Book Review: 20th Century European Philosophy

The audiobook reviewed here is ’20th Century European Philosophy’ by Professor Ed Casey and narrated by Lynn Redgrave. Redgrave narrates quickly and with an authoritative style and is also supported by a male narrator (who I couldn’t find in the credits of my version of the book) who impersonates the various philosophers complete with a french or german accent as appropriate. Having had no training in philosophy but having listened to a number of other audiobooks on philosophy, I thought Casey explained the material well communicating tricky concepts which I was able to understand on first listening to the book. He discusses Husserl, Heidegger, Derrida, Sartre and Foucalt amongst others.

There were a number of points of interest that I came across. Firstly Husserl had apparently suggested that logic had psychological underpinnings rather than logic being derived de novo and had been involved in arguments with a prominent logician of the time over this who had reviewed his book on the subject. The relationship of maths and psychology for instance has been written about elsewhere and is interesting to know that the subject can be traced back to Husserl. I was also interested to learn that a figure Brentanao had influenced both Husserl and Heidegger and so it would be interesting to learn more about this man who had perhaps had a significant effect on 20th century European history.

Moving from Husserl to Heidegger the emphasis of existentialism changed from a consideration of intentionality and consciousness to that of being and the importance of considering time. What I also found interesting was how Sartre had essentially argued against some of Heidegger’s concepts and had also been awarded the nobel prize in literature (although he declined this) both of which argue against my ill-informed preconception of philosophy as a progressive body of knowledge arrived at through reasoning. I was also intrigued by the concept that the brain would actively produced ‘nothingness’. Merleau Ponty’s emphasis on the body was also interesting and something that I will probably need to read a little further on. Much of the material here I thought would be relevant to psychiatry, most notably the phenomenological movement and the philosophers described in this book have influenced many aspects of qualitative research.

In summary, I thought that this was a good introduction to the works of some of the most prominent European philosophers in the 20th century with the material being very clearly explained and well presented.


Professor Ed Casey. 20th Century European Philosophy (Unabridged). Narrated by Lynn Redgrave. Blackstone Audiobooks. 1996.


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