Erudite as I might pretend to be, there are some glaring gaps in my knowledge. I attended a community college for a couple years after high school, but I never really went to university or acquired a degree. Mostly, that only bothers me when I spend time with my resume, but sometimes there are subjects that I just don’t know much about. I really don’t know much about philosophy, so when I got my hands on a copy of Nigel Warburton’s A Little History of Philosophy, I decided to dig in and learn a few things.
Warburton takes a casual tone from the start, outlining the history of philosophy from Socrates to the modern day. Each of the forty short chapters covers an important philosopher, of sometimes two, when they are closely associated. Covering them in roughly chronological order, each chapter builds on the chapters that came before it, much as the work of each philosopher builds on or tears down the work of those who came before.
With such a casual tone, this ‘little history’ is a fine read even for people like myself who really didn’t know much of anything about philosophy other than a few names and book titles. The chapters are a great length for reading during breaks at work or while eating lunch. If anything, the book is a bit too brief, but that makes it a great accessible read.
Warburton’s narrative works pretty well. Each chapter leads nicely into the following chapter, with a brief segue way to connect them. Unfortunately, I felt that the connections weakened with the more modern philosophers. There was the inclusion of a couple of great thinkers who weren’t actually philosophers, but managed to deeply influence human thought anyway. I appreciated these minor excursions, but the book left me wanting to know more about recent philosophers. There is a wealth of contemporary philosophers, but the only one that Warburton covered was Peter Singer.
A great introduction, but I warn you that it might just be an appetizer and less meal than you might like. I know that I am already starting to think about what else to read. I’d love to read something modern. If you’re looking for a basic introduction, check it out!