As a populariser of philosophy, Bryan Macgee is arguably the best in the business; his latest offering The Story of Philosophy is further testament to that. Macgee has been a Member of Parliament, a music and theatre critic, broadcaster and university lecturer as well as being the author of many books including Modern British Philosophy, The Philosophy of Schopenhauer, Popper, Confessions of a Philosopher and more recently the excellent Wagner and Philosophy. He has presented two popular BBC television series, Men of Ideas, and The Great Philosophers, which in turn became successful books. The difference between The Story of Philosophy and The Great Philosophers is that the latter involved Macgee asking questions and leading an in-depth authoritative discussion with other professional philosophers about particular philosophical greats. The former is a much more basic introduction to, and history of, philosophy, which very briefly summarises the key points in the thought of the great philosophers. It is broken up into nine general sections--"The Greeks and Their World", "Christianity and Philosophy", "The Beginnings of Modern Science", "The Great Rationalists", "The Great Empiricists", "Revolutionary French Thinkers", "A Golden Century of German Philosophy", "Democracy and Philosophy" and "20th-Century Philosophy"--but manages to range more widely.
What makes this book noteworthy is the fact that Macgee's expertise and characteristically lucid prose is enormously enhanced by the layout of the book itself. The main figures and the leading ideas are illustrated with drawings, photographs, paintings and sculpture along with judiciously placed enlarged quotations, useful historical information set off from the main text and a handy glossary of philosophical terms at the end. This is a fine reference book and if a basic introduction to the history of philosophy is what you're looking for, you won't find better.--Larry Brown