To gain a good understanding of western philosophy, you have to cover the basic teachings of some of the most influential philosophers. These thinkers affected the course of history with their work, and the legacy of many of their studies are relevant now more than ever.
Below we have compiled a list of 10 books everyone must read to gain a better understanding of western philosophy.
10 Must Read Philosophy Books Of All Time
Plato’s Republic is unparalleled in its coverage of all areas of life. While Plato addresses metaphysical issues, he does so with language and analogies that most people can grasp with studious reading. But Plato talks about much more than metaphysics. Marriage, music, war, kings, procreation and more are all topics of discussion for Plato’s dialog.
In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle’s guiding question is: what is the best thing for a human being? His answer is happiness, but he means, not something we feel, but rather a specially good kind of life. Happiness is made up of activities in which we use the best human capacities, both ones that contribute to our flourishing as members of a community, and ones that allow us to engage in god-like contemplation.
Since its first publication in 1945 Lord Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy has been universally acclaimed as the outstanding one-volume work on the subject—unparalleled in its comprehensiveness, its clarity, its erudition, its grace and wit.
Beyond Good and Evil confirmed Nietzsche’s position as the towering European philosopher of his age. The work dramatically rejects the tradition of Western thought with its notions of truth and God, good and evil. Nietzsche demonstrates that the Christian world is steeped in a false piety and infected with a ‘slave morality’.
In his autobiographical first novel, Pirsig wrestles both with the ghost of his past and with the most important philosophical questions of the 20th century–why has technology alienated us from our world? what are the limits of rational analysis? if we can’t define the good, how can we live it?
The book is made up of six meditations, in which Descartes first discards all belief in things which are not absolutely certain, and then tries to establish what can be known for sure. The meditations were written as if he were meditating for 6 days: each meditation refers to the last one as “yesterday”.
In this masterpiece of philosophical literature Friedrich Nietzsche utters the famous phrase “God is dead!” This powerful book spells out Nietzsche’s belief in the will to power, and serves as an introduction to his doctrine of eternal return. One of the most influential books of philosophy ever written.
Written by an intellectual Roman emperor, the Meditations offer a wide range of spiritual reflections developed as the leader struggled to understand himself and the universe. Marcus Aurelius covers topics as diverse as the question of virtue, human rationality, the nature of the gods, and his own emotions, spanning from doubt and despair to conviction and exaltation. A great work to learn more about Stoic philosophy.
Lao-tzu’s Tao Te Ching, or Book of the Way, is the classic manual on the art of living and one of the wonders of the world. In eighty-one brief chapters, the Tao Te Ching llods at the basic predicament of being alive and gives advice that imparts balance and perspective, a serene and generous spirit. This book is about wisdom in action.
The Brothers Karamazov is a passionate philosophical novel set in 19th century Russia, that enters deeply into the ethical debates of God, free will, and morality. It is a spiritual drama of moral struggles concerning faith, doubt, and reason, set against a modernizing Russia.