For the reader who has lain awake fretting over his tenuous grasp of the Critiques of Immanuel Kant, or his unformed sense of the line of thought that descends from Hegel through Marx to 20th-century Soviet state socialism, or who struggles to call to mind the key strands in the thinking of Edmund Husserl, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan and Jacques Derrida - help is at hand. It comes in the comfortingly accessible form of Stephen Trombley's Fifty Thinkers Who Shaped the Modern World, a concise history of modern thought from the Enlightenment to the present day.
Fifty Thinkers Who Shaped the Modern World opens with a substantial introduction that outlines the history of human ideas from the philosophers of classical Antiquity to the European eighteenth century, via the Christian scholastics of the Middle Ages and the development of Renaissance thought, culminating in the philosophy of Descartes and the development of scientific method. Having thus set the scene, Stephen Trombley traces the development of modern thought through a sequence of accessible profiles of the most influential thinkers in every domain of intellectual endeavour since 1789.
No major representative of any significant strand of post-Enlightenment thought escapes Trombley's attention: the German idealists Kant, Fichte, Schelling and Hegel; the utilitarians Bentham and Mill; the transcendentalists Emerson and Thoreau; Kierkegaard and the existentialists; founder sof new fields of inquiry such as Weber, Durkheim and C.S. Peirce; the analytic philosophers Russell, Moore, Whitehead and Wittgenstein; political leaders from Mohandas K. Gandhi to Adolf Hitler; and - last but not least - the four shapers-in-chief of our modern world: the philosopher, historian and political theorist Karl Marx; the naturalist Charles Darwin, proposer of the theory of evolution; Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis; and the theoretical physicist Albert Einstein, begetter of the special and general theories of relativity and founder of post-Newtonian physics.