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am 2. Juli 2000
This is one of the best books I have ever read. Over the years, I have enjoyed reading and reareading it, learning something new all the time. Russell's writing is superb. His analysis is based on the commitment to consider the facts carefully and to reason about them logically and responsibly. In writing my own reviews, I often keep this book in mind as a model.
Although Russell always includes a personal commentary on a particular philosopher, this does not undermine the objectivity and value of his analysis, because it is fairly easy to see where a summary of what the philospher had to say ends and Russell's interpretation begins. Russell's erudition is truly impressive. I agree with almost all of his assessments of philosophers in this volume. Russel was a logician, not a scientist--there is a big difference. The book was written in 1943, yet Russell seems unaware of Popper's falsifability criterion for statements that purport to be scientific. But generally, the book is very close to perfection. This is philosophy in context and ideas brought to life from one of the best writers and one of the most brilliant minds of the twentieth century.
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am 15. Januar 2000
Russell's "History of Western Philosophy" is not the best introduction to western philosophy that I have read. That place goes to Antony Flew's "Introduction to Western Philosophy." But for many readers, Russell's is still the better book. Flew's book is purely about philosophy. Russell, on the other hand, strives to place thought in its social context, and he is so successful that the book doubles as an outline history of the western world, and a very interesting one. Also, Russell's deep understanding of the relationship between philosophy and science adds interest. Finally, Russell's clear explanations of difficult concepts should make those concepts clear even to the novice or near-novice; Flew's book, although it assumes no knowledge of philosophy, is more technical, and so is not suitable for all novices.
Despite this book's well-deserved status as a classic work, it has some major flaws that a reader should keep in mind, all stemming from Russell's intolerance of viewpoints different from his own. Russell, like other logical positivists, saw no place for metaphysics in philosophy. In his "History of Western Philosophy," he makes no effort to curb that bias, resulting in what might be considered unfair treatments of all thinkers who did not stick purely to science. Also, Russell has no tolerance for systems of thought that do not conform to his preferences for democracy, atheism, pacifism, and social liberalism. So Plato is described as just another proponent of totalitarianism, Rousseau is portrayed as a crackpot and Nietzsche is depicted as a warmonger, but the much less significant thinkers John Dewey and William James get personal kudos for being nice progressive guys full of human kindness. Russell's book is a great place to start, but to get a fair treatment of thinkers such as Rousseau and Nietzsche, it should be supplemented with material such as the chapters on those thinkers in Strauss and Cropsey's "History of Political Philosophy." And, of course, read Copleston's "History of Philosophy" if you have time.
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am 1. November 2012
Die History of western Philosophy auf knappem Raum zu kommentieren ist normalerweise unmöglich. Erschienen zum ersten Mal 1946, ist dieses Buch der Versuch des Begründers des sog. logischen Empirismus, in die Geschichte der abendländischen Philosophie eine Art von Systematik zu bringen, obgleich Russell eigentlich zeit seines Lebens wenig von Systemen hielt. Wer in modernen Philosophiegeschichten nach der Historie von Ideen, ihrer Entwicklung und ihren Mutationen sucht, der wird in diesem Buch fündig. Keiner der großen Denker der okzidentalen Philosophie wird von Russell ausgespart. Freilich ist dies keine 'objektive' Philosophiegeschichte, denn Russell kann seine Herkunft als Common Sense - Philosoph nicht verleugnen. Auch seine vielleicht paradox anmutende Nähe zum Idealismus (Platon), dem er auch in späteren Jahren nahe stand, ist nicht zu übersehen.
Wer sich mit dieser History auseinander setzt, dem sei besonders Russells Kapitel zu Kant und seine Analyse der Philosophie von David Hume empfohlen. Das ist große Philosophie.
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am 6. März 2000
As a novice in the world of formal philosophy, I was entirely grateful for the existence of this book. Russell offers not only an expansive view of western philosophy within rigorous historical context, but manages to convey much of his own philosophy within his critiques. I came, over time, to look at this book as more an expression of Russell's philosophy in relation to the entire course of western thought. How could it be anything different? Russell's perspective is, however well-informed, quite one-sided. So much so that the individual philosophers he takes on have no hope of a fair trial. However much I agree with him about Nietzsche, Russell does not even attempt to be fair. Better to appreciate this book for what it is: a personal view. As such, it is quite expansive, and if you need to know more about western philosophy, you'll easily fill in the missing pieces if you start here. But don't run away hurt if your favorite philosopher gets short shrift - I also find myself disagreeing with Russell in many areas. Instead, as you read, try to keep what he accomplishes here separate from how he does it. This is truly a great work, and downplaying its importance because of skipping or riding some particular fellow would be like criticizing the Great Wall of China because they used sub-par mortar. Here is a journey through history through the eyes of one great man. Keep yours open and you may learn something.
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am 24. Juni 1998
This is a seminal and elegantly written volume which showcases Russell at his best. It avoids much of the pedantic dryness and/or painful polemic which burdens some of his other books, while maintaining the compelling critical insight which is often (and in my view rightly) considered to be Russell's trademark. Specialists have often charged the History's treatment of various philosophers as being less than adequate, but the concluding sentence in Russell's preface concedes as much, and offers an apology in advance. His intent is to provide a deliberately broad (though essentially sound) account of major Western philosophers, the social circumstances which moulded them, and the impact their thought has had on subsequent generations. His remarkable success easily justifies the attempt. A delicious read.
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am 11. April 2002
This is a very entertainig, well written and profound history of philosophy. It is of course not objective, but the personal involvement of the author makes the reading all the more interesting. Russell shows the development of thoght against the background of (social) history, then moves on to criticism from his own positivist point of view. Of course, one should not rely on just one book to form an opinion and it is allways well, to inform oneself of the author and his opinions in general.
The clever and not overly technical writing make philosophy actually an fun thing to do. Great Book, highly recommendable
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am 12. Juli 1999
As a history of Western philosophy it has its obvious (and by now pretty well-known) shortcomings, although I don't think that dishonesty is one of them. Russell does mention that he counts himself a positivist. He does dish out harsh treatment to some philosophers undeservedly, such as Kant (but even there he starts the chapter by telling the reader that Kant is generally reckoned to be one of history's finest philosophers).
One of the most interesting aspects of the book is Russell's thorough attempt to explain philosophy's 'connection with political and social circumstances', as promised in the title. I know too little about history to be able to comment on Russell's exposition of political circumstances, but his attempts to expose the relationship between the histories of politics and of ideas are brave and normally sound convincing. What his approach does is make the philosphy come alive and the reader (this reader at any rate) more appreciative of the impact philosophy (and hence philosophers) can have in the real world - whatever THAT is...
Above all, the prose is classic Russell and the book is highly entertaining for several reasons, all good! By no means definitive; but if I wanted that, I'd find a dictionary.
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am 5. Februar 1999
Russell serves up a good read that will enable the intelligent layman to feel they know something about philosophy. His bias is obvious from the start and I imagine anyone who actually reads this book will be previously aware of it. The most refreshing debunking of Plato, Aristotle and other Greeks encourages the reader that philosophy is not the fossilised subject, unable to escape from the shadow of the ancients, that it once was.
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am 3. August 1999
Nietzsche is maltreated, slightly. To say that the book is biased, misleading, or that Russell's attitude is in any way arrogant, however, is ignorance and intolerance in itself. Of course, Russell does have a very definite opinion of each philosophy examined, but his own views do not lead him to distort any factual information and the distinction between his opinion and the other philosophers' is very clearly made. To find such rudimentary faults in such a great man is a sign of bland arrogance combined with terrible naivette.
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am 4. März 2002
In 1943 (and even much later) Russell in fact wasn't aware of Popper's Logik der Forschung. But the basic thoughts of Popper's are already in the history. On page 529 Russell notes in criticizing Francis Bacon: "Bacon's inductive method is faulty through insufficient emphasis on hypothesis." Later on he writes: "The part played by deduction in science is greater than Bacon supposed. Often, when a hypothesis has to be tested, there is a long deductive journey from the hypothesis to some consequence that can be tested by observation."
5 stars because the book is both honest and clear, for me the two most important virtues in philosophy. Russell does not pretend to now just everything - and he does not try to impress with a pompous style.
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