Socrates: A Very Short Introduction, by C. C. W. Taylor

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Socrates: A Very Short Introduction, by C. C. W. Taylor

Socrates: A Very Short Introduction, by C. C. W. Taylor

Socrates: A Very Short Introduction, by C. C. W. Taylor

Download PDF Socrates: A Very Short Introduction, by C. C. W. Taylor

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Socrates: A Very Short Introduction, by C. C. W. Taylor

In this book, Christopher Taylor explores the relationship between the historical Socrates and the engaging and infuriating figure who appears in Plato’s dialogues, and examines the enduring image of Socrates as the ideal exemplar of the philosophic life–a thinker whose moral and intellectual integrity permeated every detail of his life, even in the face of betrayal and execution by his fellow Athenians.

About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life’s most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.

  • Sales Rank: #450730 in Books
  • Published on: 2001-01-18
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Dimensions: 4.20″ h x .50″ w x 6.70″ l, .24 pounds
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 122 pages

About the Author

C.C.W. Taylor is Fellow at Corpus Christi College, Oxford University.

Most helpful customer reviews

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful.
Too difficult for an introduction
By Not me, but somebody else
This is the fifth Very Short Introduction I’ve read (others included Logic, Ancient Philosophy, Anthropology, and Sociology) and it is the first that wasn’t fun to read. I think Taylor’s style is too academic for a series like this. Sentences like “I do not wish to suggest that Plato had a clear grasp of the distinction between purely conceptual definitions and the substantive type of account exemplified by the cognitive theory” (60) require entirely too much examination and prior knowledge of the subject to be considered introductory material for most people reading without tutelage. And there are plenty of more detailed books alraedy available that are written in that style.
I do not wish to suggest that I’m an idiot, but I do look for something a bit more breezy in an introduction to a topic. I think many people turn to introductions because the original works can sometimes be a slog to read. I choose carefully which original works I’m going to make the effort to read, and I want introductions to material that will either a) bring me up to speed on things I don’t have the time to read, b) give me basic information to choose more wisely which works to read or c) expand works I’ve already read. Having already read The Republic, I found that none of these 3 goals was accomplished by this volume. Its a shame, too, because VSI has been by far and away my favorite series of introductions. I hope they rethink this Socrates introduction and publish a new one aimed at a more general audience.

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful.
Very good introduction to Socrates, with qualifications.
By Epops
Prof. Taylor teaches philosophy at Oxford University, and clearly knows his subject. However, his writing style leaves much to be desired. He tends to be convoluted and verbose, with too many parentheses. This is fine for an academic paper, but not for “A Very Short Introduction”. He is worst in the first three chapters, in which he reviews Socrates’ life and historical context. His discussion of “the Socratic problem” in chapter 3 drags at times, but if you plow through it, ends up being actually pretty good. However, it does not compare for clarity and crispness of reasoning with the discussions of the problem by Prof. Vlastos.

Taylor’s style does not improve in Chapter 4, on the Socrates of Plato, but I found that in spite of his occasional incoherence there is something of value in this chapter. He does a good job of laying out Plato’s approach to the problem of the nature of morality, and his ultimate failure in that project. His comments on Plato’s defense of Socrates against the Sophists are quite good, although I’ve just started The Republic myself, so I may have to revise this opinion later.

Chapter 5, Socrates’ influence on later philosophers, including the Skeptics, Cynics, and Stoics in the Hellenistic period, and then in the 19th century Hegel, Kierkegaard,and Nietzsche, was quite illuminating. All three 19th century philosophers were obsessed with Socrates, and each saw him and used him in his own unique way. He emphasizes the kinship between Socrates and Nietzsche in particular. This is clearly the area that interests Prof. Taylor most, where he put in most of his effort, with good and useful results. His style is noticeable tighter and clearer in this chapter.

Those who have no background in philosophy at all should not start with this book. Those who are in the process of learning some philosophy, perhaps at an intermediate level, should with a little patience find something of interest here. Those who wish to have a deeper understanding of Socrates life and thought should, after reading this book, by all means go on to read the two volumes of the master, Prof. Gregory Vlastos, Socrates: Ironist and Moral Philosopher, and Socratic Studies.

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful.
Good for those with a background in philosophy.
By Mark I. Vuletic
Taylor’s SOCRATES is detailed and scholarly, and a useful work for those who have already had a fair amount of exposure to the Platonic dialogues. However, its level of technicality is liable to confuse and frustrate beginners, who just want a readable overview of who Socrates was and what he taught. Even these readers will benefit from the first chapter, which discusses the life of Socrates, but the following chapters, which deal with his thought and influence, will be heavy-going for the average reader. As such, this book is recommended to philosophers, but really is too advanced to qualify as a standard introduction.

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