I am almost completely illiterate on the topic of philosophy and philosophers and I would like to change that. I of recognize the names but don't know a thing about most of them. I was perusing the 50% off bin at Barnes and Noble yesterday, found some books by authors I recognized but in the end didn't buy them because I assumed that if they are in the bargain bin there's a good chance they aren't the best works to start with.

Can anyone here help me out. I would like a good overview/history of philosophy book. Something that the average person can read and understand. There wasn't much in the store for overviews. I did see Stephen Law's Philosophy: History, Ideas... which caught my eye because I've read some of his blog. But I didn't want to take a chance on it. I guess I'm looking mainly for Western philosophy for now.

The irony of my asking this question is that my husband has a BA in Philosophy and yet doesn't have any suggestions for me.

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Oh Boy! you open a whole can or worms. Most philosophers, adherents to some patriarchal discipline, have read primarily from a point of view that I judge to be inadequate for women. I couldn't make sense out of what they wrote, mostly because they had some notion of a hierarchy that did not put women in a very good positions for healthy functioning, regardless if they were ancients or moderns. When I took philosophy or ethics courses, all the required subjects were male, which I read, made my interpretations based on what I knew the professors wanted to hear and received "A" grades. I desperately wanted to study some women philosophers and write on them. Each time, I submitted a written proposal to agree to do the assignment, only add some women writers. The answers I received all came from a common source: "There are no women philosophers worthy of being read." They were poorly trained, inadequately prepared for the 21st century.

Will, here are a few that made sense to me: Arendt, Beauvoir, Churchland, Eliot, Gilman, Goldman, Hypatia,

Plaskow, Ruether, Shiva, Spretnak, Waring, Wollstonecraft.

Many male and female philosophers based their thinking on a common thread of male dominance and female dependence, thus maintaining and perpetuating ancient, dysfunctional principles. My hunch is that your philosopher husband was trained in those old patterns and doesn't hear the cries of women, worldwide. 

Yes Philosophy has had a shortage of women writers. There are problems Feminism has created by indulging in too much idealism and showing too little discipline in employing empiricism. There was a time when many of the most influential people were women and I wonder how they would view the behaviour of current Feminists.

During the Enlightenment the more progressive Philosophers were heavily influenced by women. Much of what Voltaire wrote was based on discussions he had with his mistress Emily Du Chatelet. She also wrote papers on Mathematics and Chemistry. Some of their friends have left comments in correspondence where they evaluate her intelligence as being greater and speculate she was the origin of many of his ideas.

Louise d'Epinay corresponded with Diderot, Rousseau and Galiani. She ran a Salon that was influential amongst the Encyclopedists, arguably the most influential Philosophical movement in modern times.  

Madame de Pompadour was probably the most influential woman. She worked her way up in the court of Louis 15th to become possibly his most influential advisor. She provided Quesnay with an apartment in the Palace where he would meet with Turgot and Condorcet. These people were largely responsible for the development of free enterprise.

I don't think it is possible to underestimate the influence the women who ran the Salons of Paris had on the development of Western civilization. 

I am not a feminist. I consider myself an Encyclopedist, meaning I make an effort not to indulge in ideologies, religious or political. This is the basis of my Atheism. I became an Atheist and Motorcycle Mechanic because I wanted to live empirically. You will find many influential women included in the progressive ranks of the Enlightenment. Most of them were Atheists. They were Atheists since they were influenced by the empiricism of people like Galileo and Bacon. I wonder if they would have been attracted to, or repulsed by the largely idealistic foundation of Feminism found on many of our university campuses.

I was initially a supporter of Feminism since I believed it promoted equality. I watched as many Feminists went off on ideological tangents and like all idealists, committed injustices. I taught in High Schools for twenty seven years. The strongest, most independent woman I met was a Cosmetology teacher. Feminists at the board were upset too many female students were taking Cosmetology courses rather than going into non traditional trades. They quietly removed Cosmetology from the curriculum and destroyed the careers of many women. I got to see just how destructive, and blind idealism can be.

It is my hope Feminism becomes less idealistic and more empirical. Don't project onto the world how you think things should be. Observe how things are. There are many strong, independent women. It is only natural to find them in traditional occupations. You cannot expect nature to conform to your ideals. Your ideals have to change to accommodate nature. Idealism is a barrier to learning and leads its champions to commit injustices. I wish Feminism would study the women of the Enlightenment and follow their example to become empirical.

At age 13, I started with introductory volume of the Britannica's Great Books of the Western World. It's a short (less than 100 pages) essay entitled "The Great Conversation". The proposition is that it is MUCH more valuable to make the acquaintance of Homer or Socrates or Darwin, and get the flavor of their minds and methods than to read summaries ( even say Russell or Durant's excellent books on Philosophy).  

This was embarrassingly impressed on me a few years later when I was full of myself, quoting Durant's words about the Republic, and my listener remarked that Plato did not write in a declarative style, but in dialogue.  

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