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A History of Western Philosophy

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  31,249 ratings  ·  1,028 reviews
Since its first publication in 1945 Lord Russell's A History of Western Philosophy has been universally acclaimed as the outstanding one-volume work on the subject—unparalleled in its comprehensiveness, its clarity, its erudition, its grace and wit. In seventy-six chapters he traces philosophy from the rise of Greek civilization to the emergence of logical analysis in the ...more
Paperback, Touchstone Edition, 906 pages
Published January 30th 1986 by Simon & Schuster (first published 1945)
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Esh I would say that The Story of Philosophy is more about the philosophers as persons and their life and the events shapning them.
A History of Western P…more
I would say that The Story of Philosophy is more about the philosophers as persons and their life and the events shapning them.
A History of Western Philosophy is a lot more in depth about the philosophy it self.
I would recommend A Brief History of Western Philosophy by Anthony Kenny since it feels more fresh and modern and i thought it was more easy to understand(less)
Tariq Start reading; Google what you don't understand. This is what I do and end up learning more than what is in a book. The process is a bit painful but r…moreStart reading; Google what you don't understand. This is what I do and end up learning more than what is in a book. The process is a bit painful but rewarding. (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
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: a
Mark Lawrence
Jan 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Ahmad Sharabiani
A History of Western Philosophy And Its Connection with Political and Social Circumstances from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, Bertrand Russell
A History of Western Philosophy is a 1945 book by philosopher Bertrand Russell. A survey of Western philosophy from the pre-Socratic philosophers to the early 20th century, it was criticised for Russell's over-generalization and omissions, particularly from the post-Cartesian period, but nevertheless became a popular and commercial success, and ha
Jul 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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'.
Roy Lotz
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
Michael Finocchiaro
Bertrand Russel rocks the entire history of Western Philosophy like a boss! Long but, oh so worth it!
Hussam Elkhatib
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Enjoyed the comprehensive eye-opening knowledge. Highly recommended.
Ruby Granger
Oct 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Such an interesting and comprehensive guide to the best thinkers in Western Philosophy. I particularly enjoyed the conclusion where Russell articulates his perspective on the purpose of philosophy as a discipline.
Ian "Marvin" Graye

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
Dylan Popowicz
Aug 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 15, 2009 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
David Huff
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This 895-pager (including the index), could alternatively have been titled, just as fittingly, and perhaps even more accurately, "Bertrand Russell's Opinions of Western Philosophers". And, though you now have my opinion as well, don't let that deter you from approaching this well-written work.

His broad overview of Western philosophy was published in 1945, toward the end of World War II, and includes brief to medium length chapters on many major philosophers, from the pre-Socratics to John Dewey.
I know I'm supposed to start with Greeks. I've heard Bertrand Russell is biased. And for no apparent reason I skipped ancient and catholic philosophy. So having read only modern philosophy(about 400 pages) , I can say that Bertrand Russell is pretty concise, accessible and definitely based; and he's not trying to hide it. Neitzsches chapter does seem like a hard roasting. I'll probably pick Gottlieb's Dream of Reason for Greek philosophy, and later Anthony Kenny's book for another reference when ...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
May 舞
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-ficition
As my first philosophy book, this sure was heavy; however, it was extremely interesting and thought-provoking as well!
Jan 14, 2008 rated it liked it
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,
Roberto Rigolin F Lopes
We are in 1946, Russell is building the chain of ideas that have been pushing civilization to the current state. His erudition is profound but he is biased while selecting thinkers and ideas. And that's what makes this book so good. As a historian, he is using at least three hats as: mathematician, English citizen and philosopher himself. The former is by far the most entertaining and edifying. For example, the mathematician starts boldly picking Pythagoras as the most important thinker ever. Al ...more
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There are three points I want to make:
1.The author has a very fantastic style of writing. It uses the classic way of writing non-fiction. When you read it, you won't feel you are reading a textbook, because you can know what the author is thinking and that he is sharing his thoughts with you. not just mentioning them when he is talking to himself.
2. The author uses a critical and analytical method of representing the ideas he is going to make. I believe it is a great demonstration of the early
Oct 07, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Dec 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Cassandra Kay Silva
Apr 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
May 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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 1940s.

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.

Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 1945 Bertrand Russell, a British philosopher and logician, published an amazing and impressive (if not in quality, at least in size) tome: A History of Western Philosophy. The book covers the entire period of the pre-Socratics up to Russell's own time, dealing with all the important philosophers in three volumes, spanning more than 750 pages.

Russell's objective is to explain how the entire history of Western philosophy is one of a recurring battle between "[philosophers] who wished to tighten
Jared Colley
May 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
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 Kierkega ...more
Ryan Boissonneault
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I gave this 5 stars because it is incomparably the best single-volume history of philosophy that I’ve read, surpassing even that of Will Durant and Anthony Gottlieb.

It’s different from other histories of philosophy in three respects. First, it covers more general history than most accounts, which is necessary to really understand the philosophers. Second, Russell doesn’t just present the views of the various philosophers but provides his interpretations and critiques of their various positions.
Tariq Fadel
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I found this a very well written book on the history of philosophy. It presented most of the major western philosophers in chronological order starting from the ancient greek. It focused most on political theory and the influence of politics and society on the philosophers view as well as the social impact of the philosophers on their communities. I especially enjoyed the part on the ancient greeks and found it very informative and to a certain sense romantic. It also covered part of the Islamic ...more
Spyros Passas
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is THE absolute reference book for Western Philosophy. Starting from the Pro-Socratic times and ending at the dawn of the 20th century, Russel goes through all the major philosophical movements of the West. The thought of most major philosophers is being beautifully laid down and analysed by one of the greatest minds of the 20th century. Despite being very dense, the book is wonderfully readable, so if you have any interest in the matter this is a work that should be in your library (and in ...more
Oct 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this book because I felt like I ought to: I'm reading my way through Philip Ward's Lifetime Reading Plan and Russell is on the list. At times, it was quite a slog, but that's just because I am not a philosophy person. A better title for this book would be A History of Bertrand Russell's Opinions on Western Philosophy, as he is very quick to dismiss whole schools of thoughts and doesn't include some major thinkers. Still, I'm glad I read it. Russell is a good writer and his personality cer ...more
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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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