Seven Great Freethinking Philosophers by John C. Wilhelmsson is a compendium covering the biographies and the major tenets of philosophers such as Zeno, Augustine, Descartes, Spinoza, and others. Referencing the work of Charles Bradlaugh, a 19th century English politician and author, Wilhelmsson expands on Bradlaugh’s work to adapt them for a post-secular modern age. Including work by Bradlaugh, collaborations with Bradlaugh, as well as Wilhelmsson’s own work, it is a vigorous guide to freethinking philosophy.
Without a background and firm grasp of Bradlaugh’s work, some of Wilhelmsson’s book may be lost on novice readers. In the selections attributed to both Wilhelmsson and Bradlaugh, for example, it’s difficult to know where Bradlaugh’s writing ends and Wilhelmsson’s begins without being intimately familiar with the source material. As such, it would have been helpful to have included some background and context for Bradlaugh’s work, as well as annotating the sections where Wilhelmsson strayed significantly from the text. In this way, it will be most useful for college course rooms in which Bradlaugh is already being discussed.
That said, though the formation of the book is missing some context, the book itself is informative and interesting. Philosophy can be dense and quite difficult to follow, but everything presented here is clear and understandable, and increasingly necessary in this day and age of mob mentality. The backgrounds of the philosophers are also quite fascinating. While the book could have used more background on Bradlaugh, it is a well-presented and intellectually-rich guide on an important movement in philosophical thought.
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