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Great Thinkers of the Western World is available at

Great Thinkers of the Western World

by Ian P. McGreal (Editor)

The Major Ideas and Classic Works of More Than 100 Outstanding Western Philosophers, Physical and Social Scientists.
Published by HarperCollins September 1992,  ISBN 006270026X [Book]
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Ian P. McGreal provides a well organized, well written collection of profiles for major writers, including Parmenides, Plato, Aristotle, Saint Augustine, Dante Aligheri, Nicolas Copernicus, Galilei Galileo, René Descartes, Friedrich Nietzsche, Emmanuel Kant, William Blake, Charles Darwin, Henry David Thoreau, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and others.

Each profile offers some biographical information, major ideas summary, a short article, and suggestions for further readings. Here is a sample:

Henry David Thoreau

Born: 1817, Concord, Massachusetts
Died: 1862, Concord, Massachusetts
Major Works: A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849), "Civil Disobedience" (1849),
           Walden, or Life in the Woods (1854)

Major Ideas

  • The search for ultimate reality begins with simplification and the dispelling of the superfluities of life, and with the desire for clarity of vision and spiritual alertness.
  • There exists within each human being a moral sense and an intuitive capacity for the apprehension of spiritual truths.
  •  Transcendental spiritual truths are revealed through nature.
  • The divine source of all things exists in nature, yet divine reality is not exhausted by nature.
  • Reformation, even the reformation of society, begins with the reforming of the individual.
  • Action from principal brings about change in institutions and governments.

The remainder of the section is a six-page article by Thomas E. Helm

Great Thinkers of the Western World can be a good place to get an overview of a particular thinker as a starting point for more extensive readings.

Happy Reading!

Book reviewed by Greg Dixon
Saturday, March 2, 2002

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Subject keywords: philosophy, literature, psychology