Western Philosophy: An Anthology.

Title: Western Philosophy: An Anthology.
Author/s: Cottingham, John.
Material type: Book.
Publisher/date: Wiley-Blackwell. 2nd edition (2007).
Format: Paperback (888 pages).
ISBN: ISBN-10: 1405124784, ISBN-13: 978-1405124782
Area and topic: History of philosophy and ideas. Core branches/sub-disciplines of philosophy.
Intended audience/ reading level: Tertiary/lower and upper.
Purchasing and information: 1) amazon.com 2) fishpond.co.nz
Unique and/or salient feature/s: ‘Western Philosophy: An Anthology’ is a large volume that includes all the main branches and issues of Western philosophy. All of the issues and areas covered are explored through a variety of classic and significant readings from the Western philosophical tradition.
Synopsis and/or additional information: The following information is sourced from the above links (see ‘Purchasing and information’) and the text.

  • ‘Western Philosophy: An Anthology’, provides the most comprehensive and authoritative survey of the Western philosophical tradition from ancient Greece to the leading philosophers of today. In 144 substantial and carefully chosen extracts [which include many of the most classic and important passages and readings of the Western philosophical canon], the volume covers …  theory of knowledge and metaphysics, philosophy of mind, religion and science, moral philosophy (theoretical and applied), political theory and aesthetics. Chronologically and thematically arranged, the readings are introduced and linked together by a lucid philosophical commentary which guides the reader through the key arguments’.
  • ‘The selections have been carefully chosen from a broad range of writers that includes Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant, Mill, Nietzsche, Strawson, Popper, Rawls, and Tolstoy.’ The texts have been updated where the editor felt the language to be archaic or unclear, and the selections appropriately illustrate the breadth and depth of each category of philosophical activity. At the end of the book are brief biographies of each philosopher excerpted’.
  • The table of contents is not presented here on the grounds that it is so large it would literally take up three full A4 size pages. It is however safe to say that writings from practically ‘every’ major important philosopher in the Western tradition since the time of Plato is included within the pages of this volume. In addition to this, many classic authors and readings that stand at the periphery of the philosophical tradition are included – notably, many of the ‘big names’ of western literature, the sciences and humanities.
Strengths: Practically all the influential and significant philosophers of the Western philosophical tradition are included within ‘Western Philosophy: An Anthology’. The editors have done a fine job selecting the appropriate passages from the original texts in line with the criteria of importance, relevance and readability, and have added helpful information and guidance for each of the readings. Furthermore, the entire discipline of Western philosophy is included in the one volume. This contrasts with other books and series reviewed on this site that dedicate entire volumes of classic and primary reading to one era, author or branch/subject of philosophy.
Limitations: As a book on the history of philosophy and ideas, the readings are selected for their significance and influence on the development of Western philosophy and not as representations of positions and arguments that are currently held. Furthermore, the length of the book and the inclusion of such a large selection of readings may well be more that is needed for teaching philosophy at secondary school level.

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