Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bryan Magee, The Great Philosophers


Has the sabbatical been that life-changing that we’ve turned to the Great Philosophers for guidance? (By the way, who are the Not-So-Great Philosophers?) Yes, the sabbatical has been great and larger questions are getting asked, but the real reason Travelmarx is reading this book is that the book was found by randomly browsing book stacks in the bowels of the British Institute’s library. I guess, in a way, the sabbatical is directly responsible because what other time would I be in the bowels of a 16th century palazzo in Florence browsing books?

The book The Great Philosophers by Bryan Magee is the transcript of a series of conversations that Magee, a noted British politician, author, and popularizer of philosophy, conducts with 15 contemporary (circa 1980s) writers and philosophers to chart a course through Western philosophy. The format actually works better than you might think. The conversations are well-scripted with each speaker getting ample time to develop ideas. Magee is less interviewing than conversing and he often contributes a lot to simplifying the discussion for the layperson which is something he is particularly good at. And, voilà, many of the conversations are on YouTube. Two conversations that aren’t covered in this book but are on YouTube are are TravelMarx favorites are The Philosophy of Language and The Philosophy of Science. After watching these we go to the park to watch the local dog, Giotto(*), chase his tennis ball for something easy on the brain.

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