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 must read philosophy books of all time for everyone to gain a better understanding of western philosophy.
10 Must Read Philosophy Books Of All Time
1. The Republic – Plato
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. This surely makes it one of the must read philosophy books of all times.
2. Nicomachean Ethics – Aristotle
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.
3. A History of Western Philosophy – Bertrand Russell
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.
4. Beyond Good and Evil – Friedrich Nietzsche
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’.
5. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M. Pirsig
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?
6. Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy – René Descartes
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”.
7. Thus Spoke Zarathustra – Friedrich Nietzsche
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.
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8. Meditations – Marcus Aurelius – one of the must read philosophy books of all time
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. Great work to learn more about Stoic philosophy.
9. Lao Tsu: Tao Te Ching – Laozi
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 looks at the basic predicament of being alive. He then gives advice that imparts balance and perspective, a serene and generous spirit. This book is about wisdom in action.
10. The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
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.
Before you go…
Philosophy is not just the art of sitting on a chair and blabbering about random, abstract things. Philosophy helps us understand the world around us; and most importantly, inside us. So, for the curious ponderer inside you, here are 14 amazing books on the Zen philosophy, the world around us, and inside us.
14 Best Books For Understanding The World, Your Brain, and Zen Philosophy
There have been many books written on self improvement and developing your skills for a successful living but most people who are interested in this don’t consider reading about history and sociology. Advanced knowledge of these subjects gives anyone a great advantage in lifestyle design and successful living and this is why we have made the list below.
The Best Books series continues and this post is all about understanding the modern world, how to make better decisions and control your emotions.
Here are the Top 14 Best Books:
1. The Lonely Crowd – David Riesman
This is the best sociology book ever and the key argument is that fitting into a large group is a relatively new phenomenon and it has changed the way human beings interact.
2. The Power Elite – C. Wright Mills
The first book to dive deep into the privileged class of American corporations and politics. Mills makes an overwhelming case that there was a caste system running the US and the vestiges still remain. The important point is that its changing and understanding how it works is very interesting.
3. The American Myth of Success – Richard Weiss
The evolution of American culture as seen through self-help books. Weiss starts around the Civil War and goes up to the 1050s. What we read reflected who we were and where we are going.
4. The Managed Heart – Arlie Russell Hochschild
Hochschild was given significant access to stewardesses working at Delta Airlines in the 1960s. She chronicles the deadening pain they felt as they were forced to bring cheerfulness and emotion to work each day. This was a breakthrough on the study of human emotions.
5. Stone Age Economics – Marshall Sahlins
Despite the clever title, this book is actually about how primitive cultures worked. One key takeaway is that hunter-gatherers were the idle rich. They worked about three hours a day and spent the rest of the day resting.
6. Life Inc – Douglas Rushkoff
Doug is at the cutting edge of recognizing the collision between corporate values and human values. Most of the book is fairly pessimistic, and it argues that money has pushed people apart from each other. His point is that barter and community exchange do more for commerce.
7. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism – Max Weber
Largely misunderstood, this book is considered a giant achievement in sociology. Weber tries to understand the relationship between religious and commercial values, particularly as they led to the success of the United States.
8. Weapons of Mass Instruction – John Taylor Gatto
John Taylor Gatto has seen the worst that schools can do. He understands the history and that it is a victim of bureaucracy. It would be beneficial if every school board member, administrator, teacher, and parent could read a ten-page excerpt from this book.
9. Honest Signals – Alex Pentland
Pentland is a professor at MIT, and this is ostensibly a book about some amazing technology he’s putting together that measures the interactions people have all day. This is about the incredible power of nonverbal communication and tribal hierarchies in the way we interact.
10. Predictably Irrational – Dan Ariely
Dan Ariely refutes the common assumption that we behave in fundamentally rational ways. From drinking coffee to losing weight, from buying a car to choosing a romantic partner, we consistently overpay, underestimate, and procrastinate. Yet these misguided behaviors are neither random nor senseless.
11. Don’t Bite the Hook – Pema Chodron
Pema, a Buddhist nun who converted later in life from American roots, is a great teacher. She is able to simply and clearly connect with listeners and readers about a few powerful insights. In this book she talks about shenpa, the cycle of anxiety we buy into whenever confronted with a stressful situation.
12. Awakening the Buddha Within – Lama Surya Das
There are countless books for Westeners in search of the simple insights of Buddhism. This book is quite detailed and serious.
13. Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity – High Macleod
There are a million books about creativity. There are very few books that challenge the resistance so directly and effectively. This book eliminates the excuses that have been holding you back from being creative.
14. Presentation Zen – Garr Reynolds
A collection of effective tactics that are available to anyone who has made the choice to be more productive.
These must read philosophy books of all time don’t beat around the bush. They are to the point, concise, and reliable. Books like these are precious treasures for all generations, as they show us the right way to lead life and deal with everything that life throws at us. So go ahead and pick one (or all of them) now!