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

The Dream of Reason: A History of Western Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance - Anthony Gottlieb 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).