978-0-7538-1136-8 / 9780753811368

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About the book:

The Great Philosophers is a collection of twelve detailed essays describing and assessing one particular aspect of the philosophy of the acknowledged greats and in this respect it differs from standard introductory surveys. Philosophers under discussion include Socrates, Plato, Descartes, Spinoza, Berkeley and Hume as well as Marx, Russell, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Popper and Alan Turing.

Like Bryan Macgee's classic book and television series of the same name it is a book written by philosophers on philosophers which aims to strike a balance between accessibility and authoritativeness. As one would expect this is not always an easy read in the way that Alain de Botton's The Consolations of Philosophy certainly is, but the extra work brings far greater rewards. If you have read and enjoyed de Botton's philosophical appetiser then you're ready for the main course.

Why buy this book as opposed to picking up something from your local second-hand bookshop? One reason is that there are at least three or four truly outstanding essays here--Monk on Russell's philosophy of mathematics; Jonathon Ree on Heidegger's Being and Time; and Roger Scruton on Spinoza's ethics, are fascinating and seriously edifying pieces by anyone's standards. Another more powerful reason perhaps is that one can grasp the basics of the Western philosophical tradition without getting bogged down in the philosophical mumbo-jumbo of the recent past. The contributors manage to convey a sense of the true philosophical greatness of their subjects without worshipping them or patronising the reader.--Larry Brown

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