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Is Russell's A History of Western Philosophy a good starting point to understand philosophy?

That work has merit, but not as a history of philosophy. Russell's personal position was known as 'logical positivism', which turned out to be horribly misconceived in just about every way. But in his History of Western Philosophy, he distorts the work of philosophers preceding him, to make it seem as though their works were nothing but degraded anticipations of his own, which they were not. His analyses are slick and dismissive. There are few or no all-encompassing works of philosophical history that have merit. But there are specific works of philosophical history that are very good, including Russell's book about Leibniz. Also, Jonathan Bennett's books on Hume and Spinoza are good. All of this said, Russell's book is entertaining and intelligent and, ultimately, probably worth reading, as long you don't put too much stock the specifics of what he is saying.

I hope this helps.

Please see answer source: Analytic Philosophy.

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