Review: A Little History of Philosophy

Nigel Warburton is one of the hosts of the podcast Philosophy Bites.  He has been a lecturer and writer about philosophy and this book shows he knows his stuff.

In A Little History of Philosophy Warburton takes us through a number of philosophers (some chapters have more than one, one philosopher has two chapters) over the course of several thousand years, from Socrates to Peter Singer.  Each chapter is only about 7 pages long and does not take much to digest.

The joy of this book is that each chapter is an accessible and concise summary of the philosopher.  Warburton is a master of making complex ideas understandable to the average person, both in this book and in his interviews in the podcast.  Warburton even has a short paragraph at the end of the chapter, linking us to the next, leaving a tantalising taste of what is to come and showing that each philosopher does not exist in a vacuum, but in a line, a history.
The frustration of the book is that because each of the chapters are so short you only get a small insight into the philosophy of the person, which means that sometimes there are things that are more sophisticated than Warburton can present.  Some of the philosophers have contributed more than Warburton has space to explain.  This is not his fault, it is the fault of the project.  Some, who I am more familiar with, are presented more positively than I would have liked and some more negatively than I would have liked as much as Warbutron has worked to be neutral in his presentations.
This is one of those books that everyone should read.  It is accessible and easy to read.  More importantly it introduces us to the world of why do we think what we think.  Further this should be seen as an introduction to further investigation to areas of thinking that we need to find out more about.
As Socrates famously said “the unexamined life is not worth living”.

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