The greatest philosophers in the world have guided us through their vast knowledge about the principles of life. They all have their own theories of life and none of them are wrong. Having different perspectives of life and ways to pursue it, is quite common not just among the philosophers but the general public too.
The study of philosophy plays a very important role in our life. In everyday life, it helps us to live better by enhancing our problem-solving capacity. Apart from this, learning philosophy makes our communication skills better as well as increases our persuasive powers.
Books that are written on philosophy are of enormous and enduring interest. It will help you transform yourself by bringing some important questions to the table. Studying philosophy is even important for your career and will benefit you in almost every field.
There are various influential philosophers from ancient to modern who has written some of the best books on Philosophy. Now selecting the best one among them is definitely a tough task but it is the question that often hit us.
We have created a list of best philosophy books that are worth your read:
1. A History of Western Philosophy
A History of Western Philosophy is written by Bertrand Russell and it was published in the year 1945. The book stores the events from the pre-Socratic philosophers to the early 20th Century. The book proved to be a commercial success for the author, however, it got criticized for over-generalization and omissions.
The book proved to be so successful for Russell that he received financial security because of it for the last part of his life. A History of Western Philosophy also contributed to making Bertrand Russell the Nobel Price in Literature in the year 1950.
2. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The title may be misleading, but, no, the book is not about motorcycle maintenance, we are still talking about the best philosophy books. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainance is written by Robert M. Pirsig and it was published in the year 1974. The book actually brings some big questions to the table regarding life and the way of living.
The book presents us with a story of a father and his young son. The plot of the story is set in the Northwest region of America. The story is about the duo of father and son and their cross country motorcycle trip. With the help of this book, the author has tried to explore the metaphysics of quality.
3. Sophie’s World
Sophie’s World is the philosophy book written by a Norwegian writer Jostein Gaarder. It was published in the year 1991. The story of the book follows the life of a Norwegian teenager, named Sophie Amundsen and a middle-aged philosopher named Alberto Knox.
The philosopher introduces Sophie with the history of philosophy and answers some questions to improve her philosophical thinking. With more than twenty million copies of Sophie’s World sold in the entire world, the book became successful and also a best seller in Norway. It also won the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis in 1994.
4. Republic by Plato
Republic authored by Plato is a Socratic Dialogue. It became the most famous and widely read dialogue by Plato since the mid-nineteenth century. It is hard to not talk about Plato and Socrates when it comes to Philosophy. These two proved to be one of the greatest philosophers of their time. Plato was actually a student of Socrates who was an ancient Greek philosopher.
The dialogue by Socrates was authored by Plato in 375 BCE concerning justice. The book is said to be the greatest work of Plato with an exception of law. It is the longest of his works and answers some great questions concerned with life.
5. Man’s Search for Meaning
Man’s Search for Meaning is written by Viktor Frankl and it was published in the year 1946. The book taught us some of the greatest lessons in life and through this book, the author has tried to teach us that one can not avoid suffering in life. Viktor Frankl argues that the path to glory is through the pain and one would find the meaning of life by following that way.
According to the author, the primary drive in human life is not pleasure but our own personal discovery of the meaning of life. The whole book revolves around the idea that leads us to identify our purpose of living.
In his book, Viktor has also mentioned about the time when he spent his time in the Nazi concentration camps during World War II.
Meditations are written by Marcus Aurelius who was the Roman Emperor 161 to 180 AD. It is a series of personal writings by the author that was first published in the year 167 A.C.E. The Roman Emperor wrote this book as a source of his own improvements and it was more of his own personal notes and ideas of Stoic philosophy.
Meditations include 12 books that are written in Koine Greek. The books are translated by George Long. The author, Marcus Aurelius wrote these books at the time of his ruling as a Roman emperor and has written his experience as a warrior.
The books were written by Marcus Aurelius with no intention of publication. It was more of his private recording that was for personal clarity and not public benefit.
7. The Essential Epicurus
The Essential Epicurus: Letters, Principal, Doctrines, Vatican Sayings, and Segments is written by Epicurus and translated with an introduction by Eugene O’Conner. Epicurus was a great philosopher from the history who founded the concept of Epicureanism.
Epicureanism is commonly known as the satisfaction of physical desires which was of great value to the philosopher. Epicurus always believed that the purpose of philosophy is to make people lead on the path of life that will help them attain happiness and tranquility that is characterized by peace and freedom from fear.
8. Tao Te Ching
The Tao Te Ching is authored by Lao Tzu, also known as Laozi. It is the traditional Chinese text from the 6th century BC. The exact date of compilation and composition is not known but it is believed it is sometime around the era. The translation of the book is done by James Legge.
The text from the book may be hard to understand but it has a powerful and clear message. It explains to us how being self-aware is important in life and how one could improve his modern life with self-awareness.
The author founded Taoism through the book and it is known for its spirituality. The Tao Te Ching teaches us harmony, peace, and balance.
9. Critique of Pure Reasons
Critique of Pure Reasons is another book on the list of best philosophy books of all time. The book that explores the scope and limitations of metaphysics was written by Immanuel Kant who is a German Philosopher.
With his book, the philosopher has tried to bring the opposing thoughts together that is the practical, experimental knowledge and rational thinking. It is believed to be one of the most informative books ever written on Philosophy.
The study of Philosophy may not be easy and it is certainly not limited to the text written in books but with the help of the books written by these great philosophers, you will get an idea about the various concepts of living that will lead you to the right path.
Essays by Michel de Montaigne is not a single book but is a three-part version. It has a total of 107 chapters that teaches us about the different aspects of living such as motivation, fear, happiness, etc. Michel de Montaigne, the French philosopher is one of the most celebrated philosophers of ancient times.
The Essays by this French philosopher was first published in the middle french and was originally published in the french kingdom. The year of publication of the essays is 1580. Montaigne is celebrated as the founder of modern essays.
Since they were written in French, the 10 volume collection of essays were translated by Charles Cotton.
11. Beyond Good and Evil
Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future is written by Friedrich Nietzsche and it was published in the year 1886. In his book, the philosopher has tried to give an idea that the opposite of good is not evil, but something that is similar to the expression concerned with the very underlying issues.
The translation of Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche is done by R.J. Hollingdale and the introduction is given by Michael Tanner.
12. The Prince
The Prince is written by Niccolo Machiavelli in the 16th century. The political treatise by the author who is considered as an Italian Diplomat and philosopher. A Latin version of the book has also been released in the year 1513 which is called De Principatibus.
Through his book, the Italian philosopher has tried t0 send the message that it is better to be feared. According to him, fear is an important element in people’s lives as it ensures obedience in people. In his book, the author has said that the Prince, at all costs, should avoid being hated. As hatred as the capability to overcome fear.
13. Being and Nothingness
Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology was written by Jean-Paul Sartre. The book was published in the year 1943. Being and Nothingness is considered to be the greatest articulation by the author on existential philosophy.
In simple words, the summary of Being and Nothingness says that it is simply the study of consciousness of being. The book focuses on an ontology that is the study of being. The author has also highlighted that how humans are obsessed with the idea of completion and how the concept has become a man’s obsessive need.
The philosophical book, Being and Nothingness is regarded as one of the most important works of Jean-Paul Sartre.
14. The Myth of Sisyphus and other essays
The Myth of Sisyphus and other essays by Albert Camus is considered to be one of the greatest works ever seen in existential philosophy. The book was originally published in the year 1942 and the original language in which it was published was French.
Later the translation of the book was done in English by Justin O’Brien. The English version of The Myth of Sisyphus and other essays was done in the year 1955.
The book may seem somewhat depressing in the beginning but as you move forward with it, you will find it as one of the most important books ever written about existentialism. With the help of this book, the author, Albert Camus has taught us the value of existence.
15. A Treatise of Human Nature
A Treatise of Human Nature is authored by Scottish philosopher, David Hume. The book was published in the year 1739-40. A Treatise of Human Nature is considered one of the most important works of the Scottish Philosopher, David Hume. The book really proved to be one of the most influential books ever written on philosophy.
As per Isaiah Berlin, “no books have influenced the history of Philosophy to a deeper or more disturbing degree.”
A Treatise of Human Nature has gained the philosopher a lot of appreciation. Through his book, the author has tried to inquire into human psychology by using the same scientific reasoning.
So these were some of the greatest books ever written in Philosophy. The greatest thinkers in the world have gifted us with their knowledge and ideas through these books and by them, we can learn how in the earlier times people use to create and understood the meaning of life.
Reading the books of philosophy is not only important to learn about the art of living but it is also important to give us the opportunity to enhance our communication skills and understand our own thinking and behavior at a deeper level.
The above-mentioned books are written by some of the greatest philosophers of the ancient world as well as the modern world. Do let us know in the comment section how you liked this article. Also if you have any questions, you can ask them by commenting below, we will be happy to answer them for you.