Booknotes: A History Of Western Philosophy
Just finished reading Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy for the first time since I was a teenager, and while interesting, it made for somewhat odd reading. I've been going through a lot of textbooks or textbook-like things lately (which is why I haven't been writing about books on here as I would've done before; only so much mileage I can get out of "hey, I guess I know the difference between a private bill and a private members bill now". Russell is different and interesting in his own way, because he's unsparing in his judgement (and opinion) in a way that I feel modern writers of books in a similar vein would not be; this is very much Bertrand Russell's A History Of Western Philosophy. A comparator here would be Nigel Warburton's Little History Of Philosophy which I read sometime last year (I find for non-fiction books it's helpful to read multiple on the same subject so you get the basics reinforced and can build up a picture of authorial disagreements. He didn't stop in the middle of describing Rousseau's philosophy to tell you he thought he was wrong, not to mention thick (I can't remember whether Russell did this for Rousseau, but he definitely did a lot of that sort of thing.)
A lot of the stuff is quite Of Its Time, too, talking about "national character" and other stuff that I find a bit... retro? (I guess these days, the idea of a "national character" is largely manifest in Very British Problems and the like, rather than used to make a serious point in any kind of intellectual analysis.) When it gets to people he knows personally, he uses it, hilariously, as an opportunity to recap personal beef. "He suggested that my opinions on the matter were due to my connections to the British aristocracy. For my part, I am accustomed to having my opinions explained, especially by communists, as due to my connections with the British aristocracy," which was extremely tears emoji. However incongruous the lack of detachment was, it definitely made the whole thing a lot more entertaining.