Best books on philosophy. What books should I read to learn about philosophy?

Find the best books on philosophy?. It can be hard to find good books on philosophy that are both comprehensive and accessible.

Even if you’re a beginner, it’s important to get a solid foundation in philosophy. Without it, you’ll be lost when discussing complex topics with others.

Our list of the best books on philosophy is perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about this fascinating topic. From beginners to experts, we’ve got you covered.

best books on philosophy
Best books on philosophy

With 5 minutes of reading will guide you to find the best books on philosophy? Let’s get started

Best Philosophy Books for Beginners: Introductory and Surveys

A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell

A History of Western Philosophy – Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russel’s ‘A History of Western Philosophy’ has held a position of reverence since its in 1945. Comprehensive, erudite and revealing; this is a survey and history of Western philosophy written by someone who would go on to become a regarded philosopher in his own right.

Sophie’s World – Jostein Gaarder

Over twenty million copies in print – this novel follows 14-year old Norwegian girl Sophie Admundsen on a mystery of perplexing questions. Deeply entrenched and revealing of the Western philosophy canon, this is a great introduction to enjoyably explore some of the biggest questions asked as the basis of philosophy over the course of Western history.

The Story of Philosophy – Will Durant

An excellent survey of philosophy from an outstanding writer. Durant is famous for his multi-volume history of the West and so a history of Western Philosophy is a natural topic for him. Durant begins with the Greek philosophers and works his way up to early 20th century American philosophers.

Top 3 Philosophy Books: Most Immediately Helpful and Applicable

Meditations – Marcus Aurelius

Stoicism has seen an enthusiastic revival in recent years, especially in entrepreneurial circles. Reading ‘Meditations’, is a defining work of stoicism, and it’s not hard to see why.

Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote meditations during his experiences administrating the Roman Empire and during his life as a warrior. He outlines a timeless philosophy of commitment to virtue above pleasure, tranquility above happiness, and perhaps most importantly, a search for inner peace in the face of an endlessly changing and chaotic world. Highly practical for everyday life.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M. Pirsig

With a slightly misleading title, this book asks big questions about the way we live our lives. Set to a backdrop of America’s Northwest, it follows a father and young son on a cross-country motorcycle trip. Pirsig discusses the ideas of rhetoric, quality, the scientific method, technology, and many ideas of the Greeks in the search for unifying truth.

Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl

Outlining Frankl’s theory of ‘logotherapy’, he argues that human beings cannot avoid suffering in life, but we have the power to give it meaning and thus endure it with renewed purpose. He holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.

All the more impactful for where it was written, Frankl tells the story of his time spent within Nazi extermination camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Library of Congress found Man’s Search for Meaning among the ten most influential books in America.

Best Western Philosophy Books

Classical Books on Philosophy

The Dialogues (Gorgias, Meno, Theatetus, Sophist, Symposium, Phaedrus, Timaeus, The Republic) – Plato

“Plato, the greatest philosopher of ancient Greece, was born in Athens in 428 or 427 B.C.E. to an aristocratic family. He studied under Socrates, who appears as a character in many of his dialogues. He attended Socrates’ trial and that traumatic experience may have led to his attempt to design an ideal society. Following the death of Socrates, he traveled widely in search of learning.

After twelve years he returned to Athens and founded his Academy, one of the earliest organized schools in western civilization. Among Plato’s pupils was Aristotle. Some of Plato’s other influences were Pythagoras, Anaxagoras, and Parmenides.

Plato wrote extensively and most of his writings survived. His works are in the form of dialogues, where several characters argue a topic by asking questions of each other. This form allows Plato to raise various points of view and let the reader decide which is valid. Plato expounded a form of dualism, where there is a world of ideal forms separate from the world of perception.

The most famous exposition of this is his metaphor of the Cave, where people living in a cave are only able to see flickering shadows projected on the wall of the external reality. This influenced many later thinkers, particularly the Neoplatonists and the Gnostics, and is similar to views held by some schools of Hindu dualistic metaphysics”

Physics, Ethics, Poetics, Metaphysics, Categories, On Logic, On the Soul – Aristotle

Aristotle, like Plato, was one of the greatest intellectual figures in Western history. Even after the intellectual revolutions of the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment, Aristotelian concepts remained embedded in Western thinking.

Aristotle’s intellectual range was vast, covering most of the sciences and many of the arts. He was the founder of formal logic, devising for it a finished system that for centuries was regarded as the sum of the discipline; and he pioneered the study of zoology. His writings continue to be studied, and his work remains a powerful stature.

The Essential Epicurus – Epicurus

Epicureanism is commonly regarded as the refined satisfaction of physical desires. Epicurus did not stand for eating too much or too much sex, but for loving life and preserving that love with the smaller delights to be found daily. As a philosophy, however, it also denoted the striving after an independent state of mind and body, imperturbability, and reliance on sensory data as the true basis of knowledge.

Selected Best Modern Philosophy Books

Critique of Pure Reason – Emmanuel Kant

Kant brings together two of history’s biggest opposing schools of thought – rational thought, and empirical, experiential knowledge. Kant explores human reason, and works to establish its illusions and break it down to its core constituents.

Essays – Montaigne

Montaigne was a French Renaissance philosopher noted for his merging of casual anecdotes with intellectual insight. He published his massive volume ‘essais‘, which went on to popularize and reinforce the essay as a literary genre. His influence as a philosopher was wide and has included many of his contemporaries, many of them appearing also on this list.

Essays is wide-ranging going from topics like leadership to raising children. Each essay stands along so it’s very easy to pick it up and put it down one essay at a time.

Beyond Good And Evil – Nietzsche

Nietzsche’s ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ is one of his slightly more accessible, though he is not known for his accessibility! In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche breaks down the paradoxes of conventional understandings of morality, and in doing so sets the stage for much of the 20th century thought that would follow.

Nietzsche is probably the most influential philosopher on my own thinking, if only because he shattered many of my pre-existing beliefs and illusions.

Meditations on First Philosophy – René Descartes

Meditations on First Philosophy is made up of six meditations. Written in the style of a journal of a six day course of meditation, he first discards all belief in things that are not absolutely certain, and then tries to establish what can be known for sure.  One of the most influential philosophical texts ever written, it is widely read to this day.

The Prince – Niccolò Machiavelli

The Prince is sometimes claimed to be one of the first works of modern philosophy, especially modern political philosophy, in which the effective truth is taken to be more important than any abstract ideal. Machiavelli emphasized the need for realism, as opposed to idealism.

This is one of Machiavelli’s most lasting influences on modernity.

Being and Nothingness – Jean-Paul Sartre

In Being and Nothingness, Sartre writes with some debts to Heidegger, to demonstrate the existence of free will. Wide ranging, he explains in part how man is obsessed by the idea of “completion”, what Sartre calls literally “a being that causes itself”, which many religions and philosophers identify as God. Being and Nothingness is considered Sartre’s most important philosophical work.

The Myth Of Sisyphus and Other Essays – Albert Camus

One of the most important existential works, and works of this century in general, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays lays out Camus’ ‘Absurdism’. It begins with a meditation on suicide; the question of living or not living in a universe devoid of order or meaning. Depressing at first, like a lot of existential writing it has light at the end of the tunnel. Camus ultimately reaffirms the value of  existence, and the possibility of a  life of dignity, creativity and authenticity.

A Treatise of Human Nature – David Hume

“no man has influenced the history of philosophy to a deeper or more disturbing degree” – Isaiah Berlin

In his treatise, he attempts to use the same scientific method of reasoning in order to inquire into human psychology – namely to glimpse the depth of our understanding and potential. He ultimately argues the irrationality of human beings.

Best Eastern Philosophy Books

Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu

The Tao Te Ching is the foundation of Taoism, and has been the bedrock of Chinese thought and much of it’s spirituality for thousands of years. It teaches peace, harmony and balance; ultimately describing a complete and fulfilling art of living that guides millions to this day.

The Art of War – Sun Tzu

One of the most influential books ever written, The Art of War has applications in business, the military and any situation involving strategy or people. It is composed of 13 chapters, each one describing a part of warfare, relating back to tactics, and immediate application.

Analects – Confuscius

The Analects has been one of the most widely read and studied books in China for the last 2,000 years, and has massive influence over Chinese thought to this today. It is foundational to the development of Chinese and East Asian moral systems.

Confucius believed that the flourishing of a country depended on the morals of its people, beginning with it’s leaders. His educated his students to create ethically cultivated men who would carry themselves well, speak well, and demonstrate integrity in everything they did.

Best Middle Eastern Philosophy Books

The Book of Healing – Avicenna

A 1,000-year-old text at the foundation of modern medicine and biology. This is one of the best philosophy books in the history of medical practice, and forms the foundation of our current understanding of human health and disease. It focused not solely on symptoms and treatment, but on finding root causes of illness and disease through humoral diagnosis— it shows how Avicenna’s understanding of the humors corresponds directly with the modern understanding of the functions of of proteins, lipids, and organic acids.

The Transcendent Philosophy of the Four Journeys of the Intellect – Mulla Sadra

The ‘Hikmat Al Muta’alyah fi-l-asfar al-‘aqliyya al-arba‘a’ is an encyclopedic work that chronicles many of the important issues discussed in Islamic philosophy. Necessarily entrenched and influenced by the Greeks, it nevertheless presents a unique philosophical thought beholden to Islam, yet also touching on a huge variety of schools of thought (and even a nascent form of existentialist thought).

F.A.Q: Best books on philosophy

CONCLUSION

If you are looking for a more comprehensive understanding of philosophical thought and theory, the following books are some of the best in the field. Each book provides a unique perspective on different philosophers and schools of thought. Reading any one of these books will give you a greater understanding of philosophy as a whole, and may help you better analyze philosophical arguments and theories. What do you think? Are there other philosophy books that should be included on this list? Let us know in the comments below!

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