This book is the second in a four part series on the history of western philosophy. Following from the first volume on the progression of ancient philosophy, this addition to the series spans the progression of western philosophical thought from the conversion of Augustine to the beginnings of the Renaissance. Like its predecessor, the first two chapters of this book cover a general summary of the major philosophers of the time, with the final seven chapters analyzing the development of philosophical thought in regards to specific issues such as god, ethics, and logic.
My major complaint with this volume is the same one I discussed in my review on the first book of the series; I found the organization sometimes difficult as, opposed to discussing a philosopher’s views as a whole, their views were individually discussed by topic through each of the last seven chapters. This organization has its upsides, I’m sure, but I couldn’t help but find it difficult to organize the wealth of separately discussed views under any single philosopher, leaving me with only a few facts about each philosopher that I can accurately remember. So, while I feel like I walked away from this book with a good understanding of the major philosophical questions of this era, I can’t say I recall very much about any one specific philosopher.
Despite this, I did learn quite a good deal from this book. If nothing else I feel as if I now understand much more clearly the academic and religious atmosphere of the time much better. While I have not studied philosophy in any depth before, I have done a fair share of reading on history and prior to reading this I sometimes found it difficult to understand the general climate of the times in comparison with my own modern day life. Exactly how the church managed to sway such influence throughout history seems much clearer to me now that I’ve read through the types of philosophical dilemmas that absorbed the great minds of the time, and learned of the sometimes vitriolic backlash that occurred to even the silliest seeming bits of heresy.
So, definitely continue this series if you have begun it; there is a wealth of information to be had. For those looking to get more out of it than I myself did, I recommend utilizing Wikipedia and google to recap about specific philosophers as you read through it. I also wish I had read a little more on formal logic before beginning this tome as it would have made numerous sections much more clear to me.
All and all, this series is shaping up to be a rather solid introduction to western philosophical thought, although it is definitely worth it to through in a little extra effort to get the most out of it.
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