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A History of Western Philosophy: From the Pre-Socratics to Postmodernism

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Plato. Aristotle. Augustine. Hume. Kant. Hegel. These names and the philosophies associated with them ring through the minds of every student and scholar of philosophy. And in their search for knowledge, every student of philosophy needs to know the history of the philosophical discourse such giants have bequeathed us. Noted philosopher C. Stephen Evans brings his expertis Plato. Aristotle. Augustine. Hume. Kant. Hegel. These names and the philosophies associated with them ring through the minds of every student and scholar of philosophy. And in their search for knowledge, every student of philosophy needs to know the history of the philosophical discourse such giants have bequeathed us. Noted philosopher C. Stephen Evans brings his expertise to this daunting task as he surveys the history of Western philosophy, from the Pre-Socratics to Nietzsche and postmodernism—and every major figure and movement in between.


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Plato. Aristotle. Augustine. Hume. Kant. Hegel. These names and the philosophies associated with them ring through the minds of every student and scholar of philosophy. And in their search for knowledge, every student of philosophy needs to know the history of the philosophical discourse such giants have bequeathed us. Noted philosopher C. Stephen Evans brings his expertis Plato. Aristotle. Augustine. Hume. Kant. Hegel. These names and the philosophies associated with them ring through the minds of every student and scholar of philosophy. And in their search for knowledge, every student of philosophy needs to know the history of the philosophical discourse such giants have bequeathed us. Noted philosopher C. Stephen Evans brings his expertise to this daunting task as he surveys the history of Western philosophy, from the Pre-Socratics to Nietzsche and postmodernism—and every major figure and movement in between.

30 review for A History of Western Philosophy: From the Pre-Socratics to Postmodernism

  1. 4 out of 5

    Brian Watson

    I have read a few one-volume histories of philosophy and, so far, this is my favorite. Evans gives a tour of western philosophy from the Pre-Socratics through the end of the nineteenth century. (He stops there, for the most part, and gives a few comments on the twentieth century. His rational seems to be, "Hey, this book has to end somewhere, and I may write a volume on the twentieth century if I have time," and, "It's best to wait a few generations before analyzing philosophical trends.") Evans I have read a few one-volume histories of philosophy and, so far, this is my favorite. Evans gives a tour of western philosophy from the Pre-Socratics through the end of the nineteenth century. (He stops there, for the most part, and gives a few comments on the twentieth century. His rational seems to be, "Hey, this book has to end somewhere, and I may write a volume on the twentieth century if I have time," and, "It's best to wait a few generations before analyzing philosophical trends.") Evans doesn't spend much time on biography and history. He is more interested in getting to the heart of significant philosophers' ideas and giving brief, though insightful, analysis from a Christian perspective. I think this book would be profitable for non-Christians, since Evans works hard to accurately present each philosopher's ideas. His Christian reflects are often quite short. The only weaknesses of the book, as far as I'm concerned, are that he doesn't spend enough time with some philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle, and that he doesn't cover every significant thinker in history. He devotes about twenty pages to Plato, Aristotle, and Augustine, though he gives Kant over forty pages. He devotes significant time and space to Marx, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche, so it seems his interest and expertise regards the nineteenth century. But he also covers Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, and many others. One note on the form of the book: IVP has produced a very attractive hardcover. Many such books have pages crammed with text (perhaps 450-500 words per page). I estimate that the pages of this book have about 350 words per page. That makes a 600-page book easier to read. It's easier on the eyes, and it makes the book more enjoyable. So, kudos to IVP.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Chase Lukasiewicz

    This is a remarkable overview on the history of Western philosophy. Evans walks through the primary characters and views of the major philosophies that make up what is putatively "Western" philosophy in a delightfully clear and abridged way. He does this through a Christian perspective (more on what this means below), which is very refreshing and engaging. The page lengths are also a very good size with nicely scattered breaks throughout the chapters which find a nice balance between absorbing e This is a remarkable overview on the history of Western philosophy. Evans walks through the primary characters and views of the major philosophies that make up what is putatively "Western" philosophy in a delightfully clear and abridged way. He does this through a Christian perspective (more on what this means below), which is very refreshing and engaging. The page lengths are also a very good size with nicely scattered breaks throughout the chapters which find a nice balance between absorbing enough information without being worn out; this made it all very pleasant to read. Therefore, this is certainly worth reading if you're looking for a fresh and enjoyable perspective on Western philosophy. Throughout his work, Evans employs two primary assumptions in his examination of these philosophers. Firstly, the concept of the transcendent is not only ubiquitous for nearly every philosopher since the pre-socratics, it is also immensely present and sometimes foundational in the development of their philosophies. Even atheists such as Hume or Nietzsche attempted to developed many of their theories in order to explain the world specifically without God or anything like him (which just goes to show how big of a mark the idea of the transcendence has had on Western thought). Secondly, Evans assumes that all of these philosophers and their time periods were not primitive and ignorant, a common post-enlightenment theme, but rather that they were intelligent, curious, and brilliant scholars ancient only in time. What these two primary assumptions provide is a more accurate and rich exploration of the views of these men (and women). Now, Evans is a Christian philosopher writing in a "Christian perspective" and he makes no attempt to hide this fact, but he is excellent in giving an objective insight into the philosophies. Where his Christian perspective can be seen is after laying out a full and accurate picture of someone's arguments and then simply expressing to the reader where and if this lines up with Christian doctrine. Likewise, when he adds objections to all of the philosophers, he doesn't object on the assumptions held by the Christian, instead he uses popular objections to the argument. However, he does make a particular effort to provide extended objections to those arguments that would challenge the existence of God or that might pose some serious problems to Christianity. This might seem like an area to critique Evans, but I do not think in doing so he detracts from the content of the arguments in question. Indeed he presents the full and fair picture of each individual, often expanding on their arguments to make them stronger. This is especially seen in his chapter on Hume, which was my favorite chapter for these very reasons. If there would be anything to critique, It would have to be the minimal amounts of examples given to explain many of these abstract theories. I'm assuming many examples were excluded due to the length of the book already. However, it can be at times a lot to sift through and require you to formulate your own examples to understand the material. Although a decent length and at times arduous in content, this is certainly an insightful and enjoyable look at Western philosophy that assumes a few foundational principles that really set this apart from other contemporary works on the subject. All done in fair and loving kindness to the views presented: a truly Christian perspective.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Philosophy, notoriously, can be abstract and obscure. Yet philosophy is also a noble effort to grapple with some of the most difficult and pressing questions humans can face. What is the good? What is real? How can we know and be certain? C. Stephen Evans provides a model of conciseness and clarity in telling the story of Western philosophy from the days before Socrates to the present. As much as is possible Evans uses plain language to briefly tell the story of each key figure and of their idea Philosophy, notoriously, can be abstract and obscure. Yet philosophy is also a noble effort to grapple with some of the most difficult and pressing questions humans can face. What is the good? What is real? How can we know and be certain? C. Stephen Evans provides a model of conciseness and clarity in telling the story of Western philosophy from the days before Socrates to the present. As much as is possible Evans uses plain language to briefly tell the story of each key figure and of their ideas. Evans does not offer these in isolation but shows how each person built on and often reacted against those who came before. Key turning points and emphases are highlighted as well. Socrates shifted the conversation from “What is real?” to “What is the good?” Descartes inaugurates modern philosophy by seeking to start from ground zero and focus on “How can I know?” And “modern philosophy may begin with doubt, but ancient philosophy clearly began with wonder” (p. 577). He rounds up the usual suspects for major attention (Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Hume, Marx, Neitzsche). Yet Evans gives good consideration to Philo, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Rousseau, Wollstonecraft, Hegel, Mill, and many other lesser known figures. Another virtue is the even coverage he gives. The Middle Ages, for example, are not ignored. Not only does Aquinas get his due but so also do Bonaventure, Scotus, and Ockham. While some would separate religion from philosophy, Evans argues that their concerns have always intertwined whether Greek, Christian, or atheist. So throughout he tells that story as well. Besides even coverage, he is evenhanded—never disparaging while showing strengths and weakness of each person and viewpoint. Evans shows where his own thinking leans by devoting chapters each to Thomas Reid and Soren Kierkegaard. While they are quite different they overlap substantially in that they recognize the limits of reason while also having a certain confidence in what can be known. The final chapter offers a number of helpful summaries and evaluations of the whole philosophical enterprise, especially in the last hundred years. While we must give up the quest for absolute, objective certainty, this need not lead to despair or skepticism. As with Reid and Kierkegaard, hope for drawing close to truth remains. ----- Disclosure: While I invited Evans to write this volume for IVP Academic, I had retired before the volume was completed and was not involved in its development, revision, or final form. I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joel Wentz

    This is a really, really fantastic introduction to a massive subject. Evans puts his "cards on the table," and makes it clear that he is endeavoring to simply provide a summary of Western thinking through an explicitly Christian lens. Non-Christians shouldn't let that put them off, however, as his explicitly Christian commentary is pretty minimal, and Evans' attempt to recover some of the downplayed Christian elements of philosophers like Locke is extremely helpful to anyone interested in the re This is a really, really fantastic introduction to a massive subject. Evans puts his "cards on the table," and makes it clear that he is endeavoring to simply provide a summary of Western thinking through an explicitly Christian lens. Non-Christians shouldn't let that put them off, however, as his explicitly Christian commentary is pretty minimal, and Evans' attempt to recover some of the downplayed Christian elements of philosophers like Locke is extremely helpful to anyone interested in the real contours of their thinking. His writing throughout is very accessible, even to the uninitiated (though the occasional chapters get dense, like the section on Kant, for example), and the reader truly does grasp some of the major themes and threads that connect the postmodern movement to the ancients. I personally found his discussions of Thomas Reid, Hegel, Marx, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche very enlightening. The way he explains the shift in focus on philosophical method around the Enlightenment, and how that draws a clear distinctions from ancient thinkers, was also super helpful, and his breakdown of the continental/analytic divide really helps to place specific thinkers in their various contexts. I would have loved a bit more commentary post-Nietzsche, but as Evans admits, the book had to stop somewhere! Overall, I found it quite interesting and helpful, and will absolutely be returning to specific chapters to brush-up on certain thinkers. Lastly, IVP really did do a good job producing this. It could have been a terrible, textbook-like reading experience, but is quite attractive. It's a very worthy book for anyone interested in Western thought (Christian or not) to have on their shelf.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    I found this to be an excellent, thorough, and well-balanced account of the history of philosophy. Evans works hard to put you into the shoes of each philosopher that he covers so that you can understand them on their own terms. At times he'll offer a little bit of his own commentary (from a Christian point of view), but he does it in a way that I found helpful rather than distracting. Highly recommended for anyone wanting to dig into the history of philosophy. My only disappointment was that his I found this to be an excellent, thorough, and well-balanced account of the history of philosophy. Evans works hard to put you into the shoes of each philosopher that he covers so that you can understand them on their own terms. At times he'll offer a little bit of his own commentary (from a Christian point of view), but he does it in a way that I found helpful rather than distracting. Highly recommended for anyone wanting to dig into the history of philosophy. My only disappointment was that his covering of 20th-century philosophy (found in the conclusion chapter) was rather abbreviated (as Evans notes, this century is much too recent to cover with any kind of objectivity and could fill a book of its own). Though brief, his reflections on the history of western philosophy as a whole and on the direction of philosophy today were helpful and encouraging. Now to go back and actually reflect on all of this...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michael Wu

    A succinct and entertaining survey of the most influential thinkers in the Western. A delightful introduction to those seeking to familiarise themselves with the philosophical ideas that have shaped the history of the West.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Reynolds

    A stellar introduction to the history of philosophy. Very readable.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mr Michael Grivas-Allison

  9. 5 out of 5

    Omar

  10. 5 out of 5

    Abio

  11. 5 out of 5

    John

  12. 5 out of 5

    Beau Brown

  13. 4 out of 5

    Timothy Ott

  14. 4 out of 5

    yellow_ti

  15. 5 out of 5

    David

  16. 4 out of 5

    Scott Bielinski

  17. 5 out of 5

    P J MCDONNELL

  18. 5 out of 5

    Minato

  19. 4 out of 5

    J.W.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Collins Chipeta

  21. 5 out of 5

    Evan Musgraves

  22. 5 out of 5

    Subhajit Das

  23. 4 out of 5

    Levi Elarton

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

  25. 5 out of 5

    Michael Pare

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Schmidt

  27. 5 out of 5

    Veronica

  28. 4 out of 5

    Emrys

  29. 4 out of 5

    Brad

  30. 5 out of 5

    louie solomon

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