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Book Review: 101 Great Philosophers by Madsen Pirie

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Madsen Pirie, distinguished author and president of the Adam Smith Institute offers 101 Great Philosopher, which is subtitled "Makers of Modern Thought". He was distinguished visiting Professor of Philosophy and Logic at Hillsdale College, Michigan, USA. Steeped in philosophy and its arguments its interesting to see what Pirie's choices are for the 101.

He admits frankly in the introduction that readers will no doubt question some of his choices and omissions. I wonder why he did not included modern thinkers such as Hernando de Soto and Francis Fukayama in this collection. That said, he devotes a page and a half of the book to every entry whether Plato or Charles Pierce. Each entry details a bit of the personal history of the individual and the rest about their thoughts.

The book certainly works well as an easy reference source for the philosophers included. I found myself learning and remembering the source of various schools of though, some of which I hold dear and never realised the source.

There is a certain flowing style to Pirie's writing that seems to make even the driest of subject matter read more easily that one would expect. There is a clear sense that the pieces are meant to build a history of modern thought, as described in the introduction, and for the most part the aim is achieved.

This book could find use both as a reference for a student and an concise collection for writing wishing to add to their non-fiction pieces.

While not the most in-depth examination of the personalities that influenced modern thought, this does serve a useful purpose. And let's face it, any book about philosophy that does not make it seem dry and boring has to have something going for it.

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About Marty Dodge

  • Might have to add this one to my list to pick up… I have the Book of Dead Philosophers here and it also approaches the dry subject of philosophy with wit and sarcasm. The two might go well together. 🙂

  • Dead Philosophers is real good