A History of Philosophy (Copleston)
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A History of Philosophy Copleston
A History of Philosophy
A History of Philosophy volume I Greece and Rome part I.jpeg
Cover of volume I
AuthorFrederick Copleston, S.J.
CountryUnited Kingdom
SubjectWestern philosophy
PublisherContinuum (Worldwide), Doubleday (US & Canada), Paulist Press (US & Canada)
Publication date
1946-1975 (volumes 1-9), 1956 (volume 11), 1986 (volume 10)
Media typePrint
Pages5,344 (volumes 1-11) (2003 Continuum editions)

A History of Philosophy is an eleven-volume (originally released in nine volumes)[1][2]history of Western philosophy written by the English Jesuit priest Frederick Charles Copleston.[3]

The work provides extensive coverage of Western philosophy from the Pre-Socratics through John Dewey, Bertrand Russell, George Edward Moore, Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. The first nine volumes, originally published between 1946 and 1975,[4] were written for Catholic seminary students with the goal "of supplying Catholic ecclesiastical seminaries with a work that should be somewhat more detailed and of wider scope than the textbooks, commonly in use, and which at the same time should endeavour to exhibit the logical development and interconnection of philosophical systems."[5] However, since its first publication the series has become a classic account for philosophy scholars and students.[6][7][8][9]

As an historian of philosophy, Copleston had a firm reputation of cultivating a scrupulous objectivity.[10][11][12]

A tenth volume was added (to the Continuum edition) in 1986,[13] and the eleventh is actually a collection of essays which appeared in 1956 as Contemporary Philosophy.[14]

The book has been translated into Italian, French, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese and Romanian.[15][16][17][18]

Summary of contents

The following is a summary of contents (not a full table of contents) for the eleven volumes:

Volume 1: Greece and Rome

Volume 2: Augustine to Scotus

Volume 3: Ockham to Suarez

Volume 4: Descartes to Leibniz

Volume 5: Hobbes to Hume

Volume 6: Wolff to Kant

Volume 7: Fichte to Nietzsche

Volume 8: Bentham to Russell

Volume 9: Maine de Biran to Sartre

Volume 10: Russian Philosophy

This and the following book are only included in the Continuum edition. The Doubleday edition only contains the original nine volumes.

Volume 11: Logical Positivism and Existentialism

Included as Volume 11 in the Continuum edition, Logical Positivism and Existentialism is actually a collection of essays, which appeared in 1956 as Contemporary Philosophy. It covers Logical positivism and Existentialism.

Reception and legacy

The Encyclopedia Britannica: "[Copleston's "A history of philosophy" is] a concise, clearly written, and objective overview that became a standard introductory philosophy text for thousands of university students, particularly in its U.S. paperback edition".[]

In regards to the objectivity of the work, philosopher Martin Gardner wrote: "The Jesuit priest Frederick Copleston wrote a marvelous multivolume history of philosophy. I have no inkling of what he believed about any Catholic doctrine." "Father Frederick Copleston was the Jesuit author of a splendid multivolume history of philosophy[...] When he died in 1994, no one had the slightest notion of what he believed about any major dogma of his faith."[]

Describing the volume on Russian philosophy (of the Continuum edition) Geoffrey A. Hosking wrote: "As the distinguished author of a nine-volume survey of European philosophy[....] Copleston is eminently suited to [this] task[...] The exposition is cool, lucid and expertly professional in its judgments. Copleston cultivates a scrupulous objectivity, deploying criticisms which might be leveled against his thinkers, but also defending them against those criticisms. He is as fair to the atheist and socialist thinkers as he is to the religious ones, with whom, as a member of the Society of Jesus, he is presumably more in sympathy[...] Overall[...] this is a magisterially competent survey of the major Russian thinkers. I confess, though, to being slightly disappointed that Copleston's enormous experience did not generate a few more original insights, and in particular did not provoke him into examining the most important of all the practical questions that Russian philosophy poses."[19]

Philosopher and theologian Benedict M. Ashley compared A History of Philosophy to some of the most famous histories of philosophy as follows: "Some histories of philosophy, like the admirable one of Frederick Copleston, only attempt to give an accurate account of various philosophies in their general historical setting. Others, like Bertrand Russell in his absurd "History of Western Philosophy" or Etienne Gilson in his brilliant "The Unity of Philosophical Experience" proffer an argument for a particular philosophical position."[20]

The Washington Post: "Copleston's account of western philosophy has long been a standard reference, most familiar to students as a series of slender rack-sized paperbacks. Copleston writes with welcome clarity, but without the slight dumbing down of Will Durant's engaging Story of Philosophy or the biases of Bertrand Russell's provocative History of Western Philosophy. In other words, Copleston's volumes are still the place to start for anyone interested in following man's speculations about himself and his world."

The New Catholic Encyclopedia: "[Copleston's] main achievement is his monumental History of Philosophy.. as a whole [it is] a model of clarity, objectivity, and scholarly accuracy, unsurpassed in its accessibility and balance."[21]

Philosopher Christia Mercer described A History of Philosophy as: "One of the most influential treatments of the history of philosophy in the English speaking world[...] hugely ambitious and admirably clear study[...] In elegant concise prose[...] and widely read in the English-speaking world"[22]

The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Jesuits: "[A] monumental nine-volume [history][...] published between 1946 and 1975, for which [Copleston] would receive wide-spread acclaim. Described by The Times of London as "the best all-round history of philosophical thinking from the pre-Socratics to Sartre" (April 2, 1994), Copleston's history became renowned for the erudition of its scholarship, the comprehensive scope of its content, and the relatively objective position from which it was written."[23]

The Review of Metaphysics: "(The) best known historian of philosophy in the English speaking world, and a man to whom many are indebted."[24]

Jon Cameron (University of Aberdeen): "To this day Copleston's history remains a monumental achievement and stays true to the authors it discusses being very much a work in exposition."[25]

As of September 1979, The Washington Post reported that: "[Image/Doubleday's] best-selling multi-volume work, Frederick Copleston's "[A] History of Philosophy" (nine parts, 17 volumes) has collectively sold 1.6 million copies."[26]


  • Copleston, Frederick (1946-1975). A History of Philosophy. Great Britain: Continuum. ISBN 978-0826469489.
  • Copleston, Frederick (1993-1994). A History of Philosophy. New York, USA: Image Books.
  • Copleston, Frederick (2000-2004). Historia de la filosofía. Barcelona: Editorial Ariel. ISBN 978-84-344-8700-0.

See also


  1. ^ "Copleston, Frederick C. | Encyclopedia.com". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved .
  2. ^ "Frederick Copleston | Penguin Random House". 2016-07-26. Retrieved .
  3. ^ Bloomsbury.com. "History of Philosophy". Bloomsbury Publishing. Retrieved .
  4. ^ "Copleston, Frederick C. | Encyclopedia.com". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved .
  5. ^ Copleston, Frederick (2003-06-01). History of Philosophy Volume 1: Greece and Rome. A&C Black. ISBN 9780826468956.
  6. ^ Haldane, John (2016-09-09). "Heythrop, Copleston, and the Jesuit Contribution to Philosophy". Philosophy. 91 (04): 559-589. doi:10.1017/S0031819116000383. ISSN 0031-8191.
  7. ^ Bloomsbury.com. "A History of Philosophy". Bloomsbury Publishing. Retrieved .
  8. ^ "New in Paperback". 1993-04-11.
  9. ^ "Frederick Copleston | Penguin Random House". www.penguinrandomhouse.com. Retrieved .
  10. ^ Hosking, Geoffrey A. (1987-03-01). "Philosophy in Russia: From Herzen to Lenin and Berdyaev by Frederick C. Copleston SJ (Search/University of Notre Dame: $29.95; 445 pp.)". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved .
  11. ^ GARDNER, MARTIN (2000-08-06). "True Confessions". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved .
  12. ^ "Frederick Charles Copleston | British priest". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved .
  13. ^ Bloomsbury.com. "History of Philosophy Volume 10". Bloomsbury Publishing. Retrieved .
  14. ^ Bloomsbury.com. "History of Philosophy Volume 11". Bloomsbury Publishing. Retrieved .
  15. ^ "Copleston, Frederick C. | Encyclopedia.com". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved .
  16. ^ "Istoria filosofiei Vol 2 Filosofia medievala - Frederick Copleston". www.all.ro (in Romanian). Retrieved .
  17. ^ Storia della filosofia. Vol VII - Frederick Copleston - Claudiana - Libro Claudiana editrice (in Italian). ISBN 9788839401175.
  18. ^ PlanetadeLibros, ©. "Frederick Copleston | Planeta de Libros". PlanetadeLibros (in Spanish). Retrieved .
  19. ^ Hosking, Geoffrey A. (1987-03-01). "Philosophy in Russia: From Herzen to Lenin and Berdyaev by Frederick C. Copleston SJ (Search/University of Notre Dame: $29.95; 445 pp.)". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved .
  20. ^ Ashley, Benedict M. (2003). "The Four Ages of Understanding: The First Postmodern Survey of Philosophy from Ancient Times to the Tum of the Twenty-First Century by John Deely (review)". The Thomist: A Speculative Quarterly Review. 67 (1): 133-137. doi:10.1353/tho.2003.0041. ISSN 2473-3725.
  21. ^ "Copleston, Frederick C. | Encyclopedia.com". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved .
  22. ^ "Opinion | Descartes Is Not Our Father". Retrieved .
  23. ^ SJ, Armstrong, Megan and Corkery, James , SJ, and Fleming, Alison and Worcester, Thomas SJ Prieto, Andrés Ignacio Shea, Henry. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Jesuits. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781108508506.
  24. ^ "Frederick C. Copleston, S.J. (1907-1994). - Free Online Library". www.thefreelibrary.com. Retrieved .
  25. ^ "Frederick Charles Copleston". The Gifford Lectures. Retrieved .
  26. ^ "HYPE, HYPE, HOORAY!". Washington Post. 1979-09-16. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved .

External links

A history of philosophy (vol. 3) [Copyright status reviewed by University of Florida staff - Out of copyright.]

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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