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How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophy

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  1,002 ratings  ·  95 reviews
In the first global overview of philosophy, Julian Baggini travels the world to provide a wide-ranging map of human thought. One of the great unexplained wonders of human history is that written philosophy flowered entirely separately in China, India and Ancient Greece at more or less the same time. These early philosophies have had a profound impact on the development of ...more
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published October 4th 2018 by Granta Books (first published October 2018)
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Mateus Muslims and Jains are freuqently mentioned throughout the book, often to note how different their schools of thought are from the Vedic schools. Chris…moreMuslims and Jains are freuqently mentioned throughout the book, often to note how different their schools of thought are from the Vedic schools. Christianity, as I understood, is blended in with 'Western Thought', and not outright stated!

Either way, the author does mention that this is (and could not be) in any way a comprehensive, complete study ;)(less)

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Indrani Ganguly
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
It would have been more appropriate to name this book 'How Some People Think' given it's largely the viewpoint of a middle-class Anglo-Saxon male. Women are dismissed with a summary comment ''women's voices are almost entirely absent from the world's classical traditions'. This is true but doesn't warrant leaving out the contributions of Indian women like Gargi, Maitreyi and Lopamudra who were well known for their learned and spirited debates with men and Greek women like Hypatia. It would have ...more
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Reading this book aloud in the car, discovering gems together over Kopi and Roti Prata, letting a stranger skim through it just before the start of a lecture, discussing it with my boss after a workshop, trying to explain its gist to a curious 7-year-old. These were my favourite memories of reading this one.

And as I travelled for work and play, through car and taxi rides, brought it from café to café, drunk cups of Caramel Latte/Kopi-C Peng/Genmaicha while I nibbled on doughnuts, woke up early
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Ever since I began teaching philosophy in the 1990's I've tried to expand the canon and to include non-Western elements in my teaching. These movements have gained momentum more broadly in the academy in recent years, and so I've been trying to expand my understanding so I can be a better philosopher and a better teacher. I hadn't yet seen a good introductory text one might use for global philosophy.

And this book still isn't that, but it quite good. This is not a book one could assign in an intr
Mike Steinharter
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
I so wanted to learn from this book; Understanding philosophies from around the world sounded quite interesting and it grabbed my attention at the bookstore and no doubt the author’s experience is extensive, but the writing just didn’t invite me in to learn and understand. To be fair, i enjoyed a number of parts of the books, such as the chapter on Japanese relational self and the anecdotes that illustrate it. But he jumps around way too much for me and I found myself skimming more often than I ...more
Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There have been few times I've clicked the "five star" option as quickly as for this book. 'How the World Thinks' has moved me in ways I did not anticipate through shining a light on philosophies from East Asia to the subcontinent of India and from the Islamic world to Western philosophy. It included a very neat distinction between European and American philosophy I did not see coming but phrased all the floating ideas I had about why North-America (and the US in particular) occasionally confuse ...more
Mar 16, 2019 rated it liked it
A book on, well, how people think around the world. At least assuming that the countries' philosophies reflect onto the people (and vice versa). Not the most rigorous approach, and the author's western bias can be noticed at several places, even though he specifically critiques western philosophy of doing exactly that.

That being said, the book did give me an idea of which values the various Indian, Muslim, Chinese, Japanese, (native) Australian and some African countries' philosophies. One thing
Dan Graser
May 03, 2020 rated it liked it
There are a few reasons to read this moderately-sized work from Julian Baggini on philosophy from around the globe, and a few more reasons not to read it.

Firstly, this book does more in one volume than any I have encountered to treat the philosophical thought of India, China, Japan, and the Muslim world as genuine philosophy without pedantically and in condescendingly unlettered fashion equating any of that with mysticism, theology, or spirituality. Though there certainly is overlap from philos
Jelger Beltman
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Capturing the wisdom of this book in a review is next to impossible. The mind-expanding collections of philosophies really paint a beautiful picture of the world. The differences between individual freedom and social harmony explain the shortcomings of the western ways of thinking. The idea of total responsibility of the self that is becoming more common around the world is broken down. For it is ignorant to assume that the self is something indepentent. This book is one of the best summaries of ...more
Dec 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, 2019, non-fiction
It is a strange irony that at the beginning of this book Baggini points out that there are many cultures which have no need for secular philosophy. Many languages didn't organically develop a word for it until it was imported from the West and their home-grown scholars follow "philosophical" traditions that don't meet the purity test of philosophy being too close to theology. This raises the interesting question of whether modern secular philosophy actually has a history at all in any part of th ...more
May 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
A decent high-level overview of philosophy around the world (mostly non-western). Interesting and eye-opening read for someone who is not well versed in philosophy - not sure how useful it is for someone who is.
Steve Murphy
Jun 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A comparison of western and eastern philosophy highlighting strengths and weaknesses of respective beliefs. I found it a great look at multiple philosophies for a first time reader of any philosophy book. Don't expect an ultimate conclusion on what to believe but convincing case for the idea that our western philosophy isn't the most superior
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
Review This book is excellent at getting you to question the way in which you think and how this underpins your belief system in regards to life. Western thinking with its colonial racism often views its scientific enquiry for truth and progress as superior to eastern respect for knowledge and tradition. Where in the east focus is on the holistic view of reality, the west are argument based, logical and scientific. Western scientific enquiry admonishes knowledge in search for new understanding a ...more
Mar 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
I admit that for me Philosophy is identical with "Western Philosophy". All the rest, so my prejudice was, is basically religious thought with some pseudo-philosophical amendments. But I was not very happy with this. So I read this admirable book.
I said admirable because I admire Baggini for his braveness in tackling such a task. I do not think he has succeeded. At least not if his task was really to show that there is genuine philosophy outside the West. (I am not sure that this was his task. Ma
May 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Although the premise is extremely tantalising, I must say this book leaves a tad to be desired. The writing style results in a constant back and forth, dispersing your thoughts amongst multiple (interesting and complex) topics. I did enjoy the book, it took me longer than I'd have liked to get through and yet still offered many chances of widening perspective. I'd often find myself skim reading more than I'd like, as a lot of in depth areas were mentioned in passing and I would have to take it u ...more
Daniel Araújo
Mar 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a philosophical journey!

We've all heard, read and learned about what makes the Western Philosophy Canon. What Julian Baggini achieves here is a journey through Chinese, Indian, African (even Samoan) philosophy perspective on many topics like "emptiness", "morality" and so on.

It's incredibly well written and easy to digest, but you will surely have to stop and do a lot of side reading given the amazing interest of so many of the perspectives discussed.

Will definitely re-read at some point
Oct 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very interesting comparative study of world philosophy, I found the portions about Japanese and Chinese culture and modes of thought especially fascinating. Will probably be something I need to reread in order to get the most out of it. Must say I gave a wee whoop at the mention of Rawls and his veil of ignorance- my favourite lesson of University philosophy study. :)
Max Havenga
A good book which logically presents itself. Personally, I think the book gives a lot of general information of philosophy around the world. Keep in mind that it is written from a western perspective, but looking through that can help to truly understand the philosophy of the culture.
Jorge Torrens
May 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think it’s extremely difficult to cover such an extensive area in one single book but at least for me it was very interesting to learn about non western philosophy. Have to admit that my knowledge about Indians or Far East philosophy was very scare.
The most impressive part was the two different ways of the relational self as integrity or intimacy.
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Travis Rebello
Julian Baggini’s How the World Thinks offers a much-needed tour of different traditions of thought from around the world. Though Baggini is not an expert in all of these traditions, as he readily admits, he takes the approach of a “philosophical journalist,” drawing on material from dozens of interviews he’s conducted across the globe to craft an introduction to non-Western thought for Westerners. The result is, well, mixed.

How the World Thinks can’t quite decide whether it’s a piece of travel
Esme Leaf
Mar 24, 2020 rated it liked it
Save ya self the time and just read the conclusion.
Apr 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophy by Julian Baggini (Academic Director of the Royal Institute of Philosophy) is a fascinating book that explores a myriad of philosophical thoughts from across the globe. Offering deep-insights into how other regions operate and how an expanding of philosophical boundaries across cultural divides can initiate a greater understanding of ourselves. It is quite the intellectual treat!

Philosophy can be a daunting subject to explore, particularl
Olga Kovalenko
What I liked most in this book on philosophy is a comprehensive and engaging description of Eastern traditions, like Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism and Shinto. I don’t have any structured knowledge of any of them, and this book is a great starting point for further explorations. There is also a description of Indian and Islamic traditions, but they didn’t strike me as very detailed or engaging. Maybe that’s because I’m into Asian cultures though. ☺️
There were great examples of Western approaches
Dec 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
He elaborates seemingly-indifferent concepts of different parts of the world together under certain blanket words (as in index), and it works.

I found some chapters boring, as they seem to be a mere array of thoughts by using the corresponding words in foreign languages. Sometimes I could hardly follow what he says because they were too foreign to me, both the styles and the concepts. However, I was fascinated most of the time and especially by his explanations of Japanese philosophy. Although a
Suraj Kumar
Nov 05, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
In How The World Thinks the author Julian Baggini takes the reader along to dive into the cultures of different places and provide a glimpse of how people across the globe live their lives, what ideas and values do they believe in and how these ideas inform their existence. Dismissing the claim of the universal nature of the western philosophy, the author sets out on a journey to explore the ideas and beliefs that fall under the rubric of philosophy at a global level.
... expand[ing] our Western-
May 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
According to How the World Thinks by Baggini (2018), philosophy and religion are not always neatly separable. In the Middle Ages, Islamic philosophy, falsafa, and religious philosophy, kalām, battled for supremacy. Kalām succeeded in claiming religious priority over reasoning. However, where the Qur’ān is not used for political gain, it is perceived metaphorically. Interestingly, orthodox Christianity took a more close-minded approach, and the Hellenic scientific outlook was disallowed due to ex ...more
Jeanne Phi
I enjoyed reading it. Knowing nothing in particular about philosophy - apart of my 1 year of high school education in the subject and reading Sophie‘s world when I was 12 - it was a nice introduction to it. But it is still popular science and nothing more than an entry point to the subject.

Also, the book is clearly written by a European. What the author makes out to be the defining characteristic of Western philosophy: the aspiration to universality and objectivity, is also what the author appar
Anjali B
Jun 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written in an academic style, initially found this challenging and wasn't sure if I would persist. Later chapters were less challenging than Section 1. I did learn quite a lot, so I am glad that I did not give up.

The book speaks from a Western/European orthodox philosophical perspective, and compares this to philosophy in other parts of the world. This comparative approach mainly focuses on Chinese philosophy and Indian philosophy. Also discussed (but more briefly) are Japanese philosophy and I
Jun 29, 2020 rated it liked it
I was excited to read this book - I've always been interested by philosophy so this seemed to be a good starting point.
3 stars may seem a bit harsh considering I did genuinely enjoy this book, however I think that enjoyment may have been due to the topics discussed rather than the writing itself.
It started off strong: changing my perspective on what we mean by "philosophy" and how Westerners often disregard and generalise non-Western philosophy.
However, by midway I realised that the same point (
Siddharth Gupta
Nov 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Listening to an Audiobook on a serious topic is a tough endeavour simply because we are generally not trained to train our auditory senses to function as stand alone inputs of absolute information processing. I say this to emphasise how this book stands out. Dispensing information about abstract issues is in itself difficult, and a challenging narrative makes the situation worse. But somehow Baggini manages to surmount these hurdles and reaches out to the reader(listener) in a beautiful manner.
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Julian Baggini is a British philosopher and the author of several books about philosophy written for a general audience. He is the author of The Pig that Wants to be Eaten and 99 other thought experiments (2005) and is co-founder and editor of The Philosophers' Magazine. He was awarded his Ph.D. in 1996 from University College London for a thesis on the philosophy of personal identity. In addition ...more

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