Frederick Copleston's original nine-volume A History of Philosophy began as an attempt to provide Catholic seminary students, whom Copleston believed were being woefully undersold in philosophy, a comprehensive but accessible guide to the ideas and individuals that have shaped philosophy. His work went on to be regarded by many a single best history of philosophy ever written in English.
Coplsteon's work sought provides a detailed, and by consensus fair, treatment of the major philosophers and their ideas from the Pre-Socratics all the way up to Levi-Strauss. He skillfully avoids simplistic caricatures and his narrative sparkles with incident and intellectual excitement giving each philosopher a full hearing with erudition, attention to style, while illuminating each figure has to those who came before and to those who came after.
Nevertheless Copleston, who is well known for his public debates and resounding defenses for the existence of God, never hides his own perspectives--but he also does not use it to truncate or distort others' views. Thus, Copleston's work is remarkably well-rounded, complete, and scholarly. Though originally intended for students, Copleston's work is a staple work for any library; especially those who wish to learn about and engage philosophical questions in an informed manner.
About Volume IV
A History of Philosophy, Volume IV: Modern Philosophy From Descartes to Leibniz begins with a magnificent treat: a 62 page essay introducing readers to Modern Philosophy (Descartes to Kant) generally, and to Volumes IV, V, and VI (covering from ) in Copleston's nine volume effort. Following this essay, Copleston dives straight ahead into Descartes and his initial turn to the "I" and then follows by examining Pascal, the rise of "Cartesianism", followed by treatments of Malebranche, Spinoza, and the pivotal Leibniz.
Conceived originally as a serious presentation of the development of philosophy for Catholic seminary students, Frederick Copleston's nine-volume A History Of Philosophy has journeyed far beyond the modest purpose of its author to universal acclaimas the best history of philosophy in English.
Copleston, an Oxford Jesuit of immense erudition who once tangled with A.J. Ayer in a fabled debate about the existence of God and the possibility of metaphysics, knew that seminary students were fed a woefully inadequate diet of theses and proofs, and that their familiarity with most of history's great thinkers was reduced to simplistic caricatures. Copleston set out to redress the wrong by writing a complete history of Western philosophy, one crackling with incident and intellectual excitement - and one that gives full place to each thinker, presenting his thought in a beautifully rounded manner and showing his links to those who came after him.
Frederick Copleston grew up in England. He was raised in an Anglican home but converted to Catholicism while a student at Marlborough College. He later became a Jesuit and then pursued a career in academia. He studied and lectured at Heythrop College and wrote an eleven-volume History of Philosophy, which is highly respected. He also spent time teaching at Gregorian University in Rome and, after he retired, lectured at Santa Clara University in California. He was appointed a member of the British Academy in 1970. He is famouse for debating Betrand Russell over the existence of God in a 1948 BBC broadcast.