Will Durant’s, Story of Philosophy needs no strong recommendation or defense. It stands on its own merits as one of the most influential and successful books of the 20th century.
It intends to bring philosophy out of the ivory towers and to put it in the hands of the average person. It does so in a manner that is unparalleled by any other work.
It is not exhaustive. It is a primer that deals primarily with the Greek philosophical foundations of western thought and then expands forward to touch upon some of the more important philosophers of recent times. As such, it provides a framework from which the reader can expand into other works.
The writing style is conversational, succinct and very clear, even after the many years following its original release.
This book was such a commercial success that it freed Will Durant for much of his life to continue his passion for philosophy, history and culture and formed the foundation for his life work, the 11 volume set – The Story of Civilization.
For any who complain that Durant is too brief or skips over too much in this work, just let them spend some time in that classic series and then check back with us later!
It is true that one cannot interpret and present philosophy without themselves having their own bias and presuppositions present. That is as true for Durant as it is for any author in the realm of philosophy or religion. Durant, however does a reasonably good job of being transparent and consistent with his presentation and it is not hard for any reader to navigate this book and come to a good understanding of the basics of Western Philosophy even if they reject some of Durant’s necessary interpretation.
I first read this book at the age of 13 and was able to navigate, understand and enjoy it then. I have since revisited it to reread several times and have never failed to profit from the return visit.
An enduring, timeless classic that I can recommend heartily to the student or the casual reader who wants to expand their understanding and horizons.