This is actually the second time I have read this book. For many years, I have hankered after an understanding of philosophy but have perhaps too much relied on books like this – introductions, summaries, syntheses. I have read Sophie’s World and Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy, as well as other of Magee’s books.

This is good as it has lots of pictures. And he writes beautiful summaries and short descriptions of how philosophy has evolved. But it is curiously difficult to remember the actual arguments and beliefs he mentions. I suppose it must follow that time spent reading, say, Kant will give you a firmer grasp of his beliefs than a nicely written summary. But reading Kant is a bit of an undertaking. After reading this, I thought about reading Nietszche but after browsing a few volumes I realised it would be hard to fit in to a busy life where reading is primarily for pleasure.

So maybe I am condemned to reading digests and summaries of philosophy as a means of self improvement. Hey ho.

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