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The History of Philosophy, by A. C. Grayling



A.C. Grayling’s The History of Philosophy is an excellent overview of Western and Eastern philosophical traditions over the centuries. This fine book is without doubt the product of years of academic work and research. Professor Grayling has, after all, written and edited more than thirty books on philosophy and various subjects. He is both the founder and first Master of New College of the Humanities in London and a Supernumerary Fellow of St. Anne’s College, Oxford.


As Grayling states in his book’s Introduction, The History of Philosophy is an “invitation” and preliminary resource for anyone who may be interested in the intellectual past. He provides a clear outline of several branches and areas of philosophy: epistemology (the study of knowledge); metaphysics (the study of being); logic (the study of reasoning); ethics (the study of moral principles), aesthetics (the study of beauty), mind, language, and politics.


The book is divided into five parts, each dealing with a set of ideas from a particular group or period in time. The first section covers Ancient Philosophy from Classical Antiquity, and features the Pre-Socratic philosophers such as Pythagoras and Heraclitus, as well as the famous Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle. The second part concerns Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy, from Augustine to Renaissance Humanism. Modern Philosophy and Twentieth-Century Philosophy, both related to the Enlightenment, take up the third and fourth sections. The final section shifts from European thought to Indian, Chinese, Arabic-Persian, and African Philosophies.


Throughout his overview of global and historical philosophies, Grayling incorporates relevant biographical and historical information on key thinkers. As part of the book’s appendices, he includes a general sketch of logic, a handy timeline of notable philosophers, and a helpful bibliography to encourage further reading.


Thanks to its minimal jargon, polished writing style, and useful supplementary materials, The History of Philosophy is a highly accessible text, perfect for beginners, advanced students, and likeminded enthusiasts of philosophy and history. It would make a great addition to anyone’s bookshelf, for that matter, since the rewarding study of philosophy lays the foundations for a properly holistic formation and humanistic education. All in all, I consider The History of Philosophy to be an enthusiastic tribute to the thoughts and traditions of humankind through the ages.


Reviewer: Azariah Alfante

Publisher: Viking, RRP: $38.00


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