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The Dream of Reason: A History of Western Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance

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Already a classic, this landmark study of early Western thought now appears in a new edition with expanded coverage of the Middle Ages. This landmark study of Western thought takes a fresh look at the writings of the great thinkers of classic philosophy and questions many pieces of conventional wisdom. The book invites comparison with Bertrand Russell's monumental History Already a classic, this landmark study of early Western thought now appears in a new edition with expanded coverage of the Middle Ages. This landmark study of Western thought takes a fresh look at the writings of the great thinkers of classic philosophy and questions many pieces of conventional wisdom. The book invites comparison with Bertrand Russell's monumental History of Western Philosophy, "but Gottlieb's book is less idiosyncratic and based on more recent scholarship" (Colin McGinn, Los Angeles Times). A New York Times Notable Book, a Los Angeles Times Best Book, and a Times Literary Supplement Best Book of 2001.


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Already a classic, this landmark study of early Western thought now appears in a new edition with expanded coverage of the Middle Ages. This landmark study of Western thought takes a fresh look at the writings of the great thinkers of classic philosophy and questions many pieces of conventional wisdom. The book invites comparison with Bertrand Russell's monumental History Already a classic, this landmark study of early Western thought now appears in a new edition with expanded coverage of the Middle Ages. This landmark study of Western thought takes a fresh look at the writings of the great thinkers of classic philosophy and questions many pieces of conventional wisdom. The book invites comparison with Bertrand Russell's monumental History of Western Philosophy, "but Gottlieb's book is less idiosyncratic and based on more recent scholarship" (Colin McGinn, Los Angeles Times). A New York Times Notable Book, a Los Angeles Times Best Book, and a Times Literary Supplement Best Book of 2001.

30 review for The Dream of Reason: A History of Western Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cassandra Kay Silva

    I am absolutely floored that people did not give this book five stars. I was so impressed that now that I am done with the book I am planning on turning right around to read it immediately again. Absolutely a new favorite. I have studied the more ancient philosophers very heavily and have never read such beautiful correlations between great minds as put forth by Gottlieb. Extremely simple and very elegant. This is exactly what I was looking for to solidify time periods and thinkers together. I d I am absolutely floored that people did not give this book five stars. I was so impressed that now that I am done with the book I am planning on turning right around to read it immediately again. Absolutely a new favorite. I have studied the more ancient philosophers very heavily and have never read such beautiful correlations between great minds as put forth by Gottlieb. Extremely simple and very elegant. This is exactly what I was looking for to solidify time periods and thinkers together. I don't care what anyone else says this book was hands down fantastic!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    For some reason I’ve always felt essentially uneducated because I didn’t have a “classical education”. I didn’t learn Latin or Greek (though I worked a fair way through a Teach Yourself Latin book once when I was reading Ulysses and felt my lack most particularly). I never studied Greek or Roman history either after high school. My interests tended to be contemporary and American. I also only remember taking one philosophy class and it was not very memorable. I’ve read some Plato and Aristotle, For some reason I’ve always felt essentially uneducated because I didn’t have a “classical education”. I didn’t learn Latin or Greek (though I worked a fair way through a Teach Yourself Latin book once when I was reading Ulysses and felt my lack most particularly). I never studied Greek or Roman history either after high school. My interests tended to be contemporary and American. I also only remember taking one philosophy class and it was not very memorable. I’ve read some Plato and Aristotle, The Iliad and the Odyssey and a fair number of Greek plays. I want to read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire but I started it and was lost because I had so little background (though I could see the writing was superb—no wonder it’s lasted so long.). Hence my interest in this book. It’s well written and even humorous in spots; Gottlieb doesn’t stand in awe of classical philosophy as a subject or of classical writers because they’re classical. I’m not knowledgeable enough to know whether he treats them fairly. It made sense to me. I note that Amazon reviewers rate the book either 5 or 1 which means it’s probably a book worth looking at, certainly by non-specialists. I was least interested in the pre-Socratics though and most interested, modernist that I am, in the last chapter, called The Haven of Piety: From Late Antiquity to the Renaissance. It was particularly interesting to see how increasingly western philosophy had to “accommodate itself” to Christianity. The themes were not all that different from controversies which have been raging ever since, no matter how often they were put to rest, like whether the world was created all at once by God or existed or evolved independently. Two things this book reminded me of particularly. First that philosophy first embraced all learning and only later separated itself out into first philosophy and theology and later into literature and science and history and mathematics, etc. etc. It was particularly interesting to see the evolution of science out of what was called “natural philosophy” and to discover that pre-Socratic philosophers first came up with the “atomistic theory”—a crude hypothesis about the “tiny particles” that made up all matter. Secondly, it reminded me that in the period that we call the “Dark Ages” in Europe, much of the learning of the classical period was preserved and advanced by Arab scholars. It’s so easy to forget, in today’s focus on fundamental Islamist politics that glorious period of academic brilliance in the Arab world

  3. 5 out of 5

    D.L. Morrese

    I will confess to having a degree in Philosophy, which, from a practical stand point, may seem kind of pointless. My father certainly thought so when I was in college. 'What are you going to do with that?' he would say. 'There's no jobs in it.' His degree was in accounting and he worked as an auditor. He knew about money. And because he did, I didn't feel I needed to. That was back when I was young and not especially aware of the need to actually earn an income of my own some day. My insufferabl I will confess to having a degree in Philosophy, which, from a practical stand point, may seem kind of pointless. My father certainly thought so when I was in college. 'What are you going to do with that?' he would say. 'There's no jobs in it.' His degree was in accounting and he worked as an auditor. He knew about money. And because he did, I didn't feel I needed to. That was back when I was young and not especially aware of the need to actually earn an income of my own some day. My insufferable reply was usually something like, 'I'm going to college for an education, not for job training.' Yeah, great comeback. Very philosophical, but try paying the rent with it! Admittedly, a degree in Philosophy isn't for everyone, but we all have a philosophy, at least as it's broadly defined. We each have a particular way of looking at the world, complete with reasons (or at least rationalizations) of why we see it this way. Our personal philosophies form the foundations of everything we think and do. They color our perceptions and shape our actions. In this respect, our philosophies are pretty important, so sparing a thought or two for them is probably worthwhile. In this book, Gottlieb takes us back to some of the earliest recorded reflections on ways of seeing the world, from ideas about what it 'really' is, to how people should live in it. I don't recall ever reading a better summation of the main points of the most prominent thinkers: from ancient Greece (where all sorts of ideas, both wild and insightful were espoused and criticized) to the Renaissance (when rationalization tended to dominate over rationality). He also clears up a few common misconceptions about some philosophers. I, personally, gained a greater appreciation for Aristotle from this book. Like many, I tended to view his philosophy as one of the things impeding progress in the Middle Ages. But it wasn't the fault of Aristotle or Ptolemy or Galen that their works were regarded as something close to sacred long after their deaths, and they probably would not have approved to learn that they were. The Dream of Reason is a great read. It's concise, informative, even entertaining. Gottlieb achieves the latter through clear prose and by providing just a bit of analysis from a modern perspective, which puts the ideas he's explaining in context and shows their progression over time. If you're a student of philosophy or just someone with a mild interest, you should read this.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Murtaza

    One of the things that I wish that I could have had in my youth is a classical education. Economic impracticality aside, at the time I did not even know that such a thing even existed so needless to say it was impossible on multiple levels. Over the years though I've tried to supplement the gaps in my knowledge with a basic overview of classical philosophy, provided by people like Bertrand Russell, Will Durant and Arthur Herman. I've noticed other people doing this today through YouTube populari One of the things that I wish that I could have had in my youth is a classical education. Economic impracticality aside, at the time I did not even know that such a thing even existed so needless to say it was impossible on multiple levels. Over the years though I've tried to supplement the gaps in my knowledge with a basic overview of classical philosophy, provided by people like Bertrand Russell, Will Durant and Arthur Herman. I've noticed other people doing this today through YouTube popularizers of vastly uneven quality. Classical knowledge has a growing prestige in our minds today. That makes sense given the epistemological crisis that we are collectively experiencing. Perhaps since I've already read many similar surveys, this book did not reveal much about classical philosophy that I was not already familiar with. It did teach me a valuable lesson though: how not to write a book. It's not that the writing was bad, it was fine. It is just that there was nothing impelling the book along. There was no original argument or contention underlying the chapter discussions. They were just like individual Wikipedia articles stacked on top of each other without any necessary relationship. Maybe I am asking a lot, but in Arthur Herman's sublime The Cave and the Light he manages to make a compelling argument for the continuing relevance and dynamism of Platonic and Aristotelian thought in the present day. In comparison this book by Gottlieb is like an encyclopedia. That is, superfluous in the age of the cloud. Gottlieb has a certain contempt or dismissiveness towards many of the ancient philosophers he is writing about. This critically undermines the book in my opinion. To put it this way: if some obscure ancient guy was just wrong and believed a bunch of nonsense with no impact on the present day; why should we care about them then? Just vanity knowledge? It actually needs to be explained afresh, or with some enthusiasm for he subject. The author's own apparent positivistic/materialistic leanings are not so subtly expressed throughout the book. If your own beliefs are similar it might make the overall discussion more tolerable. To be fair, I always appreciate the effort to present anew old knowledge. It is vital and needs to be done for every generation, lest they fall under the sway of charlatans. And it's not that this book is without redeeming qualities — it does teach you the basics of Aristotle and Plato for example. But if you are a philistine who feels pained by your lack of classical knowledge please read The Cave and the Light instead. You will get something more clearly meaningful, relevant and enjoyable out of it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Gary Beauregard Bottomley

    One can learn Philosophy best of all by going to the primary sources themselves and studying them, but by doing it that way the student losses the context and the relationship between the different schools of thought and how a school of thought relates to the others of its time period and how it is relevant today. The author, a journalist, does that connecting for the reader by analyzing what each school of thought says and how it connects giving the reader the modern perspective the school requ One can learn Philosophy best of all by going to the primary sources themselves and studying them, but by doing it that way the student losses the context and the relationship between the different schools of thought and how a school of thought relates to the others of its time period and how it is relevant today. The author, a journalist, does that connecting for the reader by analyzing what each school of thought says and how it connects giving the reader the modern perspective the school requires. I can give a for instance what the author does with the school of thought with the Skeptics. First he puts them in the context after the Socratics and why they relate as they do, then he shows the contrast they had with the Epicureans and Stoics, and then how they relate to the Logical Positivists of the relatively modern Vienna Circle by the fact that the Skeptics see the world at most by the empirical facts based upon the absolute foundation and aren't necessarily needing the theory (theoria, the binding glue that holds the world together by a narrative or description) to understand the world (Hume, a Skeptic and empiricist would say you never can see the effect, just the cause, and the vase staying upon the table is all that you can really see and the 'gravity' is not materially real and is just a 'construct', a narrative, within the mind). I think the author some what excels at explaining each school of thought and putting the context and relevance in its proper place. I think Bertrand Russel and Will Durant each have written a very similar book as this one and did as good or better job. I'm not sure if there was anything really new within this book that wasn't in the other two books, but he is a good writer and the book is an interesting read. (The author really likes the short play "The Clouds" by Aristophanes and must have mentioned it 10 times with the pre-Socratics and the Socratics. I would recommend listening to the free version available at LibriVox before listening to this story since it is entertaining, laugh out loud funny, free, and is such a big part of the narrative to the first part of this book).

  6. 4 out of 5

    Youze da Funk

    so my man Harjan Singh at the BK lounge on Manor Park Rd be all lyk "Lookie here paji: I'm not saying that Aristotelean syllogism necessitates the interminable pretzels of dem analyticz, but all Whopperz be teh cholesterol; all Harjan Singhz be da Whopperz; ergo all Harjan Singhz be the cholesterol. Yar wut u eat, boiiieeee." Indeed, the man had a point, spumey froth of mustard oozing from his lips, and who was I to argue the niceties of Medieval theologians, pan-seared or otherwise? Lamentably, so my man Harjan Singh at the BK lounge on Manor Park Rd be all lyk "Lookie here paji: I'm not saying that Aristotelean syllogism necessitates the interminable pretzels of dem analyticz, but all Whopperz be teh cholesterol; all Harjan Singhz be da Whopperz; ergo all Harjan Singhz be the cholesterol. Yar wut u eat, boiiieeee." Indeed, the man had a point, spumey froth of mustard oozing from his lips, and who was I to argue the niceties of Medieval theologians, pan-seared or otherwise? Lamentably, I digress; Goobles presents a swarthy survey, less curmudgeonly than the Roosel yet chock with verve. Kudos, fine sir!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lemar

    This is an enjoyable and thorough overview of Western Philosophy from its origins in Greek Asia Minor up through the 16th century. Gottlieb has dug in and his deep understanding of the schools of thought and their intricate relationships makes this the ideal book to get the timelines straight without just skimming the surface. I can't decide if his humor (which I like) detracts a little from the grandeur of the subject or makes what could be an overwhelming trudge much lighter. I think I just de This is an enjoyable and thorough overview of Western Philosophy from its origins in Greek Asia Minor up through the 16th century. Gottlieb has dug in and his deep understanding of the schools of thought and their intricate relationships makes this the ideal book to get the timelines straight without just skimming the surface. I can't decide if his humor (which I like) detracts a little from the grandeur of the subject or makes what could be an overwhelming trudge much lighter. I think I just decided, when in doubt go with humor, that's my philosophy. I'm interested in the current revival of Stoic philosophy. There is a Stoic Week and good discussions led by Massimo Pigliucci on youtube and blogs.

  8. 5 out of 5

    K.M. Weiland

    Interesting and information overview of early philosophy. Highly ennjoyable.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Stany

    I was not very enthusiastic about this book to start with; I agreed with some of the reviews that there was a lot of interpretation from the author. However, a few chapters into the book, I started to find this a strength. It certainly is not a history book like the Copleston-series (or even Russell), but it provides much more context. Some parts were very well written. To name just a few: Plato on democracy; Aristotle’s logic, Epicurism. The book could use a better editor, as there are some sim I was not very enthusiastic about this book to start with; I agreed with some of the reviews that there was a lot of interpretation from the author. However, a few chapters into the book, I started to find this a strength. It certainly is not a history book like the Copleston-series (or even Russell), but it provides much more context. Some parts were very well written. To name just a few: Plato on democracy; Aristotle’s logic, Epicurism. The book could use a better editor, as there are some simple factual mistakes. E.g. the elementary particles are not divided into two classes of quarks and leptons (p108). Such minor mistakes are not sufficient to give anything less than 5 stars.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nena Namysl

    It took me a while to finish, but it was definitely worth the read. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn/read something about philosophy, but doesn't know where to begin. It is a difficult read because of its subject, not its writer. Gottlieb writes about philosophy as if it is a story, offers interesting and funny comments, and repeats himself to make the content of his writing more accessible. I have never enjoyed reading scholarly writing this much. It took me a while to finish, but it was definitely worth the read. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn/read something about philosophy, but doesn't know where to begin. It is a difficult read because of its subject, not its writer. Gottlieb writes about philosophy as if it is a story, offers interesting and funny comments, and repeats himself to make the content of his writing more accessible. I have never enjoyed reading scholarly writing this much.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bob Nichols

    Gottlieb’s focus is on the ancient Greeks who laid out the main themes found in Western philosophy, including whether ultimate reality is something that transcends the natural world. The Milesians (Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes) first articulated the materialist side of this debate by dispensing with supernatural explanations and looking for the “natural causes of things.” Parmenides and Pythagoras provided an alternative reality, a world of eternal oneness that superseded the world of senses, Gottlieb’s focus is on the ancient Greeks who laid out the main themes found in Western philosophy, including whether ultimate reality is something that transcends the natural world. The Milesians (Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes) first articulated the materialist side of this debate by dispensing with supernatural explanations and looking for the “natural causes of things.” Parmenides and Pythagoras provided an alternative reality, a world of eternal oneness that superseded the world of senses, change and multitude. The book’s title, “The Dream of Reason,” captures this debate between these two metaphysical positions, but the meaning of “Dream” and “Reason” is ambiguous. For the Milesians and their successors, reason was about looking for the material, logical linkages between cause and effect. It was a mind frame that would lead to Western science and the progressive explanation about how the material world worked. This was one way to define the “dream of reason.” Plato’s “reason” was the other. Here, Gottlieb’s account is problematic. “What struck Plato about the objects dealt with in mathematics,” Gottlieb writes, “is that they are ideal, eternal, unchanging and pleasingly independent of earthly, visible things.” This is the world of Forms and it’s difficult to read the dialogues without this as the overarching perspective. But Gottlieb does not go there. Socrates, the dominant voice in Plato’s dialogues, is said by Gottlieb to be a figure who is not interested in the cosmic underpinnings of philosophy. The dialogues were, he says, “generally explanatory discussions” by Socrates about how we “ought to live” and that, in a “non-dogmatic” way, Socrates was interested only in questioning established wisdom and ferreting out the truth through dialogue. Though this is the standard account of Socrates, it is counter to what Gottlieb says elsewhere and what one might gather from reading of Socrates, directly, without filters, in the dialogues. (1) For his interpretation of Socrates’ views, Gottlieb relies mainly on Plato who, he writes, put “mystical glasses on Socrates” and eventually, “coming under the influence of Italian Pythagoreans,..invoked the name of Socrates to expound on all sorts of subjects.” Gottlieb steers his presentation on Plato away from any other-worldly orientation. Early on, commenting on the similarities between Plato’s philosophy and the Christianity that developed a few centuries later, Gottlieb notes that “the [Platonic] God of the Timaeus” could be misinterpreted as “the God of Genesis,” stating that,“Reading Plato without biblical blinkers, we can see that this required plenty of imaginative interpretation.” Gottlieb then notes the “specific differences” where this is so. While it’s not surprising that there would be differences in specific details between Genesis and Plato, it does not take “biblical blinkers” to reasonably speculate about the Christian roots in Plato's thought - the notion of another world, the badness of this world, the need to perfect our being to be worthy of an ascent to this higher world. (2) Now “the dream of reason” means something other than what Gottlieb conveys. In Gottlieb’s take on Plato, happiness is the rule of reason. It’s to “rule oneself properly.” Is that, though, about this world? Or is it about mirroring the world of Forms, of Perfection and Harmony that stand in contrast to “earthly good” and the “relativist and subjectivist Sophists?” “For the first twelve centuries of the Christian era,” Gottlieb states, “the Timaeus formed the basis of most cosmology in the West” and “philosophy...remained more or less the slave of Christianity.” He calls this “a posthumous conversion of Plato.” From 529 A.D. (the Roman ban on non-Christian philosophy), he says that “Reason got sidetracked by faith.” Commenting on Proclus’s Elements of Theology, this was all about an attempt of “antiquity to provide an elaboration of the ‘Platonic’ system that had sprouted on Plato’s grave.” Gottlieb tells us that these reputed other-worldly elements stem from Neoplatonism, a term coined in the 19th century to refer to those religious elements that, in Gottlieb’s words, went “beyond anything found in Plato.” In Gottlieb’s view, Plato “did little more than gesture towards a higher world.” Gottlieb rescues Plato from Christianity by having Plato’s thought reflect a more modern-day conception of reason, one that is stripped of mysticism yet alludes to an independent, objective reality nonetheless. (3) For Gottlieb, the antecedents of this modern-day perspective on Plato go back to the atomists and to Aristotle. (4) After the long Christian interlude, this tradition was resuscitated in the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, which began the process that would “replace faith with earthly reason.” In the end, the reader of Gottlieb’s book is left with the impression that the reason of Plato was reunited with the reason of science. But it could be argued just as well that such reconciliation never happened and that a good part of the ancient debate about the two conceptions of “Reason” continues to this day. In science, this ambivalence is not consequential as reason is applied to understanding cosmic realities regardless of their ultimate origin and it’s not uncommon to learn of mathematicians and scientists who are drawn to something like Plato’s Forms. In moral philosophy, though, it is different. Some Plato adherents posit the existence of a universal and eternal moral realm, which is accessed by reason in Plato’s sense. For many, that world has been seriously undermined by modern-day science that operates, comfortably, within a purposeless universe. Without Plato’s overarching firmament, what happens then to moral philosophy? Is it the relativism of the Sophists or is it, worse, nihilism? But in a Platonic framework we are not able to look to science for answers. That’s a subjectivism that is not allowed, even though, along with the problem of self-interest, the foundation for philosophical values and principles such as freedom and equality, compassion and mutual respect are embedded in, or logically derived from, who we are as biological beings. (1) A straight-up reading of Socrates in the dialogues can reveal a man on a mission, a man with a hidden agenda, a man who engages in one-way dialogue. In other words, not a person one might want to hang out with. (2) Of Marsilio Ficino’s translation (1484) that “brought Plato back into circulation” Gottlieb writes that, “Like St Augustine, Ficino believed that Platonism contained important anticipations of Christianity.” (3) See Frank M. Turner, The Greek Heritage in Victorian Britain (1981), for a discussion of 19th century efforts to rehabilitate Plato’s thought. (4) Gottlieb is excellent in his treatment of Aristotle, correcting the misimpression given by a mechanistic conception of life that humans are not goal-driven beings: “Having Darwinian details does not mean that we can do without Aristotle’s final causes. Quite the reverse: the mechanism of natural selection spells out how nature involves final causes, not how it can dispense with them….Bacon, and many others since, have said that Aristotelian final causes are a piece of juvenile rubbish that has to be cleared out of the way before any grown-up science can move in. This may be true of the pseudo-Artistotelian final causes of some of his followers, but not of Aristotle’s own.”

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    He makes some shallow and, I think, unnecessary criticisms of religion throughout the book, even when it seems like a side track. For example, the implication that Milesian philosophers are somehow more rational for trying to explain things via naturalism seems absurd. Why should the reader think a naturalistic explanation is more rational than an agential one? This criticism seems more poignant since the Milesian theories often seem even more absurd than some of the agential theories they would He makes some shallow and, I think, unnecessary criticisms of religion throughout the book, even when it seems like a side track. For example, the implication that Milesian philosophers are somehow more rational for trying to explain things via naturalism seems absurd. Why should the reader think a naturalistic explanation is more rational than an agential one? This criticism seems more poignant since the Milesian theories often seem even more absurd than some of the agential theories they would have had access to. Gottlieb also implies that these naturalistic explanations are superior than the overly complex and mysterious godidit explanations. But how is "waterdidit" simpler and less mysterious? Or how about undefined-substance-did-it?? These sort of quick surface-level criticisms of religion and, specifically, Christianity, are present throughout the book. His treatment of the Greeks is pretty good. It would be great, but his bias against any form of supernaturalism leads him to take a revisionist approach towards the supernaturalism that was present in Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and virtually every other thinker he covers. Of course, according to Gottlieb, respectable minds like Socrates and Plato couldn't have seriously entertained ideas about gods and being commissioned by gods. After all, that would mean they were superstitious "goddidit" types, and we know they were too smart for that sort of thing. So when we read anything in their writings about gods or the supernatural, we have to realize that they didn't really mean any of that. Of course, that's absurd and one could apply Gottlieb's methodology to also try and prove that Moses or any of the other biblical authors didn't really believe in God. His treatment of Medieval philosophy is horrible. His attitude towards it is summed up in the following: "Given limited time and space, most medieval philosophy is best left to slumber in its arguably dark and undeniably thorny forrest" (348). Although he does admit that "to imply that the best minds of the medieval West had produced nothing of any 'substance or profit' was going too far" (ibid; said in references to other criticisms of medieval philosophy). Basically, I think Gottlieb sees the "dream of reason" dying in the medieval era. It was only fully alive with those Greeks who took a naturalistic view of the world, but this is partly just wishful thinking on Gottlieb's part. There was no naturalism in any of the thinkers that he covers, at least not in the modern sense of the word. And why did philosophy start to die off? Well because virtually all of the prominent philosophers from then on were Christian, supernaturalist godidit types. For example, "In one sense, Augustine turned back the clock of intellectual history" (383). Why? Because he believed in stories about God (384). One begins to suspect that for Gottlieb the history of "the dream of reason" is a history of the battle between faith and reason. But this wouldn't be too fair. Gottlieb doesn't seem to consciously set out to write the book in this way. He's no Sam Harris or Christopher Hitchens. Rather, he simply has a prejudice against religion and he lets that come out clearly in his evaluative remarks throughout the book. I guess I can't fault him too much for that. He has every right to give his evaluations of the matters and if he thinks religion is the bane of reason he has every right to say so. But I disagree and I don't think his criticisms were very reasonable. I also didn't like the note format. There were not endnote markings in the book (and I prefer footnotes) and aside from his block-quotes, it was very hard to tell when he was paraphrasing something a philosopher said or whether this was just his own spin on the philosopher's words. And given his clear bias, it would be nice to distinguish the two. If he treated the medieval philosophers with the same respect that he treated the Greeks and if he had toned down the surface level shots at religion, I would have given the book at least 4 stars. I would like to give it at least 2 1/2, since I thought it was more than just "okay," but that option isn't available.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Zardoz

    I’ve read of lot of greek and Roman histories, but my lack knowledge of the ancient philosophers caused me to pick up this book. I was looking for a general survey so that I could pick and choose the thinkers that I wanted to learn about. Gottlieb does an amazing job of summarizing the different schools of thought and personalities of over a thousand years of thought. There is a lot to digest here, but the narrative flows well and I’ve already learned so much.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Wilson

    This three-star review is the product of my completist tendencies. The book I really wanted to read is the sequel, Gottlieb's The Dream of Enlightenment, and I should have just started there. Gottlieb is a former journalist, and I love his writing: entertaining and to-the-point and frequently points out nonsense. But the book spends so much time on pre-Socratic philosophers—those very ancient Greeks who were just making shit up with no discipline—and I don't care about them AT ALL. The rest of t This three-star review is the product of my completist tendencies. The book I really wanted to read is the sequel, Gottlieb's The Dream of Enlightenment, and I should have just started there. Gottlieb is a former journalist, and I love his writing: entertaining and to-the-point and frequently points out nonsense. But the book spends so much time on pre-Socratic philosophers—those very ancient Greeks who were just making shit up with no discipline—and I don't care about them AT ALL. The rest of the book was an excellent refresher on Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. In particular, Gottlieb has rehabilitated Aristotle in my eyes. What an ambitious thinker! I had no idea that we still have millions of his words intact, which is wonderful even if he was convinced that ladies have fewer teeth (?!?!) than gentlemen. I was also interested to learn about the Stoics and Epicureans, which are both pretty interesting and totally misrepresented by the zeitgeist. Whatever associations you have with them are likely wrong. So yes, in these troubled times, this book is a mostly soothing look back at ancient naval-gazers. Plato's discussion of tyrants was a bit of a gut-punch, but hey, it still rings true after all these centuries.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mohamed al-Jamri

    This book is similar to Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy, however I think this one does justice to Aristotle. It finishes just before René Descartes. The author has promised another volume that covers the later philophers. Recommended. This book is similar to Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy, however I think this one does justice to Aristotle. It finishes just before René Descartes. The author has promised another volume that covers the later philophers. Recommended.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rajesh Kandaswamy

    This is comprehensive, but a digestible summary of western philosophy from an editor of the Economist magazine. This is first of a two part series and covers the period from the Greek Milesian school and ends with renaissance. This book, an attempt to distil and connect the work of major thinkers poses a slight problem. I cannot review this book for accuracy of how the philosophers are represented or even if all the important ones are covered, since that would presuppose that I already have comp This is comprehensive, but a digestible summary of western philosophy from an editor of the Economist magazine. This is first of a two part series and covers the period from the Greek Milesian school and ends with renaissance. This book, an attempt to distil and connect the work of major thinkers poses a slight problem. I cannot review this book for accuracy of how the philosophers are represented or even if all the important ones are covered, since that would presuppose that I already have comprehensive view of the subject and that is far from the case. I assume the selections and fair and represent the subjects well, based on reading other reviews in publications. Going past that, Gottlieb has been able to draw a sweeping and effective picture of the history of western thought, with enough of the chosen thinkers to represent them uniquely enough while not spending too much on each that it becomes boring. The style befits an Economist editor – clear, without jargon, with a light touch and a gentle humour. This worked thankfully well to sustain interest on what could have been an otherwise boring subject, for me at least. As one would expect, the author spends more time on Socrates, Pluto and Aristotle compared to other thinkers. He does not attempt to cover all the works of the chosen thinkers, but a few, and draws threads that connect over time and thought remarkably. The author does not stray far from the subject of covering philosophical thought itself and hence there is very little discussion on the lives or the times. The book is cheerfully dismissive early on the thinkers it covers, but is overall quite sympathetic towards it subjects, sometimes a tad too much. While the author has chosen to mention how some of thinkers were criticized later (for instance Epicurus and Aristotle) and how it is unfair. His main form of defence can be summarized as that the charges of the critics are too frivolous to be taken seriously. This is unconvincing and is the one quibble I have with the book, but a very feeble one. Overall, this is a very educative book on philosophy, but still an enjoyable one - one that could serve to understand the views of many a little, before you choose to read more on any one area or thinker. I listened to this as an audiobook.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Felix

    To quote Lorenzo Valla, ‘No man is a stone; some man is an animal; therefore some animal is not a stone.’ I can hardly keep myself from screaming, Have you ever heard anyone arguing like this, you nation of madmen? I've always found this signature invention of Aristotle, the syllogism, a little strange. It's such a clunky form of logic. They're often impractical, pretty much always long-winded, and occassionally obscure a logical argument to such a degree that it becomes unintelligible. They're al To quote Lorenzo Valla, ‘No man is a stone; some man is an animal; therefore some animal is not a stone.’ I can hardly keep myself from screaming, Have you ever heard anyone arguing like this, you nation of madmen? I've always found this signature invention of Aristotle, the syllogism, a little strange. It's such a clunky form of logic. They're often impractical, pretty much always long-winded, and occassionally obscure a logical argument to such a degree that it becomes unintelligible. They're also one of the centre pieces of the history of Western logic. Reading Gottlieb's Dream of Reason, I can't help but see Western philosophy as a continous passage of up-building to Aristotle (and to a lesser extent Plato), and then a kind of winding down from his thinking that lasts for over a thousand years. If Aristotle had never existed, it would be pointless to try to invent him. Nobody would believe that there could have been such a man, and quite right too. Quite right. It's impossible to imagine a larger figure. Particularly considering that he was a scientist and philosopher (as opposed to a religious prophet). It is perhaps only Jesus Christ that holds a grander place in the Western historical consciousness. Gottlieb's book more or less tells the story of Aristotle's rise and fall. It explores the lives of the Presocratics, exmaines the thought of Socrates, Plato and of course Aristotle, and it goes on to tell the story of the many men who responded to these thinkers, tracking the story to the decline of Scholasticism, and the rise of the new philosophy in Europe. Despite the huge scope, this is not a difficult read. At times, it is even fun - there's no shortage of eccentric stories about Western philosophers. The book doesn't get bogged down in jargon, and although some familiarity with the huge cast of philosophical characters may be beneficial in following the narrative, it is by no means essential.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    A powerhouse of a study on the foundation and evolution of western philosophy. Beginning with pre-Socratic thinkers and going all the way up to post-Reformation theologians, Gottlieb takes the reader on a journey of critical examination through the names many people hear, but seldom take the time to understand. The bulk of the book naturally covers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, but later delves into the writings and discoveries of these thinkers' followers, notably the Epicureans, Stoics, and C A powerhouse of a study on the foundation and evolution of western philosophy. Beginning with pre-Socratic thinkers and going all the way up to post-Reformation theologians, Gottlieb takes the reader on a journey of critical examination through the names many people hear, but seldom take the time to understand. The bulk of the book naturally covers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, but later delves into the writings and discoveries of these thinkers' followers, notably the Epicureans, Stoics, and Cynics. We then see how middle-age Christianity largely pushed aside these Hellenistic writers, and then their re-emergence in the time of the Renaissance and beyond. Gottlieb not only provides a history of what these thinkers thought and said, but impressively compares their notions of reality, science, God, etc. in a way that highlights the important similarities and differences. We see where certain schools of thought built off of and diverged from each other. Ultimately, the reader is able to see how throughout the long march of time, our notions of justice, morality, virtue, pleasure, purpose, etc. came about and evolved. To a casual reader such as myself, this book occasionally got bogged down in mundane specifics. Overall, however, it was a highly-enjoyable read and one that I will probably read again at some time in the future.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Caleb Abraham

    Gottlieb does not live up to his name (i.e. he does not like God)! His presentation of ancient philosophy is both profoundly erudite and interesting to read/listen. But his evaluation of anything Christian from late antiquity to the 16th century is dishonest and quite shameful. He certainly let his emotions get the hold of him and ruined what started as a fantastic history of philosophy.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Stephie Iris Williams

    With the central part of the painting The School of Athens in the middle of the front cover I thought I am going back to school. This book provides a history of Western philosophy from the early Greeks through the Renaissance. It begins with the early Greek philosophers before Socrates. These include Thales (the first), Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Zeno, Empedocles, and Democritus. There is a chapter on the Sophists who both proceeded Socrates and were active during his life time. Next com With the central part of the painting The School of Athens in the middle of the front cover I thought I am going back to school. This book provides a history of Western philosophy from the early Greeks through the Renaissance. It begins with the early Greek philosophers before Socrates. These include Thales (the first), Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Zeno, Empedocles, and Democritus. There is a chapter on the Sophists who both proceeded Socrates and were active during his life time. Next comes the big three of Greek philosophy: Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. After the biggies come the Hellenistic philosophers, focusing on Epicureans, the Stoics, and the Skeptics (which are a different breed from the modern variety). The last chapter moves through Neoplatonism and late Latin philosophers into the Middle Ages and ending in the Renaissance, picking up on some of the more important philosophers in these periods. The following are some of the comments I had on specific pieces of text. Page numbers are in brackets [] from W. W. Norton & Company paperback edition of 2000. [viii-ix] In Anthony Gottlieb’s introduction, he writes: “This [shifting boundaries] is largely because any corner of it [philosophy] that comes generally to be regarded as useful soon ceases to be called philosophy.” I said a similar thing in my blog - “What Is Philosophy?”* [ix] “There is no denying that philosophers’ attempts to think clearly have often rudely backfired. (Any subject that is responsible for producing Heidegger, for example, owes the world an apology.)” My sentiments exactly. [61] “According to his [Parmenides] argument, either he must be as fictitious as the moving, changing commonsense world he rejected, or else he must be identical with the unchanging, sphere-like One.” The first option would get rid of Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am” for sure, while the second option would eliminate one altogether. [62] “One can only assume that Parmenides and Melissus regarded ordinary life as some sort of illusion, or at least a mystifying puzzle, which one might as well play along with. They both led normal lives and thus failed to act – or rather, not act – according to their professed philosophical beliefs.” Hume thought more or less that when he step outside his ivory tower, he lived a life according to common sense, not his philosophical beliefs. There are a lot more philosophers that do the same besides these two Greeks and Hume. [65-6] Describing how Zeno convinces Achilles that he cannot possibly catch up with his opponent in his race, Gottlieb writes: “Zeno persuades him that he therefore cannot run any distance at all, because before he can cover that distance he will have to cover half if it, and so on ad infinitum.” I would think that Achilles could refute Zeno in a similar manner that Samuel Johnson refuted Berkeley’s idealism by kicking a rock by just taking one step forward. [68] “. . . there always seems to be more to be said about infinity . . .” (my italics) How apropos. [156] “. . . Socrates points out that one must never return evil for evil. In other words, one must turn the other cheek.” Not, exactly the biblical Jesus’s position. He went further and wanted you to return good for evil. [@285] Somewhere around this page I got the feeling that some Greek philosophers believe that the aims of philosophy came in vanilla wrapper. I do not think so. Philosophy comes in many different flavors. Some aims are more suited to different people, just like not everyone shares the same goals. [293] “. . . Plato also argued in the Republic when he tried to show how unhappy the tyrant’s life was bound to be.” I actually have a future blog post in mind about this idea - “Can Mean People Be Happy?” [294] Gottlieb reports this Epicurean maxim: “It is more pleasurable to confer a benefit than to receive one.” I wonder if this maybe where Hume got some of his moral notions. I think a major component of his moral views was that we act moral because it feels good. [382] I wonder if Descartes got his notion that he could not doubt his own existence from Augustine. I felt that Gottlieb did an admirable job seeing how he was neither trained apparently in philosophy or history; although, according to the back of the book, he writes regularly on philosophy for the New York Times. I would agree with many of the kudos for the book. As a journalist he is a very good writer, but not only that he clearly explains the philosophy he covers. I guess it is his journalist eye that can distill the material he has found in the primary sources (another plus). He makes his own astute comments to top it all off. This is definitely a book for any one interest in Greek philosophy. After the Greeks his coverage thins out, so if the medieval and renaissance periods are your main interest you may be disappointed in the coverage he provides. * https://aquestionersjourney.wordpress...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    Now I have to say out of the gate, that I have read several histories of philosophy. I wanted to read one recently published as a kind of refresher. So in Gottlieb's defense, my rating of his book of only three stars is in comparison to Gordon Clark, Copplestone, Durant, and Bertrand Russel. So, I'd say he faired pretty good. Had this been my first book on the history of philosophy, I probably would have rated it higher. This is a brief (in comparison to Coplestone, ok?) history of philosophy by Now I have to say out of the gate, that I have read several histories of philosophy. I wanted to read one recently published as a kind of refresher. So in Gottlieb's defense, my rating of his book of only three stars is in comparison to Gordon Clark, Copplestone, Durant, and Bertrand Russel. So, I'd say he faired pretty good. Had this been my first book on the history of philosophy, I probably would have rated it higher. This is a brief (in comparison to Coplestone, ok?) history of philosophy by a hyper-materialist. He has high regards of Bertrand Russel, whom in my opinion is only marginally better at philosophy that Richard Dawkins. I would not call Russel's history of philosophy a "classic". Regardless, I think Gottlieb deserves some credit. I thoroughly enjoyed his treatment of the pre-Socratics, Plato, and Aristotle. I was fearing, given his naturalistic bias, he was going to gloss over the Medieval philosophers as irrelevant, but he didn't. There were, however, some of the usual modern revisionist historical anecdotes in the book, such as the the typical bullshit about Hypatia's supposed martyrdom (refer to this well documented from original sources analysis of who Hypatia was and what happened to her: http://www.amazon.com/Hypatia-Alexand...), and sparse availability of Greek texts in the early Middle Ages (see, for instance: http://www.historyofinformation.com/e...), but this is the regurgitated vomit from Voltaire's hatred of Christianity, and Gibbon's foot-fetish with Greco-Roman humanism, so Gottlieb cannot be fully blamed here. In fact, Gottlieb had given a far better treatment on these topics than Russel had. For instance, Gottlieb does not give us any indication that the ignorant Medieval scholars believed the earth was flat, a myth (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myth_of_...) generated from 18th century fantasy-fiction (Johnathon Swift's "Gulliver's Travels") or that atomicism was contrarian to the Bible (to certain forms of Christianity, yes, sure, but even a faith evolves). He rightfully attributes a lot of the Copernican resistance from the Church more to its dedication to Aristotle than the Bible. I thought the areas I expected to be sensitive to, Gottlieb handled with gentle fingers, and did not handle in any dismissive manner. The author deserves a lot of credit for that.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kathrin

    I took me nearly 5 months to finish this book and it only has 500 pages. This is not always the book's fault. Sometimes my life is too hectic to focus on reading a certain book or books in general. This time, it was the book's fault. You see, I love philosophy. I studied it for a couple of semester. Being familiar with the basic facts I don't expect too learn lots of new things but I believe you can always find something new to think about. Even a book like this which promised a general overview I took me nearly 5 months to finish this book and it only has 500 pages. This is not always the book's fault. Sometimes my life is too hectic to focus on reading a certain book or books in general. This time, it was the book's fault. You see, I love philosophy. I studied it for a couple of semester. Being familiar with the basic facts I don't expect too learn lots of new things but I believe you can always find something new to think about. Even a book like this which promised a general overview on western philosophy. In fact, Sophie's World is an all-time favorite of mine. When I first picked up the book I liked it. The part on early Greek philosophy was well-written and offered some new insights. However, the book became difficult once it reached Socrates and lost me with Plato. Honestly, I love to read about Socrates, Plato and Aristotle but the author managed to write lots of different aspects together without a central theme. The chapters were longer than necessary and instead of focusing on certain topics the author tried to talk about all the aspects. Seriously, you can only do one thing. Either write a book on Plato and his philosophy and discuss everything in detail or focus on some parts. All the information was just thrown in there and I believe it would have been more than difficult to follow the author's discussion if I hadn't known about them that much beforehand. For me, it was more than confusing because I can't understand why any author would want to cram all the information together. In the end, the book is not all bad. I liked the beginning and enjoyed the ending. It was the middle part that killed any joy I had. Luckily, there are awesome books on philosophy out there and I look forward to pick up another one.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Illiterate

    A well written survey. Adds nothing new.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Joshua

    too much of the author's opinion, not enough history. The author seems to think he can know what someone's intentions were 2500 years ago. too much of the author's opinion, not enough history. The author seems to think he can know what someone's intentions were 2500 years ago.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    If you loved your Philosophy 101 course in college, and then promptly forgot all about it in order to focus on more career-relevant academic pursuits, here is the perfect book to both refresh your memory and remind you why you so enjoyed that course in the first place. And more than that, here is a book that will both demonstrate the contemporary relevance of some of these ancient thinkers and debunk some of the more common misunderstandings we still hold about their ideas. The Dream of Reason ac If you loved your Philosophy 101 course in college, and then promptly forgot all about it in order to focus on more career-relevant academic pursuits, here is the perfect book to both refresh your memory and remind you why you so enjoyed that course in the first place. And more than that, here is a book that will both demonstrate the contemporary relevance of some of these ancient thinkers and debunk some of the more common misunderstandings we still hold about their ideas. The Dream of Reason accomplishes these multiple worthy goals while remaining, quite simply, an enormously enjoyable read. Gottlieb’s historical survey spans some 23 centuries, beginning with the pre-Socratics of the sixth century BC, and concluding with the dawn of the Renaissance thinkers of the seventeenth century AD. With each successive chapter, he introduces us to a new thinker (or group of thinkers), carefully places them within the context of their intellectual predecessors, and examines with an utterly clear and critical eye their major contributions to the ever-evolving edifice of philosophy. While the heart of the book consists of the three lengthy chapters in its middle – covering respectively Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle – the opening section on the pre-Socratics (most of them previously unknown to me) contains a number of fascinating anecdotes, among the most striking of which is the revelation of how close the Greek philosopher Empedocles came in 500 BC to correctly anticipating Darwin’s theory of natural selection. As for the famous trio in the book’s middle section, Gottlieb’s lucid discussions of these three giants of philosophy left me with a new sense of respect for the integrity of Socrates; a renewed awareness of how misguided was Plato’s theory of Forms and how distasteful his vision of an ideal society as depicted in The Republic; and an enhanced appreciation for how skillfully Aristotle corrected so many of Plato’s mistakes and misconceptions, and then how unskillfully Christian writers of the middle ages corrupted Aristotle’s thought with even more egregious mistakes and misconceptions of their own. The book’s closing section is comprised of three chapters. The first of these brings down the curtain on the glory years of Greek and Roman philosophy, with thorough summations of the ideas of the Stoics – many of which, not very surprisingly, closely echo the traditional Buddhist concepts of suffering, clinging, and aversion – and the contrasting ideas of the Epicureans, many of which, much more surprisingly (to me, at least), echo these very same Buddhist concepts as well. Then it’s on to the dreary centuries of the middle ages, where so little of intellectual interest occurred over so large a period of time. Yet even with this sparse subject matter, Gottlieb manages to offer us a thoroughly engaging chapter of nearly seventy pages. And in his final chapter, Gottlieb concludes his epic survey by giving us a spark of light and a sense of hopefulness, as the scientific discoveries of Galileo and other Renaissance thinkers brought the dark age to an end, and set the stage for the philosophical breakthrough of Descartes. Which is where the next installment in this rewarding series, The Dream of Enlightenment, will begin. And so - on to Philosophy 201!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ed

    Crikey, that took a while! This serves as a great introduction to western philosophy, but it is only that, an introduction. The tone is great; informative but still light and manages some genuine humour. Scholarly without feeling overly lecturing. I found myself often wanting to explore more details about the topics that were being discussed. But Gottlieb does a great job of not getting too bogged down in details and instead preferring to paint a wider picture of the trends philosophy took over s Crikey, that took a while! This serves as a great introduction to western philosophy, but it is only that, an introduction. The tone is great; informative but still light and manages some genuine humour. Scholarly without feeling overly lecturing. I found myself often wanting to explore more details about the topics that were being discussed. But Gottlieb does a great job of not getting too bogged down in details and instead preferring to paint a wider picture of the trends philosophy took over several millenia. That said, there are varying levels of detail in the three sections of the book, which feels a little odd. The middle third on Socrates, Plato and Aristotle is by far the most fleshed out and dense section. But I've learnt a lot, including new concepts, new ways of looking at old concepts and even the comprehension of truly alien worldviews, so I'd call this a big win. Also, as you can see by the dates started/finished, I really struggled to read this much non-fiction. I would like to try some more because I am very keen on learning, but it was not exactly what I'd call relaxing or even always enjoyable, so I may stick to podcasts, audiobooks and videos for my learning needs. See, I'm not just learning about the world, I'm learning about myself too. The real philosophy is the friends we made along the way. Would d

  27. 5 out of 5

    Noah Goats

    I thought this was a great survey of Western Philosophy from the Pre-socratics to the Renaissance. Gottlieb is skilled at making difficult concepts easy to understand and at making potentially dry topics interesting. These are the two essential abilities for any popularizer of philosophy. I enjoyed it so much that I intend to quickly follow up with his sequel on the Enlightenment.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sara Aouichi

    this was fantastic , informative and such a beautiful read ^^

  29. 4 out of 5

    David Jacobson

    This is a readable, popular history of the early stages of philosophy (from the Greeks through the middle ages), written not by a philosopher but by a journalist. It begins with a crisp chapter on each of the major Greek philosophers up through the giants Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Then, however, the structure shifts to longer and more diffuse chapters: on the Hellenistic philosophies, on the seeming hibernation of philosophy during the middle ages, and on its stirrings at the start of the This is a readable, popular history of the early stages of philosophy (from the Greeks through the middle ages), written not by a philosopher but by a journalist. It begins with a crisp chapter on each of the major Greek philosophers up through the giants Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Then, however, the structure shifts to longer and more diffuse chapters: on the Hellenistic philosophies, on the seeming hibernation of philosophy during the middle ages, and on its stirrings at the start of the Renaissance. While these later chapters, despite their length, feel rushed, they are more than made up for by the excellent first two-thirds of the book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Eugene Kernes

    When something in philosophy becomes useful, it stops being considered philosophy. Philosophy is a mindset aimed at questioning anything and everything. Philosophers come in various forms from questioning everything to making grand dictates of certainty. Particular philosophers gained support for their views which facilitated divisions between different groups. Many philosophers simplified and made grotesque caricatures of other schools of thought which greatly influenced the way each school is When something in philosophy becomes useful, it stops being considered philosophy. Philosophy is a mindset aimed at questioning anything and everything. Philosophers come in various forms from questioning everything to making grand dictates of certainty. Particular philosophers gained support for their views which facilitated divisions between different groups. Many philosophers simplified and made grotesque caricatures of other schools of thought which greatly influenced the way each school is perceived. Philosophy tends to be encumbered with many prevailing views of the day in order to be accepted, such as theories and observations needed to be reconciled with the regional religion. The range of philosophy covered in this book comes from different regions and eras. Starting with Greek philosophy from roughly late seventh century B.C.E., then unto Roman philosophy from roughly late fourth century B.C.E. and last to philosophy characterized by Christianity from roughly mid sixth century C.E. until early fifteenth century. The center of philosophy changed due to regional power struggles. Many ideas from the past about motion and matter were wrong, but some are really close to how we understand the ideas today. The basis for the periodic table and many ideas from physics are successors of early philosophers. Nature facilitated some philosophical ideas such as meteor strike or salt crystals extracted from sea. These events were taken to generalizations, trying to fit these natural events with everyday life. Along with observations, there was experimentation in early philosophy but it was not systematic. Certain philosophers and some of their successors did experiment, but it was sporadic and not ubiquitous. Philosophers came all over to Athens as it welcomed inquiry. Philosophers basing their ideas on observations were usually from Ionia. The other philosophers are now considered idealists as they were searching for the perfect such as the Platonic Form. Even though senses may not represent what is actually true, the idealists tended to dismiss senses and base their ideas on reason. Even some philosophies, it was their way of thinking about the world which caused the individual to understand and then behave in a moral and ethical way. There are many early philosophers like Pythagoras. For the Pythagoreans, numbers were everything that made life. As Gottlieb mentions, the motivation for mathematical inquiries was moral and spiritual. Another early philosopher was Heraclitus whose philosophy sees a world of opposites. Opposites means opposition and war. Harmony is brought about by their interactions. The term Sophist has a derogatory meaning because of the attacks of Plato and Aristotle. They are seen as having a goal to win by any means rather than seek truth. Gottlieb explains that sophist was a term for people who taught for money which would be many professions. The Sophists wanted to reinstate human experience into the complex reality, which was in opposition to Plato who wanted to move beyond everyday experience. An example of Sophists philosophy sees morality as a human construction. Much of what is known about Socrates comes from Plato’s writing, which is tricky because Plato attributed much to Socrates which was not part of Socrates’s philosophy. Although Socrates stated that he held no firm opinions, Plato credits Socrates with many firm opinions. Socrates did not write anything down because writing does not properly portray the collaborative process of discussion and argument which leads to individual realizations. Gottlieb references Socrates dialectic as the elimination of error by debate, as a way of attaining wisdom. Within this philosophy, inefficient and immoral behavior was caused by ignorance, so knowledge became the cure. Although Gottlieb does not reference this, from the dialogue of Socrates, it seems that many of Socrates questions were anchoring questions rather than neutral questions, as in a question with an implied right answer rather than an open answer. This anchoring seems to be more of what Plato was attacking in the Sophists. Plato’s philosophy holds that genuine knowledge as something unchanging and stable such a Form. Everything else tries to mimic these Forms. The senses provided a distorting view opinion of knowledge. Reason was the key to understanding what the senses told. Plato tried to design a seemingly perfect system within the Republic. Even within a system meant to produce the best outcomes had problems for which Plato tried to reason out. Another of Plato’s philosophical strands is proper judgment. Such as to judge something as more appropriate, a person needed to experience the potential alternatives. Aristotle is the founder of formal logic known as syllogisms which was expanded by later philosophers with propositional logic. Intellectual debate was thought to be resolved with logic. Logic was a system which used rationality to defeat blind faith. Besides logic, Aristotle did experiments and wanted experiments to be kept from external pressure. Artificial experiments changed the subject’s behavior and made the situation more confusing. Many schools of thought flourished after the three well known philosophers. Three schools of thought in particular held for years which were Epicureans, Stoics, and Sceptics. Epicureans thought physics and logical exercise could prevent irrational fear thereby having no obstacle to happiness. For them, inquiry was meant to end dangerously false beliefs. Epicureans philosophy was trying to live in accordance with nature, which meant the solution to problems was the need to understand nature. The Stoics saw conventional societies values as irrelevant distractions. Their key ingredient was learning to live with the inevitable. A resigned acceptance to what will happen. The Sceptics were seen as denying reality for they questioned every observation and theory. Sceptics themselves did not really oppose observations and theories, they described alternatives for argument. Sceptics philosophy is based on the understanding that there was still much to learn. A cautionary approach to ideas as to reduce dogma. During the medieval period of Western history, philosophy was not prolific. With the fewer philosophers, their philosophy was subject to Christian theology. The church tried to stifle alternatives, but could not prevent it. Rediscovered texts coming from the East helped facilitate the production of new ideas. Philosophy was hindered, but did not end. Many later scientists and philosophers have roots in the medieval period. An issue with this book is that most of it is about Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Within the discussion of other philosophers, Gottlieb portrays these three philosophers in them. This makes it confusing to extract what a particular philosopher though as it is tied to an explanation of another who came later. As these later philosophers have space dedicated to them later in the book, certain information should have been detailed later. Other times, there are explanations for past philosophers that are attached to future philosophers, which the explanations would have been more helpful earlier. Sometimes it was partly necessary to use future philosophers claims to express the prior philosophers’ ideas as more of their work survived in translation or original. Some philosophers survive only in the accounts of others making it hard to untangle who thought what such as with Plato using Socrates as a mouthpiece when Socrates himself would have actually disagreed with Plato’s ideas. Gottlieb does a wonderful job at not only explaining various philosophies, but also at not going to the extremes of what is said about the philosophies from the opposition’s perspective. Some parts were more tedious to read partly because the topic itself was more convoluted. Philosophy is a general approach to trying to understand how life works. Some philosophers used it for therapy, others for political purpose. What matters is that philosophy helps ideas grow. Over time, no matter how wrong or right the idea is, the ideas influence the creation of other ideas which impact everyday life.

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