Keith Douglas' Web Page

About me Find out who I am and what I do.
My resumé A copy of my resumé and other documentation about my education and work experience for employers and the curious.
Reviews, theses, articles, presentations A collection of papers from my work, categorized and annotated.
Current research projects What I am currently working on, including some non-research material.
Interesting people People professionally "connected" to me in some way.
Interesting organizations Organizations I am "connected" to. (Some rather loosely.)
Intellectual/professional influences Influences on my work, including an organization chart. Here you can also buy many good books on philosophy and other subjects via amazon.com. I have included brief reviews of hundreds of books.
Professional resources Research sources, amazon.com associates programs, etc.
What is the philosophy of computing? A brief introduction to my primary professional interest.
My intellectual heroes A partial list of important people. Limited to the dead.
My educational philosophy As a sometime teacher I've developed one. Includes book resources.

Book Influences - Philosophy: History of ...

Title
Author
Purchase / Enjoy Cover
Comment
A New History of Philosophy Volume One: From Thales to Occam Matson A slim first volume of a two volume history of philosophy. It and the second volume might be suitable for a introductory level philosophy course.
A New History of Philosophy Volume Two: From Descartes to Searle Matson A slim second volume of a two volume history of philosophy. This volume, at least in my edition, is marred by a recurring typo - "Leibniz" is spelled "Leibnez" in several places.
A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought Hansen Hansen thinks the view of the original Daoists as irrationalists and mystery mongers is false. (In particular, the daodejing does not open with a paradox at all.) He re-tells the history of Chinese philosophy from Confucius to Han Fei to show why. I think he's right, at least as far as the evidence presented goes. Zhuangzi is still too much for my tastes, but at least the position is defensible now. (Graham Priest should read this book!) However, one question remains: was it just because they flattered the powerful the Ru positions became orthodoxy? Hansen seems to suggest so, but more work is needed, especially into what he calls the "Dark Ages" of Chinese philosophy.
A Wicked Company: The Forgotten Radicalism of the European Enlightenment Blom Primarily about Holbach and Diderot, this breezy (and sometimes philosophically naive) history is an pleasant read, with about an even balance of ideas and personalities. The traditional Enlightenment figures of Kant and Voltaire are mentioned, but only Voltaire has any role - and is portrayed (partially correctly) as much more conservative and traditional than the "radicals" that are the subject of this history. The role of Hume is quite interesting and a good "intermediary" case.
Ancient Metaphysics and Natural Philosophy Lewis   A course pack. The "ancient metaphysics and natural philosophy" theme is ancient chemistry.
Atom in History of Human Thought Pullman I especially enjoyed the discussions of the non-Greek "philosophical" atomists. For discussions of the Greeks go elsewhere; the only noteworthy discussion of the Greeks in this book is the inclusion of Plato (!).
Beyond the Limits of Thought Priest A sustained and very challenging history of the "transconsistent". Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Russell, Cantor, Kant, Nagarjuna, Hegel, Berkeley and others are discussed. This is not a defense of Priest's dialetheism, either: instead in a way he can be read as claiming that these historical greats (and not-so-greats) ran into the same problems and attempted to address them in analogous ways with sometimes analogous results. I only wonder: if some contradictions are true, as Priest claims, how does one know which ones are? After all, he admits (or seems to, when talking about Nagarjuna) that the dialethist can argue by reductio ... I also find it fascinating that although the book has been focusing on language (though not exclusively), Preist closes with a discussion of reality and hence the thought that reality itself is contradictory. This deserves another book.
Confucianism Goldin A slim, introductory history of one of the world's most influential philosophies. Clear, but, as befits an entry in an "ancient philosophies" series, only really deals with Confucius, Mencius and Xunzi.
Epicureanism at the Origins of Modernity Wilson As might be surmised from the title, this is a study of the reactions to and uses of Epicurean philosophy (natural philosophy, metaphysics, ethics, etc.) in the period roughly 1500-1700. Boyle, Locke and Descartes (who, despite not being an atomist, is very Epicurean in many ways) are key figures here, but there are many more, including out right materialists (with the possible exception of god) again. A careful, patient work, but it feels a little disjoint - the chapters, and sometimes even the sections feel as if they still have their original "paper origins" suffused through. This complaint, however, is a quibble. I'd recommend this as a possible secondary source for a future version of the "Metaphysics, Morality and Mathematics in Descartes, Locke, Leibniz and Kant" course Emily Carson taught at McGill my last semester there, as it shows there is another interesting way to look at some of the same problems and go further in getting "the big picture" of this crucial period of intellectual history.
Explaining the Cosmos: The Ionian Tradition of Scientific Philosophy Graham A revisionary interpretation of many of the presocratic "nature writers" (particularly of Anaximenes, Heraclitus and Parmenides) allows Graham to show a cleaner understanding of what went on (even if it means realizing Aristotle may not have understood his predecessors) and to greater show how the Ionian natural philosophical tradition is the ancestor of the now world-wide scientific tradition. Some of what he points out is startling, especially to those (like me) who have next to no Greek - for example, the stylistic parallels between Heraclitus and Parmenides. Despite the book's obvious merits, I think Graham oversells the comparisons between several ancient views and the modern (e.g. Anaxagoras as a "fractal" thinker) and makes some of the usual mistakes about modern physics (e.g. the big bang is the origin of the local hubble volume, not the universe and that energy is not a stuff, etc.). These don't detract from the book's main points to any great degree, though.
From Euclid to Eddington: A Study of Conceptions of the External World Whittaker Not quite as good as Jammer, but still, actual ideas play a role here. (Not whether Descartes was transgendered or Bacon was a porn addict.)
From Religion to Philosophy Cornford A classic showing relationships between philosophical ideas and Greek religious ones. Not as silly as it sounds; the connections are made plausible and the genuinely philosophical contributions shine through too.
Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea Lovejoy Not all history of ideas need be as mathematically rigorous as Jammer or Whittaker, especially when the idea in question is squishy. Bunge first mentioned this classic to me in 1998, and I keep hearing about it. It is remarkable how a concept rooted in the most interesting aspects of the philosophical tradition also found its way into poetry in subtle and influential ways.
Lectures on Modern Idealism Royce Kant, Hegel and Schelling as understood by an American pragmatist.
Lives of Eminent Philosophers Books I-V Laertius (ed. Hicks) This is the Loeb (Greek and English) edition of one of the first systematic histories of philosophy. It is flawed in many ways, yet for all that it is still groundbreaking and still a good source for much material otherwise lost to time.
Lives of Eminent Philosophers Books VI-X Laertius (ed. Hicks) This is the Loeb (Greek and English) edition of one of the first systematic histories of philosophy. It is flawed in many ways, yet for all that it is still groundbreaking and still a good source for much material otherwise lost to time. In this volume is the discussion of the Stoics and Epicureans, both of which are invaluable resources for the views of these schools. This is particularly so in the case of Stoic logic which is described in remarkable if confusing detail.
Native American World Views Gill While there was no systematic philosophy amongst pre-conquest Native Americans, there was certain reflection and espousal of philosophical concepts, as there was anywhere. This book briefly discusses a few of them, but not with the depth of analysis I would have liked.
Nietzsche penseur du chaos moderne Tinland (ed.) Unavailable through amazon.com A selection of very brief articles on Nietzsche from a variety of French philosophers, artists and psychoanalysts (!). None are horrible, but some it is pretty hard to figure out what the point is ... It is also taken for granted almost everywhere that the subjectivist reading of Nietzsche is correct, which is debatable, at least. Unfortunately, the volume is also typographically a mess, with character substiutions, particularly of umlauts, and with horrible kerning.
On Heidegger's Nazism and Philosophy Rockmore One of two books to read about this horrifying and disgusting subject. (The other is Hugo Ott's biography of Heidegger.)
Passion of the Western Mind Tarnas See my amazon.com review.
Philosophical Analysis in the Twentieth Century, Volume 1: The Dawn of Analysis Soames Volume 1 of a monumental treatise on the subject well indicated by the title. This volume covers from Moore to the early Quine. Both volumes (see below for the second) fairly present the historical material of the "greats" and many reactions, as well as detailed criticism and, well, analysis of the claims. Soames patiently fills in gaps, the premisses tacitly assumed, etc.
Philosophical Analysis in the Twentieth Century, Volume 2: The Age of Meaning Soames Volume 2 of a monumental treatise on the subject well indicated by the title. This volume covers from the later Wittgenstein to Kripke's (apparently) groundbreaking lectures.
Plato's Epistemology Matthews An analysis of Plato's epistemology, as one might guess. Not too detailed; also includes relevant exerpts.
Seventeenth Century Philosophy Laywine   Course pack. Includes exerpts from Vincenzo Galilei (Galileo Galilei's father), Aristoxenus, Hobbes, and Boyle.
Six Great Ideas Adler I bought this as a conversation piece, but never used it. It might be suitable for (though not by itself) an intro course of some kind.
The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy Adamson and Taylor (eds.) Nineteen reasonably well written articles on philosophy written in Arabic. Good for having clear details in summary form about many of the important medevial thinkers in this category. Alas a summary of contemporary developments (or, really, writings since the 17th century) is much more hasty, forming only one chapter. I suspect this is because good translations and interest on the part of those in "the west" is less. (After all, none of them have latinized names like Avicenna and Averroes!) Nonetheless you can learn from this chapter that contemporary Iranian jursiprudence education includes philosophy of language, of all things. Another interesting tidbit was that prior to the Arabic translations of Greek works, there was also such into Syriac.
The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle Barnes (ed.) One of the first in the Cambridge Companion series, this volume is 9 articles plus a (modern) bibliography on one of the most influential (intellectually anyway) people ever to live. Barnes' introductory material is "chatty" in an odd sort of way. Many of the selections are written by the same people and the number of selections is oddly short (given Aristotle's well-known reputation as a polymath). Suitable for beginning students of Aristotle, this is not one of the better Cambridge Companions , though the selection of topics is fine as far as an abbreviated collection goes. Also, the writing is clear (if not in-depth) and the large (though I have no idea how comprehensive) bibliography is useful (even if obsolete by the time the book was first published, never mind now).
The Cambridge Companion to Descartes Cottingham (ed.) One of the first in the Cambridge Companion series, this is 13 articles plus an introduction on most of the aspects of Descartes' intellectual achievements and reactions to same. Some typos mar an otherwise reasonably satisfactory volume. However also I would have found merit to having an article specifically on Descartes and religion, for that is one contested topic which merits some discussion (even if I think the outcome is embarassing to some but obvious: Descartes was not a Christian by any orthodox standard). Also missing is an article on the meteorology, optics and such that Descartes worked on. It is also interesting, though perhaps irrelevant, to note that several articles are translations by the editor. Finally, my criticisms should not be taken as overwhelming the merits of the book; in particular, the article on the "cartesian circle" is informative even if heroic.
The Cambridge Companion to Early Greek Philosophy Long (ed.) A textbook-style volume, at a relatively basic level, about the presocratics, including the sophists and the Greek medical tradition. Many thinkers or schools get their own chapter; other chapters are thematic. Most fascinating to me was the paper linking the development of causal vocabulary and discussion as we somewhat know it today in the medical corpus. Recommended as an interesting companion to the KRS volume.
The Cambridge Companion to Epicureanism Warren (ed.) Fifteen generally well-written (if brief in some cases) chapters plus a general introduction comprise this volume. Within it we find discussions of many aspects of the Epicurean philosophy (e.g., philosophy as therapy, ethics, atomism, politics, philosophy of language) as well as discussions of Epicureanism in several times and places (e.g., at origin, two during Roman times, and then during the early modern period). Apart from a few infelicitous translations ("atomos" does not mean "indivisible", at least originally), the otherwise very high quality volume is (at least in this printing) marred by typesetting problems which look all the world like a laser printer running out of toner. Also odd is how the entire volume is on glossy paper - normally this is reserved for works which reproduce high quality graphics: there are none to be found. I wonder if both issues are related; hopefully they can be corrected in another run.
The Cambridge Companion to Leibniz Jolley (ed.) One of the first in the Cambridge Companion series, this is 12 articles plus an introduction on most of the aspects of Leibniz' intellectual achievements and reactions to same. A plurality, as one might expect, of the pages of this volume are on Leibniz's metaphysics. Two long articles address this perennial topic, leaving approximately the same amount of space for all the remaining topics, including language and philosophy, logic, the background to his work, epistemology, reactions, etc. I had no idea how unimportant he was regarded at the time, at least qua traditional philosophy. What is, however, missing, is a discussion of Leibniz and mathematics. Although this is a book in a series devoted to philosophy, leaving out mathematics except in passing, in a discussion of Leibniz, is like leaving out biology from Darwin or chemistry from Lavoisier. Perhaps future editions or other series' will take up this slack. (Disclosure: I took an upper division undergraduate course [13 years ago at the present writing] which included 17th and 18th century philosophy of math and "mathematical inspiration" to philosophy.)
The Greek Sophists Dillon Recently there's been a revival of interest in the Sophists for their own sake, not merely as the "bad guys" in Plato. This volume is one such text.
The Invisible World: Early Modern Philosophy and the Invention of the Microscope Wilson An interesting topic and a new way to look at some of the traditionally discussed philosophical debates in the early modern period make this a nifty little book on the history of microscopy, microbiology (though strictly speaking what was seen was a lot of small but macroscopic animals) etc. However, other than to show that the history of science for this period is much more complicated if one does not focus on physics and astronomy, I have trouble discerning a consistent thread of ideas here. Perhaps that's because there wasn't one historically and the book follows the same (lack of) pattern! Despite this shortcoming, it also includes a few critical remarks about Shapin and Schaffer etc. which in my view is all to the good.
Wisdom of the West Russell A sort of precis of Russell's famous History of Western Philosophy. Includes many illustrations.
Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language Kripke Kripke on Wittgenstein's work.

 

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