• A History of Western Philosophy

  • By: Bertrand Russell
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Keeble
  • Length: 38 hrs and 7 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 10-12-13
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Naxos AudioBooks
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 4.6 (988 ratings)

Regular price: $48.99

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Publisher's Summary

Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy serves as the perfect introduction to its subject; it remains unchallenged as the greatest account of the history of Western thought. Charting philosophy's course from the pre-Socratics up to the early twentieth century, Russell relates each philosopher and school to their respective historical and cultural contexts, providing erudite commentary throughout his invaluable survey. This engaging and comprehensive work has done much to educate and inform generations of general readers; it is written in accessible and elegantly crafted prose and allows for an easy grasp of complex ideas.
©1945 Bertrand Russell (P)2013 Naxos AudioBooks
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Gary on 11-21-13

Works on all levels

There doesn't seem to be a wasted section in this book because all the pieces seem to tie together from early to modern times. The author will first tell you the relevant history and social conditions at the time and how they went about influencing the philosophy he's going to discuss.

You get a really interesting peak into the mindset of a writer during the end of WW II. The author would often bring in the Germans (Nazis) and Japanese and how what he is telling you is relevant to what was going on in the world at the time he wrote the book. Those parts of the books alone are worth reading the whole book.

There was one part of the book during the discussion of Plato when I got overwhelmed, because he kept going on and on and soon as I was understanding one part he'd go on to another part and I wanted to stop listening. I'm glad I didn't, because what he does next is introduce another philosopher by saying how the philosopher disagreed with Plato for the following reasons and then I would start to understand what Plato really meant. It's like studying math. One doesn't really understand the algebra until one learns the calculus and so on.

The book covers a lot, but I retain major parts of it. For example, I remember that Hegel believed that you couldn't understand the part without understanding the whole universe (uncle doesn't exist without nephew), and Marx's class struggle comes from Hegel's ideas about nations and so on.

The narrator does a superb job.

The book is also interesting for another reason. It might be my last foray into a grand survey of philosophy because it does such a good job. As the book preceded through out time, I realized the role of philosophy was getting smaller and smaller as the role of science (and math) was getting larger and larger. The book goes a long way towards showing me how much more important science has become, and how less important philosophy is.

I usually listen to science books, but this book did fill in some gaps for me and I highly recommend it even for lovers of science books.


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57 of 58 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Collin on 11-18-15

The Summary of My Bachelor's Degree

What made the experience of listening to A History of Western Philosophy the most enjoyable?

The reminder of each of the greatest philosophers most influential ideas. While I hold a bachelors degree in the subject, this reminder was an enjoyable return to a time when I had left Plato's cave to see more than just shadows on a wall.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

The Historical background information, though interesting, tended to be longer than I had anticipated. However, in the grand scheme of the book, it turned out to shed wonderful light on the pillars on which platforms each mentioned philosopher stood. Most compelling, however, was the summation of each philosophers contributions to the whole, while giving just enough detail to whet one's appetite to read more about each.

Have you listened to any of Jonathan Keeble’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I am not familiar with Keeble, but his accent is pleasing - despite some rather interestingly pronounced words.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

There are several embedded jokes for both newcomers to philosophy and veterans of the subject. The Orphic denial of beans in the diet, for instance, is treated by Russell with as much humor as one would expect for such silly nonsense.

Any additional comments?

During my bachelors degree, philosophy was divided into four sections of historical classes (ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary), Metaphysics I and II, Ethics, two seminars, and Logic - all of which are tested in the final comprehensive exam. This one book encompasses all four historical, Metaphysics I and II, Ethics, and easily also a minor in history, and misses only symbolic logic. While some may argue that this book is no substitute for a classical college education, I would say that an intent listener, who pauses to reflect between chapters and eagerly reads more on each subject he or she finds of particular interest, would gain just as much true knowledge as I did in four years of University. Especially since they would have listened to these lecture much less hungover than I did.

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38 of 39 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By The_price_of_bottled_water on 02-27-15

Great set of lectures

Would you listen to A History of Western Philosophy again? Why?

This book came from Bertrand Russell's war time lectures in the US for the Barnes Foundation. Because they started out as lectures, it works well as an audio book.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I particularly enjoyed the early chapters on Pythagoras and other pre-Socratic philosophers. Russell's characteristic wit shines through in many places, my favourite quote is his suggestion that Pythagoras was a mixture of Einstein and Mrs Eddy.

What about Jonathan Keeble’s performance did you like?

Well read.

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14 of 14 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Benno Boyo on 11-30-16

Great book, just remember when it was written

This is a history of Western philosophy in relation to the changing social and political climate through the ages. The conclusion is that philosophers are mainly a product of their times, and politics and society are only shaped in a small part by philosophy.

Aside from the descriptions of philosophy in relation to historical events, the emphasis is mainly on metaphysics and epistemology, ie those aspects of philosophy that are now mainly the domain of the sciences. Where it does touch upon ethics the book is somewhat dated, especially with regard to Atistotle's virtue ethics, which barely get a mention despite their importance in modern philosophy.

Nevertheless this is a highly informative account of philosophy's social history. Most entertaining perhaps is the brilliant and scathing chapter on Nietzsche, in which Russell places the German philosopher in a dialogue with Buddha. And the account of the hereditary principle with regard to economics remains even today a fascinating and relevant insight.

A special mention must go to Jonathan Keeble and his brilliant reading throughout. He perfectly distills Russell's humour throughout, adding a tone of witty irreverence to the book. He also takes every opportunity to show off his acting chops; the Frankenstein's Monster excerpts were particularly entertaining.

Worth a listen if you have 38 hours to spare! Though perhaps worth it just for certain chapters, particularly, Pythagoras, The Hellenistic Period, Spinoza, and especially Nietzsche.

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12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Brian on 11-13-16

An amazing read

Fantastic book, very comprehensive. A long read, but we'll worth it if you are interested in the subject.

exceptionally narrated.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Amazon Customer on 05-26-15

The Definitive History

Fascinating look over the not only the philosophy, but also the circumstances surrounding the philosophers themselves. This is THE book for anyone interested in getting into Philosophy.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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