Confessions of a Philosopher: A Personal Journey Through Western Philosophy from Plato to Popper

Confessions of a Philosopher: A Personal Journey Through Western Philosophy from Plato to Popper

by Bryan Magee
     
 

Already called "a masterpiece,"* this brilliant, beautifully written memoir introduces mainstream readers to all of the outstanding figures of Western philosophy.

"Until I was five I shared a bed with my sister, three years older than me. After our parents had switched out the light we would chatter away in the darkness until we fell asleep. But I could never…  See more details below

Overview

Already called "a masterpiece,"* this brilliant, beautifully written memoir introduces mainstream readers to all of the outstanding figures of Western philosophy.

"Until I was five I shared a bed with my sister, three years older than me. After our parents had switched out the light we would chatter away in the darkness until we fell asleep. But I could never afterwards remember falling asleep. It was always the same: one moment I was talking to my sister in the dark, and the next I was waking up in a sunlit room having been asleep all night. Yet every night there must have come a time when I stopped talking and settled down to sleep. It was incomprehensible to me that I did not experience that, and never remembered it."

In this inspiring, infectiously exciting book, Bryan Magee tells the story of his own discovery of philosophy, and makes the subject not only come alive but seem intensely relevant. He describes the fundamentals of philosophy as questions about the nature of reality encountered in the course of living, not as problems presented in the writings of the philosophers. Experiences of everyday life provoke discussions about why, through the ages, certain philosophical questions have persistently exercised our minds. Magee's memoir follows the course of his life, so that problems and philosophers are discussed in the order in which he came upon them, rather than in chronological order. By the end of the book, we have been introduced to all the great philosophers, from the pre-Socratics to those of the twentieth century, including two of the most important contemporary philosophers, Bertrand Russell and Karl Popper, both of whom the author knewpersonally.

Logically and with great fluency, Magee clarifies this sometimes obscure subject, revealing its richness to readers who may have considered it inaccessible. Intensely personal and brimming with intellectual enthusiasm, Confessions of a Philosopher is a fascinating introduction to philosophy by an outstanding writer and teacher.

"Bryan Magee from an early age has had a passion for philosophy. He has also been an MP and a renowned television broadcaster on current affairs, as well as on the history of ideas. Such breadth of experience, together with Magee's great talent for exposition, gives this autobiographical book its extraordinary wisdom, authority and impact."
—The Daily Telegraph

*Literary Review, London

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal - Library Journal
Magee has taught philosophy at Oxford, and in each of these volumes he attempts to make philosophy understandable to the lay reader. The DK book devotes just a few pages to each of the major thinkers and is lavishly illustrated. It would be suitable for high school, college, and public libraries. Great Philosophers is a series of conversations with important contemporary philosophers about the major historical figures, originally produced for the BBC. Confessions is an autobiographical excursion through Western philosophy. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A British popularizer of philosophy, Magee (coauthor, On Blindness, 1995, etc.), writes an overblown account of his lifelong interest in philosophical ideas. The book's title and subtitle capture its two interrelated aims: to confess the existential traumas that led the author to philosophy and to summarize the key ideas of Western metaphysics and epistemology. Magee, a former academic, wants to show that philosophy comes in answer to acutely felt problems about the nature of reality and human knowing. Magee's own angst over death, meaninglessness, and the limits of human knowledge would be more convincing if he showed less satisfaction in his previously published writings and more restraint in condemning strictly academic (especially British analytic) philosophy. The confessions include tantalizing hints of "exhilarating love affairs"; but, despite his insistence on the philosophic importance of sex, Magee provides no details about his affectional life. Was philosophy irrelevant to this side of his life, or does he forget that, for the ancient Greek philosopher Empedocles, love was itself a metaphysical principle? But Empedocles apparently doesn't belong to the mere "half a dozen" philosophers in each century "whose work is of widespread and lasting interest." To this elite group, Kant, Schopenhauer, Bertrand Russell, and Karl Popper do clearly belong, in the author's judgment: Kant, for articulating so persuasively how much conceptions influence perceptions; Schopenhauer for his philosophy of art; Russell for his logic; Popper for his science. Magee is best at presenting the ideas of these, his favorites, but he could have done so in a much shorter book and without themelodramatic portrayals of his own intellectual suffering.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375500282
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/17/1998
Pages:
512
Product dimensions:
6.51(w) x 9.57(h) x 1.55(d)

Meet the Author

Bryan Magee has taught philosophy at Oxford, and has taught and lectured at several colleges and universities in the United States. His academic appointments include Visiting Professor at King's College, University of London; Fellow of Queen Mary College, London; and Fellow of Keble College, Oxford. His previous books include The Great Philosophers; The Philosophy of Schopenhauer, recently reissued in a revised and enlarged edition; and Aspects of Wagner. Magee has been a Member of Parliament, a critic of music and theater, and a professional broadcaster. He has written and presented many TV and radio programs on philosophy in the United Kingdom that have also sold internationally. He lives in London.

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