Fifty Major Philosophers: A Reference Guide

Fifty Major Philosophers: A Reference Guide

Fifty Major Philosophers: A Reference Guide

Fifty Major Philosophers: A Reference Guide

Synopsis

The history of Western philosophy spans over two thousand years, but most of the running has been made by a surprisingly small number of thinkers. It has been said that all Western philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato, but this book takes a more accommodating view in selecting the fifty figures who have made the largest contributions to the development of our reflection upon the world and ourselves.

Excerpt

For each philosopher treated in this book I have provided the following: a short statement describing the main thrust of his philosophy; information about his life; and concise expositions of one or two aspects of his thought, along with mention, where appropriate, of its connection with the thought of other philosophers. I have selected for exposition those aspects of an individual’s philosophy which I take to be especially important, interesting, and characteristic of his work. My aim has been to enable the reader briefly to share something of the point of view of each philosopher. No living philosopher is included in the book.

At the end of each essay I have provided information that can launch the interested reader into further and more detailed study. First, there are notes to which the numbers in the text refer; second, a list of other philosophers treated in the book whose thought relates in one way or another to that of the philosopher in hand; third, details of the philosopher’s principal writings; fourth, a list of books suitable for further reading.

At the end of the book there is a short glossary of philosophical terms. It contains brief explanations of technical or semi-technical terms that occur a number of times in the book. For the most part it has been possible to give a brief explanation of such a term with its first use, but it was not feasible to repeat the explanation for every subsequent use. Subsequent or unexplained uses therefore appear in bold print in order to indicate that there is a glossary entry for the term or for a cognate of it. The term does not appear in bold print on the occasion of its being briefly explained in the text. The glossary entries should not be taken to be either clear-cut definitions or complete explanations of the terms they describe. They are meant to provide only a first foothold for a reader not familiar with the philosophical terrain.

Accommodating fifty philosophers between two covers has involved presenting a good deal of information in a closely packed way. By choosing to expound just one or two aspects of each philosopher’s work I have sought to avoid offering material that is too condensed to be readily understood. By supplying the appendices, already mentioned, to each essay I have tried to provide the means of augmenting and developing what I have written. I have thought of each essay as providing guidance towards the main routes of further study; that is, as embodying references and indications which, if pursued, will help the enquiring reader to enjoy the sort of critical understanding and appreciation that each of these fifty philosophers deserves.

Diané Collinson . . .

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