Friday, September 27, 2013

Book Review: Philosophy 100 Essential Thinkers

Philosophy 100 Essential Thinkers the Ideas that have Shaped our World by Philip Stokes gives a broad based understanding of the world’s philosophers. Each figure is given a few pages of explanation as well as their relevant contribution to society. One can find a broad sense of understanding as it relates to the overall concept of how philosophy has impacted societal thinking and science. 

Some may wonder what the benefit of philosophy is on society. Without philosophy the basic components of modern understandings would not have been built. For example, if one didn’t wonder if the world was round we may never have traversed the ocean, built spacecraft, or had cell phones. Philosophy is seen as critical thought and human expression and contributes to both world affairs and societal development. 

Philosophy doesn’t fit within a particular category of study like science but is considered the concept formation before modern science. It is the culmination of people who sat and thought about the nature of the world, the nature of government, and the universe we live in. It is those who have dared to ponder our very existence and say profound things like Socrates, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” 

It moves into discussions such as ethics, logic, and metaphysics. To the philosopher pondering how society should be formed, the analysis of arguments and the nature of reality are intertwined with their lives. For example, Pythagoras of Samos (570-480BC) believed that the ultimate nature of reality is a number. To him all things could be deducted down to a number, analyzed, and experimented with. Life is one big formula.

Many modern philosophers are more akin to scientists. Lev Semenovich Vygotsky (1896-1934) discussions the connection between thought and language, “The structure of speech is not simply the mirror image of the structure of thought. …..Therefore, precisely because of the contrasting directions of the movement, the development of the internal and external aspects of speech form a true unity.”  This has led to concepts such as the conceptual schema as impacting the way in which a person perceives the world. In other words, we are a direct result of our social world. 

Philosophers are lovers and creators. They seek to step between the dichotomies of life and determine the glue that holds it all together. They are those who dared to ask the question, “what if” while others tracked down familiar paths. Without philosophy the world would look much the same way as it did thousands of years ago. As Heraclitus (535-473 BC) once stated about the constant changing world, "No man ever steps in the same river twice".

Stokes, P. (2012). Philosophy 100 Essential Thinkers-The Ideas that have Shaped the World. London, UK: Arcturus Publishing Limited

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