A look at every idea we ever had

A British writer bravely attempts to catalog every big concept human civilization has produced.

Merle Rubin in the Christian Science Monitor:

Unlike their American counterparts, who generally aim for objectivity (or at least its appearance) by adopting a more impersonal tone in works of this kind, quite a few British savants (not only Wells and Johnson, but more recently, writers like journalist Paul Johnson in “Modern Times” or literary critic Martin Seymour-Smith in “The New Guide to Modern World Literature”) have not been shy about offering their own views along with the material.

Peter Watson, London-based author of 13 previous books, is no exception.

Having given us “The Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the 20th Century,” he’s now undertaken an even more ambitious project – Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention, From Fire to Freud, a bold attempt to summarize the history of ideas from prehistoric times to the early years of the 20th century.

Perhaps it was the lure of alliteration, that led Watson (or his publisher) to single out “fire” and “Freud” in the subtitle. Watson himself is most interested in the ideas that contributed to the development of the natural sciences: This certainly includes fire, although the first primeval “ideas” discussed in his book, even before fire, are scavenging, bipedalism, and stone tools.

As for Freud, however, Watson is clearly no fan, concluding that the influential doctor, his writings, and the whole enterprise of psychoanalysis were – and are – useless fakes.

More here.