A History of Western Philosophy | Study Guide

Bertrand Russell

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A History of Western Philosophy | Chapter Summaries

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Chapter Summaries Chart

Chapter Summary
Preface by Author Bertrand Russell distinguishes his history of philosophy from those that came before by announcing his purpose: "to exhi... Read More
Introduction Philosophy "is something intermediate between theology and science," says Bertrand Russell. Like theology it speculates ... Read More
Book 1, Part 1, Chapters 1–2 "Much of what makes civilization had already existed for thousands of years in Egypt and in Mesopotamia, and had sprea... Read More
Book 1, Part 1, Chapters 3–6 According to Bertrand Russell, Pythagoras is one of the most important men who ever lived. "Mathematics, in the sense ... Read More
Book 1, Part 1, Chapters 7–10 The golden age of Athens began around 490 BCE, after the city defeated the Persian king Darius at Marathon. Athens bec... Read More
Book 1, Part 2, Chapters 11–13 History knows about Socrates only through his pupils, primarily Plato and Xenophon. Socrates was "an Athenian citizen ... Read More
Book 1, Part 2, Chapters 14–18 Plato's most important work is the Republic. The first part imagines a utopia or ideal commonwealth; the second part d... Read More
Book 1, Part 2, Chapters 19–23 In Russell's view it took 2,000 years after Aristotle's death to produce a philosopher who could be regarded as his ap... Read More
Book 1, Part 2, Chapter 24 Russell notes that the Greeks worked out early mathematical concepts and studied irrational numbers, which leads to a ... Read More
Book 1, Part 3, Chapters 25–26 Russell divides "the Greek-speaking world in antiquity" into three eras: the period of the free city-states, dominion ... Read More
Book 1, Part 3, Chapters 27–28 The Stoics and Epicureans arose in the same time period. Epicurus founded his school in 311 BCE. His philosophical com... Read More
Book 1, Part 3, Chapters 29–30 Rome conquered Carthage in Africa and Syracuse in Sicily during the Punic Wars in the 3rd century BCE. In the next cen... Read More
Book 2, Part 1, Introduction Catholic philosophy dominated European thought for 10 centuries, beginning with Saint Augustine and ending with the Rena... Read More
Book 2, Part 1, Chapters 1–2 The Christian religion at the time of the late Roman Empire consisted of three elements: philosophical beliefs derived... Read More
Book 2, Part 1, Chapters 3–4 Bertrand Russell names four men as Doctors of the Western church: Saint Ambrose, Saint Jerome, Saint Augustine, and Po... Read More
Book 2, Part 1, Chapters 5–6 In the fifth century the barbarians overran the Western empire. The English invaded Britain, which became England; the... Read More
Book 2, Part 2, Chapters 7–9 After the barbarian Lombards defeated the Eastern Byzantines who held territory in northern Italy, the papacy necessar... Read More
Book 2, Part 2, Chapters 10–12 The main attacks on the Eastern Empire came from Muslims. After Mohammed's death in 632, his Arab followers began a ra... Read More
Book 2, Part 2, Chapters 13–15 Saint Thomas Aquinas is considered the greatest of the Scholastic philosophers by the Church, and his system is taught... Read More
Book 3, Part 1, Chapters 1–3 The modern outlook differs from the medieval worldview primarily in "the diminishing authority of the Church, and the ... Read More
Book 3, Part 1, Chapters 4–6 The Renaissance began later in the northern European countries than in Italy, but at the beginning of the 16th century... Read More
Book 3, Part 1, Chapters 7–8 According to Bertrand Russell, Francis Bacon was the founder of the modern inductive method and a pioneer in systemati... Read More
Book 3, Part 1, Chapters 9–11 René Descartes was "profoundly affected by the new physics and astronomy" and sought to construct a new philosophical ... Read More
Book 3, Part 1, Chapters 12–15 In discussing the rise of liberalism, Bertrand Russell first notes two common errors made by historians. The first is ... Read More
Book 3, Part 1, Chapters 16–17 George Berkeley denied the existence of matter, maintaining that "material objects only exist through being perceived.... Read More
Book 3, Part 2, Chapters 18–19 Beginning in the late 18th century, a sensibility associated with the Romantic movement has influenced art, literature... Read More
Book 3, Part 2, Chapter 20 In Chapter 20, titled "Kant," Russell reviews how David Hume's philosophy, which carried empiricism to its radical concl... Read More
Book 3, Part 2, Chapters 21–22 "The intellectual life of the nineteenth century was more complex than that of any previous age," says Bertrand Russel... Read More
Book 3, Part 2, Chapters 23–25 George Gordon, Lord Byron needs reevaluation as someone who was influential on European thinking, more on the Continen... Read More
Book 3, Part 2, Chapters 26–27 The British philosophers of the 19th century were not much influenced by the Germans. Jeremy Bentham, the founder of t... Read More
Book 3, Part 2, Chapters 28–30 Henri Bergson (1859–1941) was a leading philosopher of the early the 20th century who influenced French philosophy, as... Read More
Book 3, Part 2, Chapter 31 In this final chapter, titled "The Philosophy of Logical Analysis," Bertrand Russell reiterates the great divide in phil... Read More
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