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Madsen Pirie’s reduced philosophy book

Madsen Pirie has a new book, 101 Great Philosophers. It’s an amazingly compact account of the ideas of those who made modern thought. It’s a heroic venture, romping through the giants of Western civilization at a cracking pace which allows only 400 words on each of them. The result is a highly condensed overview of philosophy and philosophers, enough to give even a beginner a working grasp of what it’s all about, but with enough meat to interest philosophers themselves in his take on the subject.

It takes a cool analytical brain to do this (which Madsen has), and he has produced a book that will lead many into a subject they had previously only wished they knew more about. I rather think that academic philosophers will disparage it, largely because it demystifies their subject. Their careers are made by writing technical papers for each other that bear little on what philosophy can offer to our lives.

In an age when people demand condensed information they can absorb quickly, I think Madsen has produced a book that delivers the goods. Its available from Amazon, and it’s a fascinating and highly informative read.

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7 comments to Madsen Pirie’s reduced philosophy book

  • I presume the author has looked at it? If so, I’d ask if Pirie has a section on either Rand or Von Mises as the amazon page does not allow a look at the contents. I will be stunned if either of those two figures are included.

  • Duly ordered the book… anything by Madsen is bound to be good value.

  • I rather think that academic philosophers will disparage it, largely because it demystifies their subject. Their careers are made by writing technical papers for each other that bear little on what philosophy can offer to our lives.

    In fairness, this is true of academia in general. It’s the problem with the “publish or perish” model. You can really only spend so much time talking about, for example, the Highland Clearances, before just about everything about them that can be said already has been. But you still have to publish something, or you’re out.

    Since you have to publish something, and all the obvious things have already been said, you need to find increasingly non-obvious things to say. The general public doesn’t care about that sort of thing. The only people who are going to read it are people who already know all the obvious stuff but want to continue learning.

    So, you can’t really blame the philosophers as regular people for publishing silly tripe. The system compels them to publish something, no matter what.

  • Joshua:

    “For this is the truth: I have left the house of scholars and slammed the door behind me. Too long did my soul sit hungry at their table.”

    – Nietzsche (“Of Scholars”, Thus Spoke Zarathustra).

    That was written in 1883 – read the whole thing.

  • Did he also slam the door on the online summaries of their works?:-P

  • Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think the world wide web existed in 1883 Alisa.

  • You are absolutely correct Mike.