Customer Reviews for

The Story of Philosophy

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2012

    Durant Leads You By the Hand to Understand Many Philosophers

    Will Durant's "The Story of Philosophy", published in 1926 and still in reprint today, is fortunately now in eBook form from the original publisher, Simon and Schuster. Reading the eBook is just like reading the printed version except that the footnotes are at the back of the book rather than the bottom of each page (they would have been more useful at the end of each chapter because many contain additional information that you will miss if you don't "follow" the footnote). Printed versions have become increasingly difficult to read because of the worn-out and broken type resulting from so many reprintings over the decades. How nice to read a legible version of "The Story of Philosophy" again.

    Durant is renowned as a story-teller of philosophy and the history of civilization. He was not a professional philosopher or historian (though he was a student of philosopher John Dewey at Columbia), and he insists that experts will learn nothing new. But the rest of us do learn a whole new world from Durant's approach of leading us by the hand through different periods, making great personages come alive in the context of their times and helping us understand their thoughts and actions that have had lasting relevance for those who came later and, most importantly, for our own times (today as well as 1926).

    For example, starting by establishing Plato in the context of his times (the secular Sophists, aristocratic rule vs. democracy, declining belief in established religion), Durant helps us understand the main points of Plato's idealist philosophy and convinces us that Plato has the true explanation for everything in human life and that his philosophy will last for all time; there's no need for any later philosophers; we might as well read no further. But suddenly we are hit with the fact that Plato's students already expressed doubts about some of his explanations, and Plato himself eventually admitted some self-doubt. We now see all the faults of the idealism of Plato and wonder how we ever got taken in by it. One of his students, Aristotle, proceeded to turn Plato's philosophy on its non-idealist head, so to speak, and the "story" starts all over again. It will be a similar arc for all philosophers, no one of whom, it turns out, has the full truth but each of whom (after Durant helps us see their failings) provides a new starting point for those who follow.

    ADVICE TO FIRST-TIME READERS: Skip the Preface and Introduction (which spend too much time justifying the study of philosophy, which will become meaningful only later) and start with Chapter 1 (Plato).

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2007

    Best intro - period!

    This book is in my top 5 of all time. I have re-read sections of this book at least a dozen times. It should be the first philosophy book you read. He makes philosophy and philosophers interesting and meaningful. Too much philosphy and too many philospers are academic / theoretical. Durant is a great historian / philosopher in his own right.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2006

    Solid Read

    Great intro to philosphy-as far as knowing some of the most important philosphers and their basic ideas.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2003

    Philosophy as pleasure and instruction

    This is not a technical work of philosophy, nor one in which the author aims to present a philosophy of his own. It is rather an introduction to the lives and thought of the great philosophers. It is written in a clear, understandable way. It is highly recommended for those who wish to enter the world of philosophy. As a young person this book gave me much. I think especially of the inspiring picture given of Spinoza, the only great philosopher who lived, according to Durant,in full accordance with his own teaching. This work truly gives the feeling of philosophy as an adventure of mind which the ordinary reader can happily partake in.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 22, 2013

    story of philosophy

    this book is great. I am still reading it. there are so many interesting moments in it.

    but, it takes time to read a book like this. so, I am taking my time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2003

    OK

    It is a book for common people .The writer,himself is not a philosopher , therefore this book did not discuus deeply about difficult ideas of great philosophers .It is also an incomplete story of philosophy .There is nothing about existentionalisn and logical positivism . Hegel is a great philosopher of new age ,but he was ignored . There are very short comments about him. I think this a book of some great philosophers personal livies' stories with discussing very shortly about thier ideas Although it is not a great book of philosophy but it introduce the philosophy to a layman who want to know about this subject It is also a book with literary and simple language , I read it with interest

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2001

    Section on Nietzsche falls short

    The book does a fair job in covering a wide range of philosophers. When reading it, however, I would advise caution with the chapter on Nietzsche. The combination of the bad and sometimes fraudulent translations available at the time this was written, and the author's own obvious resentment toward Nietzsche might give anyone new to Nietzsche an unfair misconception of the philosopher. A much better study of the man can be found in any of Kaufman's translations and critiques.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2000

    Good, basic intro

    This book remains a high quality introduction to philosophy even though it was first published more than 70 years ago. Durant does an excellent job of providing the reader with enough knowledge to understand the vitality of each philosopher. This was the very first book of philosophy I ever read--almost 30 years ago. Now I am a philosophy prof. and I regularly recommend this text to my students. It is well written and even entertaining. But the age of the book does show through in places. The text ends with the beginning of the 20th century and so has nothing of contemporary philosophy in it. Also, the writing style is academic (in the best sense of the word)--some readers may struggle with the level of writing. Still, this book makes a fine first reader for any undergraduate wanting a serious introduction to philosophy.

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