The Best Books on Philosophy

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These are amongst the greatest philosophy books of all time in my view. They are not introductory works. The list is limited to Western authors I have read (with one exceptional exception).

  • 1


    Critique of Pure Reason (The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant)
    by Immanuel Kant

    Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804) was a German philosopher who is probably the greatest thinker in modern philosophy. Kant argued that 'the human mind creates the structure of human experience, that reason is the source of morality, that aesthetics arises from a faculty of disinterested judgment, that space and time are forms of human sensibility, and that the world as it is "in-itself" is independent of humanity's concepts of it. Kant took himself to have effected a "Copernican revolution" in philosophy, akin to Copernicus' reversal of the age-old belief that the sun revolves around the earth. Kant's beliefs continue to have a major influence on contemporary philosophy, especially the fields of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political theory, and aesthetics.'(A handy summary taken from Wiki). For me, Kant's new concept of 'Synthetic a priori judgments' is the most exciting original contribution to philosophy and a hallmark of his genius.

  • 2


    Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy: With Selections from the Objections
    by René Descartes

    The book is made up of six meditations, in which Descartes 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. I read this at university and was disappointed that the central role of God in Descartes’ metaphysical system was ignored in the course.

  • 3


    The Qur'an: English translation and Parallel Arabic text
    by Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala.

    The Qur'an is not a book of philosophy, but it is THE source-book of philosophy. Without the aid of Revelation, philosophers have more often than not gone astray in their myriad speculations about metaphysics, theology, epistemology, ethics and the nature of the good life. The Book of God guides mankind to the Truth about ultimate Reality, why the universe was created, and how we should live our lives.

  • 4


    Montaigne: Essays
    by Michel de Montaigne

    'Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-92), perhaps the first truly modern individual. A nobleman, public official and wine-grower, he wrote free-roaming explorations of his thought and experience, unlike anything written before. He called them 'essays', meaning 'attempts' or 'tries'. Into them he put whatever was in his head: his tastes in wine and food, his childhood memories, the way his dog's ears twitched when it was dreaming, as well as the appalling events of the religious civil wars raging around him. The Essays was an instant bestseller, and over four hundred years later, Montaigne's honesty and charm still draw people to him. Readers come to him in search of companionship, wisdom and entertainment — and in search of themselves.' (A great summary from Wiki).

  • 5


    The Sickness unto Death: A Christian Psychological Exposition of Edification &am
    by Soren Kierkegaard

    'One of the most remarkable philosophical works of the nineteenth century, The Sickness Unto Death is also famed for the depth and acuity of its modern psychological insights. Writing under the pseudonym Anti-Climacus, Kierkegaard explores the concept of 'despair', alerting readers to the diversity of ways in which they may be described as living in this state of bleak abandonment - including some that may seem just the opposite - and offering a much-discussed formula for the eradication of despair. With its penetrating account of the self, this late work by Kierkegaard was hugely influential upon twentieth-century philosophers including Karl Jaspers, Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. The Sickness unto Death can be regarded as one of the key works of theistic existentialist thought - a brilliant and revelatory answer to one man's struggle to fill the spiritual void.' (A perfect summary from Wiki).

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