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The Great Philosophers: The Lives and Ideas of History's Greatest Thinkers

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  271 ratings  ·  29 reviews
The biographical portraits of the 50 most important philosophers in history of Western thought are presented here. Each biography is accompanied by an iconic image of the philosopher, a timeline of key events, and a memorable quotation from a key philosophical concept.
Paperback, 366 pages
Published July 26th 2016 by Quercus Publishing (first published 2007)
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Average rating 3.68  · 
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ash c
Jul 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy, dnf
2.5 stars.

Law introduces too many philosophers in too little pages in a rather simplified and rushed manner. He presents each philosopher with one or two of their most important ideas in chronological order, but he does not link them to each other. Philosophy as I understand it is a rather broad field with little distinctions between schools or philosophers, and much of these schools of thought are overlapping, and hence it's important to know the interactions of ideas, the arguments for and aga
May 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book. It familiarizes you with those men and women who were seeking answers to human realities. I thought the book was stimulating to the brain and very much worth reading.
Jan 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was the very first philosophy book I ever got, picked up at Border's by a starry eyed youth (me) after realizing that those weird stories his dad (my dad) told him (me) were actually Zeno's Paradoxes.

If you're looking for a comprehensive book on philosophy you've come to the wrong place; each philosopher here only has a couple page spread; only enough room to just barely cover one or two of their ideas, and it never even takes the necessary time to talk about the ways in which the philosoph
Amber Rush
Apr 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, own, favorites
Law beautifully describes the principles and theories of the world's famous philosophers. From Socrates to Singer they are all explained. Impartial analogies of their key works to make understanding the thought simpler as well as a short biography to understand the life they lived while completing their works. After each person I found myself wanting to know more about their works and being engrossed within each individual theory, even if I did not agree myself. Law also provides criticisms to t ...more
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Some early morning reading.

Funnily enough some of these ideas and thoughts came up in one form or another over the weekend.

Learning about Simon de Beauvoir and her thoughts regarding feminism for example tied in with a brief discussion on the "witch trials" and a more nuanced understanding of the patriarchy. The discussion was more around the attempt to get rid of the 'medicine' women, but tied in with the fact that big pharma is a patriarchal institution.

On the whole though, I find it fascinati
Doctor Cat
Aug 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very entertaining and sufficiently informative read. The only thing that bothered me was that there were only three women among the 50 thinkers included in the book.

Some reviewers criticize the writer because (1) the people he talks about are not necessarily philosophers (2) he doesn’t discuss all the ideas of the thinkers included in the book. I don’t really see why this is a problem, considering that he states in the beginning that by philosopher, he means thinker, and that he only
Saadik Bhanbhro
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is an excellent introduction of philosophy & philosophers for beginners. The book has exposed male dominance in philosophy. The author has introduced 50 great philosophers in the book 48 of them are men - only two women Hannah Arendt & Simone de Beauvoir. It would have been good if the author would have included it on of the popular philosophers of our time Martha Nussbaum.
Lone Wong
Nov 15, 2017 rated it liked it
This book comes in handy for me rather as a reference book. The author summarizes the thoughts of all the eminent thinkes since pre-socratic until modern period such as Jean-Paul Satre.

Do not expect to get a lot of idea from this but as a guidebook or reminder about philosophy.
Abbas Zubir
Aug 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great entry level for those who are interested in philosophy or those who wanted some refresher.
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Um bom começo para quem se interessa por este tema. Trata-se de uma síntese, claro, mas dá-nos o conteúdo necessário para entender as escolas a que cada pensador pertencia
Emīls Ozoliņš
May 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The book breaks down thousands of years of philosophical ideas and thoughts to a dense 360-ish pages. What more could one ask for?
Jamie Alexander
Aug 22, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Armands Putnieks
Very brief introduction of greatest philosophers of all time. Amazing book for learning and seeing the minds of these great thinkers. Each with their own unique perspective and life story. GREAT !
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, philosophy
Excellent synopsis of key ideas from major figures in the field of Philosophy. The author explains tough concepts using very lucid examples.
Apr 15, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
I quite liked how the author focused on one contribution from each philosopher included in the book, and took the time to explain that one contribution and offer arguments against it instead of merely listing a bunch of philosophical ideas without giving explanation. I also liked the way he compared the various philosophers where comparisons were relevant, bringing up names and references again and again throughout, so that information had more of a chance of being understood, compared, and reta ...more
Jan 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great introduction to the major philosophers of history and their ideas. The further along the book you go, the more you see of Law's preferences in philosophy. It would have been hard to decide on names that you do and don't put in to this book. For example, Machiavelli is an important figure in this book, but I would never have classed him as an actual philosopher, and much more of a strategist or military combatant: he didn't care too much for the fundamentals of philosophical thought.

Nov 15, 2015 rated it liked it
For a philosophy book this is quite an easy read but probably best used as one to dip into now and again. Fifty philosophers are covered in 365 pages so don't expect depth or range. Instead one key idea from each philosopher is described followed by criticism of that idea from others. Each philosopher is given a rudimentary biography. By the end you get a feel for the development of (Western) philosophy. Clearly written. ...more
A very basic book. Do not expect depth. Although, this is a decent and quick gloss over some philosophers. My biggest complaint with this book is that the author is often too specific. The author presents just a peek at each philosopher that he covers. The peeks that he presents tend to fall short of being adequate summaries. Reading this book is like talking to a friend about what he read. Your friend will just tell you about the things that he liked.
Erroll Treslan
Jul 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A superb introduction to philosophy for anyone seeking an accessible primer. If you have 20 minutes to spare, you can sit down and learn about 2 or 3 of the world's greatest thinkers at a time. I highly recommend this one for any library, particularly one that high school kids will eventually be thumbing their way through. ...more
Diana Hognogi
Nov 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Exactly what I was looking for. 50 of the most important philosophers in 360 pages. From Confucius to Peter Singer, each chapter presents their main idea/contribution as well as the objections, followed by a short biography and major works. Great as a starting point to figure out who you'd like to read more about. ...more
Mar 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
This book serves as a great introduction to some of the key areas of philosophy, unlike other books of this nature it doesn't require lots of adjacent texts to get through. The author is very good at put ideas in layman's terms and each chapter/philosopher comes with a mini bio and list of key works should you want to read further. ...more
Sean Chick
This is not a bad book for what it does (although it should be titled Great Western Philosophers). The trouble in part lies with the book's later sections, where the philosophers such as Singer and Thomson, seem more like proponents of pet causes. This book is the final nail in the coffin for me concerning metaphysics and abstract philosophy. ...more
Mar 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
An excellent introductory book about the major philosophers and their ideas. It's also a great review book for someone who has studied these men and women in more detail. ...more
Eric Estrada
Nov 12, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i enjoy this book because it tells you about any philosopher & his major works. it talks about john lock, karl marx, buddha , and many more great philosophers.
Valerie Mobley
Jul 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting. I would like my own copy.
Rocky Ybarra
Food for the soul, for those of the flesh. I liked it.
Martha Wilkins
A good read for someone who wants get acquainted with philosophy and who wants to familiarize themselves with important philosophers and a few of their philosophies.
rated it liked it
Oct 19, 2014
Matthew Carvajal
rated it it was amazing
Dec 29, 2016
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Stephen Law is a philosopher who teaches at Heythrop College in the University of London. He also edits the journal THINK, a source of philosophy aimed at the general public, affiliated with The Royal Institute of Philosophy.

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