I had never heart of Will Durant before somebody recommended this really excellent „The Story of Philosophy“ to me. When I looked him up I was astonished to see that this guy has basically written the entire History of the World in 11 volumes in collaboration with his wife Ariel. They had planned it into the 20th century, but due to their old the 11th volume The Age of Napoleon ended in 1975. They left behind notes for a 12th volume, The Age of Darwin, and an outline for a 13th, The Age of Einstein, which would have taken The Story of Civilization to 1945.
Their idea was to unify and humanize the great body of historical knowledge, which had become fragmented into esoteric specialties and too complex, and to vitalize it for contemporary application.
The couple shared a very intense love for each another. After Will entered the hospital, Ariel stopped eating, and died on October 25, 1981. Though their daughter, Ethel, and grandchildren strove to keep Ariel’s death from Will, he learned of it on the evening news, and died two weeks later, at the age of 96, on November 7, 1981.
Back to „The Story of Philosophy“ in which Durant profiles several important Western philosophers and their ideas from Socrates and Plato to Nietzsche. Durant was aiming to show the interconnectedness of their ideas and how each philosopher build on the ideas of the ones before him.
There are nine chapters each focused on one philosopher, and two more chapters each containing briefer profiles of three early 20th century philosophers namely Henri Bergson, Benedetto Croce (of whom I had never heart before) and Bertrand Russell who published his „History of Western Philosophy“ in 1945 and is an equally astonishing read
In a later edition Durant accepted the criticism for not including philosophers from Asia.
The book was published in 1926 but also due to its subject the book has aged well. Will Durant is a good writer and the book is very accessible. I think it makes a really good Christmas present for anybody who’s interested in testing the waters of Philosophy.
Are you interested in Philosophy and which philosopher interests you the most?