101 Great Philosophers


I have a new book out which is something of a departure from the field of public policy. Published by Continuum it is "101 Great Philosophers," my own selection of the great thinkers who between them set the Western intellectual tradition. Before the Adam Smith Institute I was a philosophy professor in the US, so I am revisiting familiar territory.

The remarkable feature of the book is that I allocate only 400 words to each of them! This is not any kind of "bluff your way" book. On the contrary, I try to bring out what they said, what was innovative and important about it, and to capture a small flavour of their lives. The result is a book you could read in an evening, gaining admittance thereby to some of the intellectual heritage of our civilization.

Why, though? It is because I think philosophy is important, and that some of our leaders might not make the mistakes they do, were they more versed in what philosophers have said. Philosophy is under-taught and under-studied, which is a pity because it does develop and expand the thinking processes. In an age awash with information, my supposition is that some people will want and value a highly condensed analysis of the contribution of the great thinkers. My hope, too, is that after reading my account, readers will be tempted to explore more of their works.

It is a personal selection, but a fair one, in that it probably overlaps by 80 percent with the names almost anyone might choose. The great minds who have blighted human happiness are in there alongside those who have blessed it. There is more information about it here.