Ancient Philosophy by Anthony John Patrick Kenny is the first in a four part collection on the progression of Western Philosophy. This entry covers the span of major philosophical inquiry from the Pre-Socratics to the pre-Christian Augustine. It starts off with the first two chapters chronologically covering the general concepts of the major philosophical players. The next seven chapters each cover a specific aspect of philosophy and the arguments that contributed to each field, including: Logic, epistemology, physics, metaphysics, the study of the soul and mind, and god.
Despite being in college I have yet to take a single philosophy course (the joys of being a science major), so to fill this gap in my formal education I decided to pick this up. The subject of philosophy told in the context of historical progression is one of the simplest ways to introduce a topic to someone uninitiated (at least in my opinion) which is one of the reasons I started here. Now, I’m not the hugest fan of ancient philosophy, but I still did enjoy this text even if I found a few parts tedious. Most of the tediousness has more to do with my own preferences than anything else.
My major complaint with this book would have to be organization. I appreciate that the author attempted something a bit more outside the box than merely speaking from a purely chronological view by concentrating the last seven chapters on philosophical topics. However, I just don’t feel like this method ended up granting anything more to the text than could have been achieved with the simpler organization. In fact, it really became kind of annoying for two large reasons. One: In the introduction to this text he states that the book is meant for those without a background in philosophy, much like myself. That being said, this organization makes the unfamiliar reader have to flip back and forth to the chronological list at the end of the text to keep all of these newly introduced Greek and Latin names straight. Two: If you make a comment like “But we will talk more about this later in Chapter 6” more than a couple of times every single chapter, you are either being a needlessly annoying author or you need to reorganize your book. Seriously, I wish I had counted how many times I read that.
Now, despite my criticisms I did actually like this book. It did what it promised and gave me a good basis on the earliest parts of Western Philosophy and it wasn’t nearly as much of a chore as I would have expected. Yes, I think it could’ve been organized more efficiently but it still didn’t totally flop. If you’re looking for a decent intro to the topic or merely a refresher I think this book could be good asset before taking a more in depth look at the work of various individual philosophers. I fully intend on reading the next installment in this series.
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