Dorling Kindersley 1998
Date finished: 2003-07-03
Dorling Kindersley is well-known for their sumptuously illustrated introductory and reference books aimed at both children and adults, but does their picture-heavy approach work for a subject as non-visual as philosophy? It does, sort of.
The book is divided into many short chapters, each from 2 to 6 pages long. Chapters cover either a single philosopher (Socrates, Hume, Schopenhauer) or a theme such as medieval or Eastern philosophy. Pages are cluttered with little informative sidebars that can usually be skipped: a list of an author's works, a small picture of a title page, or a brief biography of another figure. The pictures are most helpful when they show artworks that were contemporary to a philosopher or were part of a movement influenced by his work; the portraits of the various philosophers are also frequently very well-chosen. Other illustrations are simply stock photographs that are sometimes relevant but also sometimes only tenuously connected to the subject at hand.
I read this book because I wanted to get a better idea of what philosophy is about and an understanding of the discipline's chronology. The book succeeds at this very nicely, though its explanation of the 19th century German philosophers -- Kant, Schopenhauer, Fichte, Hegel -- made them sound very vague and unsupported. For example, Schopenhauer asserted that compassion occurs because humans are undifferentiated in the noumenal; this doesn't seem like an explanation at all. I don't know if these theories really are content-free or if they just can't be explained in four pages; either way it probably isn't Magee's fault for trying.
%T The Story of Philosophy %S The Essential Guide to the History of Western Philosophy %A Magee, Bryan %I Dorling Kindersley %G ISBN 0-7894-3511-X %K philosophy %D 1998 %@ 2003-07-03 %P 233pp