A Little History of Philosophy
by Nigel Warburton
“More recently I wrote A Little History of Philosophy, which is in the Little Histories series that was spawned from a book that Ernst Gombrich wrote called A Little History of the World. So it’s in that format, written for a general readership. It covers some of the same areas as Philosophy: The Classics, and Philosophy: The Basics, but in a more story-driven way. I think it’s more accessible for a general reader. I’ve tried to bring in some aspects of the philosophers’ lives and context, briefly. The idea was that an intelligent 14 or 15 year old could get a lot out of the book and there’d be nothing threatening in terms of language or presupposed ideas. That’s a book that has surprised me greatly in the way it’s been taken up. It’s been translated into over 20 languages and has sales all around the world. I’m delighted to have been part of that movement to popularize philosophy through this dispersal of ideas. It’s very encouraging that so many people are interested in philosophy today.”
It may be true of all subjects, but it’s particularly true of philosophy that it’s hard to understand any of it until you know quite a lot about it. Even a book for teenagers, like the 1995 bestseller Sophie’s World, is extremely hard to follow if you really are a beginner. What’s nice about Nigel Warburton’s A Little History of Philosophy is that, as the title suggests, it takes a historical approach. That makes it a lot easier to follow what’s going on. It has short chapters on all the big names in Western philosophy—and their basic ideas—over the past two millennia, from Socrates and Plato through to Peter Singer, the Australian utilitarian philosopher who still teaches at Princeton University today.
A Little History of Philosophy is also very nice to listen to as an audiobook. By the end you’ll know your Kant from your Kierkegaard, your Spinoza from your Schopenhauer and your Aristotle from your Arendt—all in just 7.5 hours of listening!
A brief review of A Little History of Philosophy by Sophie Roell, editor of Five Books