Good book for general introduction to philosophy

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Reply Tue 12 Aug, 2008 07:13 pm
So I've already aquired a handful of philosophy books, some primary source, but now before I go any further I want to read a good general introduction/history.

In another thread (the library one) I was recommended Copleston's History of Philosophy. This comes in both 11 volumes and also in a concise single 550pg book, condensed. I've also been contemplating History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell. I like the idea of collecting all volumes of the Copleston series but it would be quite expensive and my local library only has one of the volumes.

So, I'm wondering what peoples recommendations would be:
-Collect the series of Coplteston's one-by-one (the cons of this are cost and also not achieving my goal of a brief overview)
-Buy the concise condensation of the series (cons = obviously condensed)
-History of Western Philosophy - Bertrand Russell

I'm interested to hear opinions from people who have read any of these and particularly if anyone has read both. I'm keen to read a good overview of all the philosophers and ideas before I continue my journey through my areas of interest.
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Tue 12 Aug, 2008 08:21 pm
@FatalMuse,
I would honestly recommend collecting the Copleston series. Not only because I have read bits and pieces of that series (namely the modern philosophers) but because I have read Russell's book... well... at least sections of it.

A History of Philosophy - Frederick CoplestonA History of Western Philosophy - Bertrand Russell

Russell's work is very good, but it is not as approachable as Coplestons. Have you ever read some philosophical writings where it sounds like they expect you to know what they are talking about even before you actually study it? Well this is almost like that. Nothing against Russell, but it is not as easy to read as Copleston. Also, the text is a little outdated. Not that philosophy should be modernized to be good, but you can tell. The content is actually pretty good, though I have a gripe with some of the emphasized content and focus. For example, the way he emphasized the scholastics and such, but other than that, it is not that bad.

All in all, I guess you have to decide what type of format you like best to decide. Try renting Russell's book through the library (and if they do not have it, order it through interlibrary loan) and Copleston's text as well to see which one you would like better format and content wise. After all, only you are the best judge of your own preference.
 
Holiday20310401
 
Reply Tue 12 Aug, 2008 08:28 pm
@VideCorSpoon,
Guess what... Our school library has no philosophy books, or encyclopedias. Anything philosophical is online but not really ever the target.
 
Victor Eremita
 
Reply Tue 12 Aug, 2008 08:31 pm
@Holiday20310401,
Get the four volume New History of Western Philosophy by Sir Anthony Kenny. It's much more accurate than Russell's book and is a bit more entertaining read than Copleston's book. Plus, it was written in the last 10 years, so it incorporates recent research.

But before Kenny, if I had to choose between Copleston and Russell, choose Copleston.
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Wed 13 Aug, 2008 06:50 am
@Victor Eremita,
Holiday,

You should petition that your school get some philosophy books. Not only because they should, but because that would look really good on your application when you apply to college. I don't think anybody could turn down that kind of activism.
 
Deftil
 
Reply Thu 14 Aug, 2008 02:49 pm
@FatalMuse,
My advice would be to go with the single condensed volume. You can still get a lot of info in 550 pages. I would save multi-volume collecting until later on, possibly when you have more money for that type of thing.

As a brief, but informative intro to Western Philosophy I recommend The Story of Philosophy by Bryan Magee.


PS - Fatal, who is that in your avatar?
 
FatalMuse
 
Reply Thu 14 Aug, 2008 03:38 pm
@Deftil,
Thanks for all the replies, it has helped me narrow down my considerations.

Deftil wrote:
PS - Fatal, who is that in your avatar?


It is Hermann Hesse.
 
Deftil
 
Reply Thu 14 Aug, 2008 07:54 pm
@FatalMuse,
FatalMuse wrote:
Thanks for all the replies, it has helped me narrow down my considerations.



It is Hermann Hesse.


Hey, me too! *high five*
 
Fido
 
Reply Fri 15 Aug, 2008 10:03 am
@FatalMuse,
FatalMuse wrote:
So I've already aquired a handful of philosophy books, some primary source, but now before I go any further I want to read a good general introduction/history.

In another thread (the library one) I was recommended Copleston's History of Philosophy. This comes in both 11 volumes and also in a concise single 550pg book, condensed. I've also been contemplating History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell. I like the idea of collecting all volumes of the Copleston series but it would be quite expensive and my local library only has one of the volumes.

So, I'm wondering what peoples recommendations would be:
-Collect the series of Coplteston's one-by-one (the cons of this are cost and also not achieving my goal of a brief overview)
-Buy the concise condensation of the series (cons = obviously condensed)
-History of Western Philosophy - Bertrand Russell

I'm interested to hear opinions from people who have read any of these and particularly if anyone has read both. I'm keen to read a good overview of all the philosophers and ideas before I continue my journey through my areas of interest.

I have the last one and it is good. I prefer the older Story of philosophy by Durant. I think it is good too , but he covers philosophy in his story of civilization volumes, and the going price for them seems to be three to four dollars. A lot of them are really good. And he was a story teller, and he seemed to grasp sexuality as a life force too, and I have to wonder if he didn't turn into a dirty old man. But a lot of comparative religion, and leading figures and the current of thought. The guy was a Scholar. And he gave credit to his wife which few great men have the good graces to do.
 
Fido
 
Reply Fri 15 Aug, 2008 10:07 am
@FatalMuse,
FatalMuse wrote:
Thanks for all the replies, it has helped me narrow down my considerations.



It is Hermann Hesse.

True Hermann?????
 
Fido
 
Reply Fri 15 Aug, 2008 10:20 am
@VideCorSpoon,
VideCorSpoon wrote:
Holiday,

You should petition that your school get some philosophy books. Not only because they should, but because that would look really good on your application when you apply to college. I don't think anybody could turn down that kind of activism.

My Clan tried to get socialist literature in our High School. They just refused us. What were we going to do? Sue? The thing is, that those idiots do much more damage trying to sell people a line of crap when all it does is turn the next generation into idiots like themselves, unable to think, unaware of their history, and generous with their rights. What is good for the goose is good for the cows and the sheep: Lots and lots of grass, but if they think people can continually live on the grass and never on their wits they are in need of an education. I cleared that place and I have never looked back.
So; don't ever count on your school for an education. And never sell your future to get one. Educate yourself. You know what you like and what people like they do well, and that is straight from Plato. Learn how to do something well enough to support your education. No one ever becomes a philosopher trying to become a philosopher. All philosophers first seek knowledge and then find wisdom. Schools are just systems. All they teach is how to get through the system. If you go through enough systems they can plant you at will. They'll tell you you are dead, and you will believe them. Never believe them. They are unbelievable. Like my spelling.
 
Poseidon
 
Reply Sat 6 Sep, 2008 07:49 pm
@Fido,
I would say read Descartes "discourse on method and the meditations". He brushes aside everything that came before him as 'philosophy' and sticks to pure reason; pure logic. Math.

From the position of your own understanding of the world, it is perhaps the only real book of philosophy ever written. Perhaps it is wrong to call it philosophy; it goes beyond mere discourse; he lays the foundation for modern science.

After him, the next great thinker is Newton. He is the pivot between old world thinking and new world thinking.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Sun 7 Sep, 2008 12:47 am
@Poseidon,
Don't get me wrong, I have a deep rooted love for Descartes and his work. But I'd hardly call the Meditations the only "real" book of philosophy ever written. If philosophy is the love of wisdom, he is but one among thousands.
 
Victor Eremita
 
Reply Sun 7 Sep, 2008 01:11 am
@Didymos Thomas,
You're right, no one philosopher is "the philosopher". Not even Socrates, because you'd be insulting guys like Confucius.

No original book can ever serve to be a general introduction to philosophy. The Republic, Nichomachean Ethics, Meditations, Critique of Pure Reason, Fear and Trembling, Being and Time, Philosophical Investigations.... great and original books in philosophy, but none of them is a "general introduction to philosophy"; they are just to unique for that.
 
Poseidon
 
Reply Sun 7 Sep, 2008 02:35 pm
@Victor Eremita,
Victor Eremita wrote:
You're right, no one philosopher is "the philosopher". Not even Socrates, because you'd be insulting guys like Confucius.


From what I could see, Confucious predated Plato by a generation or two, and Plato was just regurgitating what Confucious said.

Here I am talking of Plato's 'Republic' which was decimated by Karl Popper in the title "The open society and its enemies : Volume 1 : Plato"

Basically Plato and Confucious were both promoting a caste society.


Quote:

No original book can ever serve to be a general introduction to philosophy. The Republic, Nichomachean Ethics, Meditations, Critique of Pure Reason, Fear and Trembling, Being and Time, Philosophical Investigations.... great and original books in philosophy, but none of them is a "general introduction to philosophy"; they are just to unique for that.


What makes Descartes unique is he dismisses speculative philosophy (not completely but pragmatically), and returns to original principles. Specifically geometry. He is essentially the first real scientist; philosophically speaking.

No other philosopher that I have read does this. We have nothing written by Socrates, and many insist that he was just an invented character of Plato. After Descartes comes Newton, temporally and logically. Descartes main contemporary is Galileo.

He is the pivot between speculation and science. Nothing comes close to Descartes.
 
madel
 
Reply Sun 7 Sep, 2008 03:42 pm
@Poseidon,
Quote:
From what I could see, Confucious predated Plato by a generation or two, and Plato was just regurgitating what Confucious said.
I'm prone to disagreeing. That is, yes, C-man predates, but Aristotle and Confucious have far more in common than Confucious and Plato do...They had similarities, but Confucious was not nearly so concerned with much of what Plato was, and vice-versa

A bloody LOT of people promoted (and promote) caste societies...I think it would be jumping to conclusions to say Plato was simply regurgitating C-man on that one.

*************

Books...There is a series of books that are effectively a set of about 80 encyclopeadias that are phenomenal, but they aren't just philosophy specific. Some are philosophy, some history, some math, some art, some everything else, but if you go by the guide it gives you, then you end up reading a very good versing in just about everything in a sane order (albeit not necessarily chronological). Wish I could remember the name of it. I used to have it, but that was not one of the things I got to keep in the divorce. Le sigh. The whole set on amazon is somewhere between $200 and $300...but worth it.

The reason I mention it is because I don't hold an opinion on the other two you mentioned, and I can't think of any other phil-only books that would be especially worthwhile. The set I mention (I'll get the name, I promise) I think would be geat to get the contextual issues approached with each philosopher and philosophy.

But really, I'm not the best person to talk to on this. My real response is prone to being more like "google and read "squashed philosophers"' if you just want an overview. But that's not very academic. Smile
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Sun 7 Sep, 2008 03:46 pm
@Poseidon,
Plato and Confucius do have many similarities, but the caste system of Confucius sets farmers at the top, whereas Plato sets philosophers at the top.

As for Socrates, he probably did exist. Socratic dialogs became a cottage industry in Athens. Today, we only have Plato and Xenophon to read.

I think this is what Madel is talking about:
The Britannica Store
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Mon 8 Sep, 2008 07:30 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
As an introduction to philosophy I think a book like The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are or Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert Persig make the best introduction to philosophy because of the accessibility, themes, and questions that they bring up about life and the quality of it. Philosophy is about asking questions and what better way to begin than to ask questions about oneself.
 
Fido
 
Reply Tue 9 Sep, 2008 06:49 am
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus wrote:
As an introduction to philosophy I think a book like The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are or Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert Persig make the best introduction to philosophy because of the accessibility, themes, and questions that they bring up about life and the quality of it. Philosophy is about asking questions and what better way to begin than to ask questions about oneself.

Ask any question about yourself and a liar will give you the answer. I hope it is the one you want.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Tue 9 Sep, 2008 08:02 am
@Fido,
While, for obvious reasons, there are no good overviews of contemporary philosophy, the three mentioned above provide summations of the earlier important philosophers. In order of complexity one could list them thus:

The Durants, churning out a massive amount of material during their lives, provide a layman's view of the major philosophers and emphasize their place in the continuum of Western thought.

Russell is certainly entertaining, and not without a sense of humour, and moroever writes as a philosopher himself; some of his views are thus unique, but in general he provides an acceptable discussion of prior philosophers.
Either of these will introduce the reader to the important writers and divisions within philosophy, and can be read rather quickly as general surveys.

Copleston's magisterial survey of the history of philosophy is more of a reference work, to be consulted before reading a philosopher, or to provide an overview of those one does not have time to read, and is probably on the shelf of any serious student of philosophy. A showpiece of Catholic scholarship at its very best, the History is always careful to distinguish Copleston's Catholic viewpoints and interpretations from his presentation of generally accepted and well-researched interpretations.
 
 

 
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