11 September 2005

Book Report Time

Not a lot to say at the moment, been reading up on the Indo-Europeans lately, and much more about that soon. I'm still assimilating it and gathering my thoughts.

I have a problem focusing on one book at a time, but I'm done with one and finishing a second. I'll add the second later today or tomorrow.

"Sophie's World" by Jostein Gaardner

Mr Gaardner has accomplished something quite admirable with this book. He has couched a fairly complete overview of the history of Western philosophy in a story of a 15 year old Norweigian girl, AND made it to the New York Times best seller list. That's something to be proud of; getting the masses to read more philosophy! Gaardner covers most significant philosophers (and some minor - depending on their contribution and what era they lived in) in most major eras of civilization, noting their major contributions and when applicable the social and historical context in which they formed their ideas. I found the book to be very illuminating, in some cases correcting misperceptions I had about some philosophers.

What I did not like about this book was that it focused almost exclusively on Western philosophy. I will grant that the majority of novel philosophy and influential thinkers lived in the 'Western' world, but the omission of non-Western philosophies constitutes a blinkered or incomplete picture. Philosophical schools of thought tend to be 'alive' like languages; influenced by preceding and concurrent ideas. Omitting 'Eastern' thought is tantamount to saying that the Western world exists in a vacuum. The Semitic peoples are only mentioned long enough to introduce the social context surrounding the birth of Christianity. Hinduism and Buddhism are glossed over very briefly, while Islam is ignored completely. Confuscius isn't even mentioned and Buddha only merits a pair of passing comments - because his philosophy was similar to that of Hume and Kierkegaard, though he predated both by 2500 years.

Next up: "Blood and Oil" by Michael T. Klare