Lately I’ve been watching on YouTube a fascinating public access program called The Atheist Experience, which is basically people phoning in and debating the existence of god, human morality, theology and religion with the hosts of the show. That coupled with reading a couple of fascinating threads here a few weeks ago started by Jazz (of course…lol) about the concept of intersubjectivity etc. which ended up being really quite philosophical in nature by the end has put me in the mood for more philosophy.
I was wondering what are your favourite books on philosophy/metaphysics/logic/psychology and the like that you’ve come across (judging by some of the responses in the threads mentioned above I can’t believe some of the participants haven’t done some reading in these areas).
I really like Harold Bloom’s “Omens of the Millennium,” Nietzsche’s “the birth of tragedy” and Kierkgaard’s “Purity of Heart is to will One thing”
I don’t know what exactly you’re interested in, but I like these a lot
Kant, The Critique of Pure Reason
Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation
Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Kierkegaard, The Sickness unto Death
Bergson, Matter and Memory
Heidegger, Being and Time
Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception
Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus
Wittgenstein, Tractatus logico-philosophicus
I’ve always been interested in philosophy and wanting to read it more, but never know where to start. It seems like so many great works are just so dense and referrential to other works that it’s hard to know where to even start. It’s like joining a conversation that started a long time ago and has all of it’s own lingo and history.
Frazer – The Golden Bough
Yes, I´m still alive and posting. I think it´s relatively safe to start with Descartes and Kant since both pretty much challenged the understanding of philosophy and founded a modern way of thinking which subsequently influenced Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, and after that the two main schools of thought of the 20th century: phenomenology (Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre) and analytic philosohy (Frege, Russel, Wittgenstein). Some of these are extremely tough reads though, especially reading Kant and Heidegger may require even more time if you rely on a translation, and you can calculate a couple of months for each of them. Schopenhauer for instance is far easier to read, but it makes no sense to start with him unless one has already read the “Critique of Pure Reason” which he he uses as the basis for his own thoughts. In terms of cinematic appreciation I think that Merleau-Ponty´s work is essential, and unlike some other philosophy books it doesn´t require too much previous reading, though it certainly helps to be familiar with Husserl´s main thoughts and Bergson´s understanding of time and duration.
Philosophy of the Undead
The Second Sex
In addition to the above . . .
Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit
Husserl’s Cartesian Meditations
Habermas’s The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere
Rorty’s Contingency, Irony and Solidarity
William James’s Pragmatism
Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations
Jean-Luc Nancy’s A Sense of the World
Outside of gender politics which is my real area of study
I would recommend all to read:
I would avoid all Nietzsche
I second that
I’m interested in Leibniz.
Thanks for the suggestions of where to start apursansar
You should read Locke before you read Leibniz, though (New Essays is a response to Locke’s ideas).
well that might help altho
the sections he is responding to are in the book
Lazy, Den, very lazy.
The inartfullness of the set up is part of the charm of the book, which is structured like a dialog
one person speaks in lengthy Locke qoutes while Leibniz responds to them
Yeah, unfortunately Locke had the bad form to die before Leibniz could published it, so virtually no one read it until much later. I actually had it on my list as well, but the second half of the list got chopped of. Spinoza’s Ethics is must-read too. Also Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding.
Leibniz’ conception of God (which Voltaire parodies) is one for the books. I am not a believer but I do very much like his concept of God.
Yeah . . . at the time it gave people the impression that Leibniz wasn’t a believer either.
I would avoid all Nietzsche
Probably good advice except for:
Nietzsche as philosopher Danto, Arthur Coleman
Nietzsche and philosophy Deleuze, Gilles.
After you read the other stuff listed above, Nietzsche is a good way to cleanse the palate.
Unfortunately, the study of philosophy often cannot avoid being a study of the history of philosophy. Most famous philosophic texts start in response to whatever is the dominant ideology of the time and seeks to distinguish itself from that philosophy. (I’m simplifying here but go with me for a moment.) So, if you are interested in philosophy, you might be well served by first reading through a short history of philosophy text so you understand who – INSERT PHILOSOPHER HERE – is responding to. Context will make philosophic assertions easier to understand.
One online resource for this is The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
After having doing so, I recommend not reading about philosophers but actually reading philosophers. Deleuze’s reading of Nietzsche is great … but very Deleuzian (just like his reading of Leibnez and Spinoza.) Read Nietzsche for yourself, through yourself. And I do advocate reading his work.
Also, don’t try to bite off huge texts. Find short entry points. For instance, if you are interested in existentialism try Sartre’s “Existentialism is a Humanism.” Long enough to spark interest. Short enough to finish and go back to living.
That is perfect!
Also “A History of Western Philosophy” by Bertrand Russel is a great book.It gives an overall summary on the history of philosophy.But it is a long book (nearly 1000 pages!).
Nice topic, sort of a Kenji’s poll for philosophers. Many of the major philosophical works have already been mentioned in the lists by ApurSansar, Matt Parks, and other contributors. I’m taking a very broad definition of the term (including metaphysical in the broadest sense) in my own additions. Here’s my personal take to add to the philosopher’s stew. Sometimes, for me anyway, translations can matter. Where they might, I’ve given a translation I like.
Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre – Walter Kaufmann. I know Existententialism is just about as dead as the dodo, but this was the book that got me started reading philosophy in my teens. It is a great introduction to the subject by a renowned Nietzchean scholar and translator. Of course, after reading this, you need to read some Nietzsche (sorry Dennis).
Nietzsche – Beyond Good and Evil, The Will to Power, On the Genealogy of Morals (Kaufmann translations)
Then on to one of Ingmar Bergman’s favorite writers: Soren Kierkegaard – Either/Or, Fear & Trembling, Repetition, Concluding Unscientific Postscript
Derrida – The Post Card, Writing & Difference, Dissemination Derrida is for the already initiated into the Knights of the Golden Western Obscurists. He requires an extensive knowledge of Western European philosophy, as he continues in the track of Husserl, Heidegger, and Sartre. But he is an entertaining stylist, even if just jumping in.
Foucault – Madness & Civilization, The Archaeology of Knowledge
Jung is always worth a read, starting with:
Jung – Memories, Dreams, and Reflections
One of my current favorite philosophical books is:Montaigne – Essays (Translated by Donald M. Frame)Montaigne’s Essays are still timeless in their understanding of the human soul.
What about Eastern Philosophy?
The Upanishads – Olivelle translation (I think this is the translation I had – the book is now lost)I Ching – Wilhelm translationThe Way of Chuang Tzu – Thomas Merton translationEssays in Zen Buddhism – D.T. Suzuki
I had a large collection of books on Zen, but gave them all away. This is the writer that started me out.
Gibran – The Prophet – This was once a sort of New Age manual for hippies in the late 60’s, but it is still a fascinating read.
App and Matt made good.suggestions but if you live in the anglosphere then you also must read Hobbes(Leviathan) and Mill(On Liberty and Utilitarianism) to understand the type of societies you live in. plus some general reading on emotivism.
I would also suggest reading the cliff notes for Critique Of Pure Reason—it’s a far too difficult read to justify the amount of time spent on understanding it imo— and get stuck into his ethics instead.
Foucaults.A.O.K is a waste of time unless you h already.read his.other works, or at least familiar with his overarching ‘goal’. it is too confusing otherwise.
Marcuse’s One Dimensional Man is also helpful if you want to understand the effects of mass media, consumerism, and instrumental rationality on the public sphere and human development. Weber, although technically a ‘sociologist’, also has much to say about the effects of instrumental rationality that are still very much relevant today.
I also co-sign the historical understanding of philosophy’s development. If you are going to read a lot about ethics—which i is far too often overlooked in philosophy discussions these days—check out Macintyre’s Short HIstory Of Ethics, which is easily one of the most comprehension and critical books ever written about the subject.
Well, thanks for all the great suggestions. Obviously I have some catching up to do! As a token of my appreciation here’s a clever little ditty from the guys down under at the philosophy faculty of Woolloomooloo:
Bruces’ Philosophers Song by Monty Python
Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
Who was very rarely stable.
Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar
Who could think you under the table.
David Hume could out-consume
Wilhelm Freidrich Hegel,
And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
Who was just as schloshed as Schlegel.
There’s nothing Nietzsche couldn’t teach ya’
’Bout the raising of the wrist.
Socrates himself was permanently pissed….
John Stuart Mill, of his own free will,
On half a pint of shandy was particularly ill.
Plato, they say, could stick it away;
Half a crate of whiskey every day.
Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle,
Hobbes was fond of his dram,
And Rene Descartes was a drunken fart:
“I drink, therefore I am”
Yes, Socrates himself is particularly missed;
A lovely little thinker but a bugger when he’s pissed!
Also Quine’s Word and Object
Some Donald Davidson would be in order as well, The Essential Davidson probably.
one more . . .
Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge
So no one thinks highly of the Ancient Greeks, huh? I love Plato’s dialogues. Some comments off the top of my head:
>I find them highly readable (except for maybe something like Gorgias)—at least if you like the dialogue format which is done in a informal conversational style;
>Someone mentioned the importance of history. I’m not well-read in philosophy, but my sense is that Plato lays out most of the major issues and concerns that subsequent philsophers will wrestle with (knowledge, being, virtue/ethics, god, etc.).
>I look at the dialogues as the philosophical equivalent of mathematical word problems. I don’t know if this is correct, but I look at the dialogues not so much as fully realized position of Plato, so much as jumping off points for the student of philosophy. For example, some of the arguments and counter-arguments posed by the opponents of the Plato’s/Socrates’ ideas are often weak, imo. But then this sort of goads the reader to come up with a better argument and think about the issue for themselves. I love this aspect! (I’ve wanted to actually take the time to work out arguments on my own, but that would require a lot of time and energy. Still, if you’re in college, I think it would be worth it.)
And I don’t mean to leave out the Pre-Socratic philosophers, Artistotle or the Post-Aristotelian philosophers. (I haven’t gotten to the last two groups).
Oh sure, the Greeks, and also the Romans (Cicero, Seneca, Plotinus, Boethius, etc.), India, and Iranian philosophers. The Mesopotamian Dialogue of Pessimism . . .