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The Dream of Reason – A History of Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance Paperback – Import, 29 Nov 2002
|Paperback, Import, 29 Nov 2002||
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Description for The Dream of Reason – A History of Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance
Supplants all others, even the immensely successful History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell. — A. C. Grayling (Independent)
Gottlieb is as enjoyable as he is intellectually stimulating. — Robert Conquest (Los Angeles Times)
[Gottlieb] writes with fluency and lucidity, with a gift for making even difficult matters seem comprehensible. — Richard Jenkins (New York Times)
A delight. It is written with both wit and scholarship, providing a wonderful overall picture of Western philosophy up to the Renaissance. — Sir Roger Penrose
About the Author
Anthony Gottlieb is the author of The Dream of Reason, a former executive editor of The Economist, and has held visiting fellowships at Harvard University and All Souls College, Oxford. His work has appeared in The New Yorker and the New York Times.
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You dont have to be a philosopher to understand philosophy. This book is ideal for that.
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This volume covers a diverse cast of characters from the fifth and sixth centuries BC (the Milesians, the Pythagoreans, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Zeno, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Democritus, the Sophists) through the Giants of Philosophy (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle) and their near contemporaries in the 5th century BC to the early middle ages of the pre-Renaissance (Epicureans, Stoics, Sceptics). With the exception of Plato and Aristotle, who found teaching jobs and started Academies that lasted centuries, most of the early philosophers come across as cantankerous elderly vagrants of an argumentative disposition who congregated in public places. Almost all we know of Socrates’ thought is what Plato has him say in various dialogues—he apparently was a master at leading his opponents into contradicting themselves. Plato and Aristotle, on the other hand, were prolific writers and doers who wrote widely on everything (Logic, Ethics, etc. and Science in the case of Aristotle), started the academies that made Athens famous and dominated philosophy until Galileo, Newton and the enlightenment 2000 years later. The importance of these early thinkers was not so much their systems of thought as their struggle to understand their world by reasoning. According to Aristotle the aim of human life is Eudaimonia, which translates as successful, admirable living and all round good fortune leading to a contented state of mind. The age of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates was followed by various competing sects—Epicureans, Stoics and Sceptics being the better known, and finally by the stifling rise of the Christian Church.
There was a two-way exchange between philosophy, on the one hand, and the development of science, economics, psychology, mathematics, sociology, etc., on the other hand, over the 2000 years following the Age of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle; an age which saw the collapse of the Roman Empire, the rise of the Christian church and the general collapse of thought as the dark ages swept over Europe. Fortunately, the learning of ancient Europe was preserved and extended in the Arab world until it was rediscovered during the Renaissance in the 14th and 15th centuries
In 1543 Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543) published his account of the earth rotating about the sun, refuting both Aristotle and the doctrine of the Catholic Church. Shortly afterwards, Giordano Bruno, a Catholic friar, was burned at the stake for holding this view. Galileo (1564-1642) agreed with Copernicus about the earth rotating about the sun, disagreed with Aristotle and the Church about heavenly and earthly bodies being subject to different forces and built telescopes to view the heavenly bodies and confirm his theories. Galileo also agreed with Democritus and the Epicureans about the atomistic theory of matter, which was recognized to be in conflict with the Church doctrine which held that when bread and wine were consecrated by a priest that they became transubstantiated into the body and blood of Christ, for which beliefs he was condemned by the Church. God was brought into the atomic theory to placate the Church and allow the development of a mechanical science of nature by Gallileo, Kepler, Descartes and Hobbes to go forward. The best thinkers of the 17th century were struggling with questions of how is mental activity to be described in terms of Democritus’ particles of matter, what is the place of man in a mechanistic universe and what is the place of God, laying the groundwork for Newton.
Having said that, I think Gottlieb's book is far superior as a history of philosophy.
Now, I know the book to give to people wanting to know more about the History of Western Philosophy: this book. Gottlieb's writing is superb, and the narrative flow works excellently. It is extremely throughly researched and sourced, so that if you want to learn more, you can look at his sources easily. More than that, the tone is respectful and objective, and Gottlieb explains the context as well as the arguments of the ancients. Some ideas are very confusing from a modern persepective, but Gottlieb always does a good job of explaining how the idea came about, what environment the idea lived in, and he tries to give the best gloss to it. This is what we need to do if we are to actually engage in new ideas, or consider new ones.
I really, really recommend this book, as it is just full of interesting stories about philosophy, and the interesting people of philosophy. I can't wait to read Gottlieb's next book The Dream of Enlightenment.