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Bertrand Russell's 1945 volume, A History of Western Philosophy, is a relatively short volume covering major figures in western philosophy from the presocratics through the early twentieth century. Although it is quite well-written and intelligent, and the author himself a major philosopher, it is generally not regarded as giving a well-balanced treatment of its subject matter, but rather reflecting the idiosyncratic opinions of its author. Nonetheless, its readability makes it a good introduction to the field.
It begins with ancient philosophy, contrasting presocratics (portrayed as proto-scientists) with sophists, then moving on to the monumental figures of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and finishing with the Hellenistic schools. The second part addresses medieval, or Christian philosophy, from Augustine through nominalism. While Russell himself was strongly anti-religious, he appreciated some of the major innovations in logic of the late medieval philosophers. The final section covers modern philosophy from the Renaissance through Russell's own period, culminating with the development of what we now generally refer to as "analytic philosophy."
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