Squashed Philosophers

Now this is something useful for recreational reading:

There is no taking-part in the ‘Great Debate’ of Western civilisation, the debate about who we are, how we should be governed, how we think and how we ought to behave, without some familiarity with the, remarkably few, thinkers in whose language and idiom the talk is conducted.

Unfortunately, life is rather short, the little storeroom of the brain doesn’t have extensible walls and the greatest of thinkers seem to also be among the worst, and the lengthiest, of writers. So, most knowledge of Plato or Hume or Aristotle tends to come second-hand, unfortunately too often through masters more filled with pompous pleasure in their own mastery of complexity than with knowledge of their subject. Which is a pity, because your Prince, whether they call themselves President or King or Prime Minister, has almost certainly read Machiavelli. Your therapist is steeped in Freud, your divines in Augustine. Lawmakers take their cues still from Paine, Rousseau and Hobbes. Science looks yet to Bacon, Copernicus and Darwin.

So, here are the most used, most quoted, the most given, sources of the West. The books that have defined the way the West thinks now, in their author’s own words, but condensed and abridged into something readable.

Now cliff notes for philosophy is something I have never particularly minded. It’s a good way to get a grip around what a philosopher is trying to communicate, plus it’s a great primer for actually reading the corpus of a particular author.

When it comes to philosophy, the book is always better than the movie. So to speak — it’s not the greatest analogy, but you know what I mean. . .

This is a good way to start getting interested in certain philosophers so you can read them in-depth. That’s why I don’t mind the abridged versions; in the end, there’s no faking a well read philosopher.

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