Philosophy in the ancient world was not the exclusive preserve of the Greeks, although it is often presented as such. Our interviews on the subject put that right. Bryan van Norden chooses his best books on world philosophy, including two works of ancient Chinese philosophy, two from Europe and one from India. Michael Puett chooses his best books on Chinese philosophy, arguing that the philosophical enquiries of Confucius in China were driven by socio-economic changes that affected the whole Eurasian landmass at the end of the bronze age.
Daniel A Bell chooses his best books on Confucius and discusses his enduring legacy and impact on Chinese culture. He also explains the distinction between Confucianism and Legalism in Chinese political philosophy and argues that authoritarian traditions in Chinese politics owe more to the latter than the former.
Peter Adamson talks about philosophy in the Islamic World and the interplay of the philosophical tradition in the Arabic speaking world with the philosophy of ancient Greece. He explains what was original in that tradition and why he thinks that Avicenna was the most important medieval philosopher of any religious persuasion.
MM McCabe talks about Socrates and Angela Hobbs discusses the Presocratics. Melissa Lane chooses her best books on Plato. Other interviewees point to the enduring appeal of ancient philosophy in finding a way to live. Edith Hall discusses how Aristotle helped her to develop a workable morality after losing her Christian faith as a teenager. Massimo Pigliucci talks about how Stoicism is still a useful rule of life and Jules Evans, in his interview on ancient philosophy for modern life, explains how cognitive behavioural therapy was inspired by Socrates.
The Stoics offer us valuable strategies of thinking about and dealing with hardships that remain relevant for modern society, Massimo Pigliucci, Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York and practising Stoic, told us in 2016. We were interviewing him about the best books to read to get a better idea of what Stoicism is all about and why some people find the ancient philosophy, famously practised by the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, comforting today. This week our philosophy editor, Nigel Warburton, caught up with Massimo and asked him about new Stoicism books that have come out since they first spoke–and why the philosophy remains so popular in 2020.
Lives of the Eminent Philosophers
Diogenes Laertius (ed. James Miller, trans. Pamela Mensch)
On the Nature of the Universe
Lucretius (trans. Ronald Melville)
The Library of the Villa Dei Papiri at Herculaneum
by David Sider
by Tim O'Keefe
The Morality of Happiness
by Julia Annas
For most of us, an Epicurean means someone devoted to pleasure and enjoying themselves. But the real Epicureans had a very different philosophy of how to live. Cambridge University professor James Warren talks us through the philosophy of Epicurus and explains how it’s still relevant today—particularly when it comes to facing death.
The study of philosophy in the Western world is often parochial, and limited to the study of the Anglo-European tradition. It’s time to widen our focus, advises the author and philosopher Bryan Van Norden. Here he selects five foundational texts of philosophical traditions worldwide.
Aristotle, says Edith Hall, is “quite simply the most important intellectual who ever lived.” Here the author and classicist selects five key Aristotle books to further your understanding of the great philosopher’s life and work.
What do the sages of ancient China have to teach us about living in the 21st century? The Harvard professor and author of The Path, Michael Puett, recommends the texts you need to read to find out. He picks the best Chinese philosophy books.
As Confucianism makes a comeback in China, Daniel A. Bell, a professor of philosophy at Tsinghua University in Beijing, lists which books to read for an understanding of Confucius and his legacy.
Greek Thought, Arabic Culture
by Dimitri Gutas
Great Medieval Thinkers: Avicenna
by Jon McGinnis
Avicenna's 'De Anima' in the Latin West
by Dag Nikolaus Hasse
Maimonides in His World: Portrait of a Mediterranean Thinker
by Sarah Stroumsa
The Teleological Ethics of Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī
by Ayman Shihadeh
Arabic philosophy was hugely influential during the Islamic Golden Age; at one point, the Persian polymath Avicenna’s influence outstripped that of Aristotle. But a strong tradition has continued in the centuries since, explains Professor Peter Adamson, as he selects five of the best books on the subject.
The classical Greek philosopher is credited with laying the foundation of Western philosophy – without ever having written a word. Here, the eminent scholar M M McCabe recommends the best books to read to understand Socrates and engage with the eternal question: How best to live?
They were young, they were radical, they influenced everything from Nietzsche to The Sound of Music. Angela Hobbs introduces the best books on the Presocratics.
Plato came from a politically active family, but renounced politics to become a philosopher. Or did he? Professor Melissa Lane of Princeton University recommends the best books to get a better understanding of the Greek philosopher Plato, including his most famous work, the Republic.
The human condition has not changed down the millennia, so it’s no surprise that ancient philosophy has much to teach us about how to live our lives, argues Jules Evans. He picks the best books about ancient philosophy in modern life.