Aristotle wrote on everything from the shape of seashells to sterility, from speculations on the nature of the soul to meteorology, poetry, art, and even the interpretation of dreams. Apart from mathematics, he transformed every field of knowledge that he touched. Above all, Aristotle is credited with the founding of logic. When he first divided human knowledge into separate categories, he enabled our understanding of the world to develop in a systematic fashion.
In Aristotle in 90 Minutes, Paul Strathern offers a concise, expert account of Aristotle's life and ideas and explains their influence on man's struggle to understand his existence in the world.
From Library Journal Strathern, a graduate of Dublin's Trinity College, has lectured in philosophy and mathematics and written history, travel literature, and fiction. His attempt to provide the reader with accessible guidance to the ideas of a half dozen great names in the canon of Western philosophy fails on all counts except readability. The time given in the title for each presentation is about three times that even the least-informed reader might require, for these books are nothing but outlines. Half of each volume highlights the more peculiar details of the individual philosopher's personal life, with passing remarks about one or two substantive ideas from his work. The remaining pages include surprisingly brief quotations from the works (an epigraphic style suitable to presenting a sample of Nietzsche's writing but hardly appropriate to Kant's), chronologies (including one five-page "Philosophical Dates" that is repeated in each tiny volume), and a suggestion of four or five books for further reading. The intended audience for this series is unclear as there is too little substance to provide either the sort of introduction offered by such competing works as the Writers and Readers's illustrated series "For Beginners" (e.g., Robert Cavalier's Plato for Beginners, 1990) or critical understanding of difficult concepts as Frederick Copleston and William Jones have achieved in their histories of Western thought (e.g., Copleston's A History of Philosophy, 1985). Strathern's publisher promises more than a dozen future volumes in this series but, given the severe limitations of the first six under review here, it is not possible to recommend that we look forward to them.