualified as “philosophical” or “existential” in the sense that they couldn’t be empirically answered. I didn’t know where to look or what to read. Though short, the conciseness of the book meant that I could see where to seek the guidance I needed throughout the years of philosophical thought and really form a basis on what the major thinkers contended. The book is also written simply (not excessively though), and helpfully identif ...more
Tania Hussain
Jun 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
Either the author only believes that western philosophy makes up the 'history' of philosophy or this book needs a serious name change. Not surprising given the fact that it is a British philosopher who penned this.
The book is extremely simplified, which is probably good for some readers.
Overall, I wish this book was more inclusive of the eastern philosophies and concepts and would come off as less patronizing, especially the last chapter.
Spencer Fancutt
Excellent 5 page primers on the philosophers of the Western canon through history. There is little chance that I will read many of these philosophers' original works, so this kind of crib sheet is invaluable. The writing is clear and to the point, illustrated with easy examples, and avoids condescension.
Henry Manampiring
Jun 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Good intro and quick reference to the thinking of major philosophers in Western world.
Matthew Wentworth
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very cool. Easy to understand. Information that's just good to know.

Highly recommended.
Julia Chupryna
Mar 13, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a good one, but when you first hear the word "philosophy" and don't know what it is, this isn't an option. You definitely can find something simpler and more accessible to grasp the main ideas. At the same time, it is harder to re-think facts that you already knew, cause every time I did it, I wanted more and more, however, I've got less and less.
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Nigel Warburton is Senior Lecturer at the Open University and author of a number of popular books about philosophy.

Warburton received a BA from the University of Bristol and a PhD from Darwin College, Cambridge and was a lecturer at the University of Nottingham before joining the Department of Philosophy at the Open University in 1994.

He runs a popular philosophy weblog Virtual Philosopher and wit

Other books in the series

Little History (9 books)
  • A Little History of the World
  • A Little History of Literature
  • A Little History of Religion
  • A Little History of Science
  • A Little History of the United States
  • A Little History of Economics
  • A Little History of Archaeology
  • A Little Book of Language

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“A human being can choose what to do, what to become. We are all free. No one but you can decide what you make of your life. If you let other people decide how you live, that is, again, a choice. It would be a choice to be the kind of person other people expect you to be.
Obviously if you make a choice to do something, you might not always succeed in doing it. And the reasons why you don't succeed may be completely outside your control. But you are responsible for wanting to do that thing, for trying to do it, and for how you respond to your failure to be able to do it.
Freedom is hard to handle and many of us run away from it. One of the ways to hide is to pretend that you aren't really free at all. If Sartre is right, we can't make excuses: we are completely responsibile for what we do every day and how we feel about what we do. Right down to the emotions we have. If you're sad right now, that's your choice, according to Sartre. You don't have to be sad. If you are sad, you are responsible for it. That is frightening and some people would rather not face up to it because it is so painful. He talks about us being 'condemned to be free'. We're stuck with this freedom whether we like it or not.”
“The best way to live, then, was this: have a very simple lifestyle, be kind to those around you, and surround yourself with friends.” 5 likes
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