A Passion for Wisdom: A Very Brief History of Philosophy

A Passion for Wisdom: A Very Brief History of Philosophy

A Passion for Wisdom: A Very Brief History of Philosophy

A Passion for Wisdom: A Very Brief History of Philosophy

Synopsis

Readers eager to acquire a basic familiarity with the history of philosophy but intimidated by the task will find in A Passion for Wisdom a lively, accessible, and highly enjoyable tour of the world's great ideas. Here, Robert Solomon and Kathleen Higgins tell the story of philosophy's development with great clarity and refreshing wit. The authors begin with the most ancient religious beliefs of the east and west and bring us right up to the feminist and multicultural philosophies of the present. Along the way, they highlight major philosophers, from Plato and the Buddha to William James and Simone de Beauvoir, and explore major categories, from metaphysics and ethics to politics and logic. The book is enlivened as well by telling anecdotes and sparkling quotations. Among many memorable observations, we're treated to Thomas Hobbes' assessment that life is "nasty, brutish, and short" and Hegel's description of Napoleon as "world history on horseback." Engaging, comprehensive, and delightfully written, A Passion for Wisdom is a splendid introduction to an intellectual tradition that reaches back over three thousand years.

Excerpt

The story of philosophy is the history of humanity's self-awareness and wonder with the world. It is, in short, collective and individual passion for wisdom. It encompasses, all at once, the origins of religion, mythology, cultural and personal self-identity, and science. It is a story that unfolds in philosophers' thoughts and teachings throughout the ages, but it can also be painted in broader brush strokes, giving us a larger picture of trends, movements, and grand sweeps of ideas—a picture of what nineteenth-century German philosophers called the Zeitgeist, the "spirit of the times," moving through time. Individual philosophers, of course, play major roles in the drama, but center stage belongs not to them but to the ideas they invented, discovered, or in any case promoted. The story is, accordingly, not so much a collective biography as it is an abstract portrait of the world of ideas.

What we have tried to present here is one version of that portrait. We have attempted to capture the global nature of philosophy as a (more or less) universal human attribute, but our perspective unavoidably is a Western one. Nevertheless, in Part I we have included a broad spread of traditions, from ancient America to Tibet, from Athens and Jerusalem to India, and the path from Plato to postmodernism. There is, of course, much more to be said, but too rarely is so much said so simply. The glory of philosophy, from our point of view, lies not so much in the details as in the expanse, and we invite the reader to marvel not so much at the depth as at the breadth of the history of human intelligence, passion, and imagination.

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