Books and Theories

Let’s make a must-read list for Philosophy. I dont mean, lets champion our own favorite schools of thought, for it is good to at least have some knowledge of other principles.

I need to get some new books, and it would be nice to further my knowledge base.

So lets make the must-reads for Philosophy:

Plato: Republic, The Last days of Socrates
Epictetus: Enchiridon
Confucius: The Analects
Ayn Rand: The Virtue of Selfishness
Camus: The Plague
Aristotle: On the Polity of Athenians
Whitman: Leaves of Grass

Please, add on here! >_<

I need to expand my horizons as well, so I hope others addon to this list as well.

I can only think of one book at the moment which I would recommend reading: The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz. Not necessarily a book on philosphy per se, but you’ll understand why I recommend reading it if you choose to do so yourself.

By the way, I’ve been meaning to read an Ayn Rand book lately, as many of the fanatical people I meet in this world tend to subscribe to her beliefs. Is The Virtue of Selfishness a good book to begin with?

Hmm, this is a good thread!

let me see…

I have a few contemporary suggestions of books which I believe to be highly influential. Ill put them by topic

for philosophy of language, metaphysics and modality, with strong relevence for philosophy of mind read S. Kripke - Naming and Necessity Its an absolute classic!

for applied ethics, nothing has been more influential than Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation It is a seminal work, chps 1 & 6 contain the philosophy

For ancient philosophy I definately concur with Plato - Republic though I’d also throw in the Five Dialogues as well

Going back a bit I’d definately add D. Hume - An enquiry concerning Human Underatanding

For personal identity a must read is D. Parfit - Reasons and Persons mainly part 3

Now I am really not championing my own schools of thought, I don’t agree with all of these people :slight_smile: However there is always going to be a strong personal element in recommendations, because it is quite subjective whether you think something is good or not! For example, Descartes is often recommended, but the meditations is a pretty terrible piece of philosophy (in my humble opinion!)

The truth, Telesis, is that I stumbled into philosophy when I was seventeen. I accidentally discovered Nietzsche like Nietzsche discovered Schopenhauer in a second hand book store. Chance had it that I saw the Anti-Christ sitting on the third shelf. Amor fati?

My philosophical evolution has been somewhat inconsistent. I have no formal education and no “training,” so to speak. I also read most of the philosophy I am familiar with in the wrong order, so to speak. For example, I read the Will To Power before I read Schopenhauer’s World as Will and Representation, which is the body of work that Nietzsche was directly responding to. Then, after realizing this and reading Schopenhauer, I found that Schopenhauer was responding to Kant, so I read Kant. So on and so forth, backwards.


If I had to force two philosophers onto a student, they would be Hegel and Kierkegaard. These two, as polar opposites, represent to me the beginning and end of philosophy.

Then I would suggest books for the “meanwhile in outer-space”:

To liberate you from Kierkegaards angst(who is the victor over Hegel), you will take this tonic formula:

Human All Too Human- Nietzsche
Ecce Homo-Nietzsche
The Gay Science-Nietzsche
Geneology Of Morals-Nietzsche

When you are playful, vibrant and bursting with life, you will stop for a moment and take a serious look at the universe:

Being And Nothingness-Sartre
The Elegant Universe-Greene

Worlds will collide, you will grab your balls, wipe away your tears, and take up some boring hobby.

That’s pretty much it. The rest of your thinking will be original improvisations on these themes.

Philosophy can be done in thirty days if you have the secret formula and a third of your thirty days devoted to reading.

You should add:

Quinn: Ishmael
Pirsig: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence

my must read list of philo books:

empedocles – fragments
plato – timeas
aristotle – NC
boethius – consolation of philosophy
pascal – pensees
rousseau – second discouse
voltaire – letters concerning the english nation (must have the 26th letter, some editions don’t, make sure the 26th letter is there)
hobbes – 1st part of leviathan
hume – essay…
mill – on liberty
trilling – sincerity and authenticity (stick with it, a lot of eng lit shit)
dennett – the minds eye (i think that the title…)
stanely cohen – states of denial (a more pyschology book, but v. important for understanding one aspect of the mind)

de’trop!!! you’ve got some 'splaining to do!!! hegel as the beginning of philosophy??? who are you? where is that coming from!!! an explaination/justification is properly demanded by me, ms. trix (holding her popcorn in the other hand…)

I’m suprised noone’s mentioned Iris Murdoch yet. So, I will.

since this seems to be a thread where one can flaunt their “knowledge” of philosophical books, without really caring what others put up because we are all so anxious to just get our voices out, i’ll list some of me favs:
Malaclypse the Younger and Omar K. Ravenhurst- The Principia Discordia. you can read that at for free! booyah…
Hoff- The Tao of Pooh
O’Shaughnessy- My Manifistation (a delightful romp, yet the author is still writing it…maybe i’ll print some of his stuff on the boards sometime…he won’t mind, i hope.)
The Teachings of Don Juan- Carlos Casteneda…i think thats how you spell his name…
that’s all i can think of…right now…but it dont matter like such cuz reading is for dorks and such.

Hustler,********** Flint (good read, excellent illustrations)
Nicomachean ethics, Aristotle
****************, Mencius
Human all too Human,Friedrich Nietzsche
Beyond Good and evil, Friedrich Nietzsche
Animal Liberation , Peter Singer
Revolt of the masses, Jose Ortega Y Gasset
The rebel , Albert Camus
The myth of sysiphus, Albert Camus
*****************, Plato
*****************, Seneca (the younger, not the older dude with the treatise on Rhetoric)
Dialogues concerning natural religion, David Hume
The first and last Freedom, Krishnamurti
Analects , Confucious

Matthew E. The virtue of selfishness is a collection of mainly ethical hardline essays in true Randian fashion. A good basic Ayn Rand book to start out with would be “Philosophy: Who needs it”. Her novels “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead” also make excellent reading as well as acquaint the reader with her philosophy. Her literary executor penned a book called “Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand” which may well be the single best one-volume exposition of her philosophy.

You’re touting Nietzsche almost as much as i do. I peruse the Nietzschean corpus frequently. I only wish that i had discovered him before Rand, it would have saved me some work.


Well, I wouldn’t know about the pictures, dude, I read it for intellectual satisfaction. Shame on you, Marshall.

Of course. Nietzsche is an untouchable. He is one of the few real original philosophers who espoused no one. He is either borrowed from, adopted, or totally opposed, but never merely second rate, a shadow, or a reproduction of previous thought.

"I know my fate. One day my name will be associated with the memory of something tremendous- a crisis without equal on earth, the most profound collision of conscience, a decision that was conjured up against everything that had been believed, demanded, hallowed so far. I am no man, I am dynamite.

Yet for all that, there is nothing in me of a founder of a religion- religions are affairs of the rabble; I find it necessary to wash my hands after I have come into contact with religious people. I want no “believers”; I think I am too malicious to believe in myself; I never speak to masses. I have a terrible fear that one day I will be pronounced holy: you will guess why I publish this book before; it shall prevent people from doing mischief with me."- Nietzsche(Why I Am a Destiny)

Well, I guess the real beginning of philosophy happened when an unsuspecting primitive brain produced a synapse, and the cave man performed his first logical deduction before dinner:

  1. Rocks= hurt.
  2. Hurts= kill.
  3. Kill=dead.
  4. Dead= eat
  5. Eat= live

Okay, I’ll explain where I’m coming from. The majority of the philosophy I have come across is extremely boring to me. What I like to see is great leaps, and often times I am attracted to very radical and unconventional theory. Hegel is the only philosopher(other than Kierkegaard) that has, for me, found the only possible way to include anything even remotely similiar to a “religious” idea, or the possibility of a “God,” as well as what that “God” would be, within a well thought system of philosophy. Most atheistic philosophies are quickly consumed by me, they come easy, I get bored and restless. As an Existentialist I have embraced the absurd. I am no longer impressed with domestic ideas. Existence and logic does not correspond, I accept that, and begin a quest for the irrational, unlikely, if not impossible.

In a word, I like Hegel because his ideas are ridiculous, but I consider him the beginning because he was the one who exposed the inevitable failure of any attempt to reconcile the loose ends of Kant’s philosophy, which, you will see, solves a great many problems but brings about new problems. I say to myself, “the only way that could work would be with Hegels solution.” Which is doubly absurd.

I think there are basically three great events in philosophy that should be marked as revolutionary. If we had to divide all schools of thought, any particular discipline would be a subset of one or the other: Empiricism/Rationalism. For Rationalism, there was Descartes. For Empiricism, there was Hume. These two duked it out until Kant came along and said that both the Cartesian claim to the epistemological priority of the mental, and, the empiricists model of knowledge as passive and receptive, simple “representation,” were wrong. His masterpiece was the Transcendental Analytic, where he invented the notion of a priori synthesis.

This undermined Rationalism by showing how objects are not simply “given” in experience, instead, they are constituted or “synthesized” as a necessary condition for experience to occur by “pure” concepts of understanding, which are prerequisite and prior to experience. Two a priori categories that are necessary for experience are time and space, for example. Essentially, what Kant is saying is that there is objectivity to experience in a way that doesn’t allow the Cartesian claim of absolute subjectivity and solipsism: “all in the mind,” to work.

He also pinned Empiricism to the mat. He claimed that one cannot have an “impression” of the necessary connection between events(Hume)…causalty is not experienced, it is supplied again by these necessary a priori structures. We posit a synthetic understanding after the fact that it is a necessary condition for every experience. The Empiricist’s notion of the “impressions” were given as atomistic bits of raw data, the problem was that they could not conform to conceptual objects without Kant’s “synthetic” understanding.

These ideas made Kant a dualist, which created problems that Kant himself did not want to deal with. What he had to do was allow for the empiricist rule that sensation and impression were both real objects in themselves; sense data is “being” in general, but also allow for the rationalist rule that one cannot prove that the external world exists, but only that one has an “idea.” What is the result?

He grabbed his balls, jumped off a cliff and said “We experience “representations” of reality which is phenomena, but real reality is noumenal, and we cannot know it.”


We take one step forward and two steps back.

I digress.

Original thought is hard to come by and Nietzsche can truly be characterized as original.

True to Nietzsche’s words Peter Gast later did this.

De’Trop progresses from Nietzsche in one thread to primitive man killing in the next. Images of Kubrick’s film: space odyssey 2001 roll through my mind, with an early man clubbing his adversary with a jawbone as Richard Strauss’s also Sprach Zarathustra (inspired by Nietzsche’s book) plays triumphantly in the background…HVD, pass me a marshmallow…

Hey, no reading between the lines, pal. [grin]

I think Nietzsche also said somewhere(I can’t remember) that “knowledge,”…well, shit, I can’t remember exactly what he said either.

But I can tell you what he meant, however. That the origin of “knowledge” came from the assimilation of conflict and danger. Maybe that the first kind of real “awareness,” pretend it to be a more elementary type of knowledge than , say, contemplation, was the simple and aggressive response to an external threat against whatever it is that has that awareness. That maybe “logic” became a method for dealing with obstacles, literally speaking. Forces acting against the organism: the elements, disease, starvation, predators, etc., are the most abundant and most demanding of all environmental consequences. As they vary in degree and complexity, so does the nervous system, its efficiency, and its response, nonetheless, knowledge is only the accumulation of primitive instinctual reactions and real time application of logic. Both resulted from the resistence and/or persistence to/of danger.

Anyway, that’s one of my favorite movies, Marshall. Especially that scene.

Its also funny that you mention the song. I leave the stereo on the classical station when I go to work, for the birds to listen to(pet birds). I came home today and as I was preparing to clip my toenails after a shower, the song started. No shit, like I cued it. Just as I sat down on the edge of the bed…

I sized up my big toe and its nail, and formed a plan:


Flanking my foot, I grabbed the reluctant toe and attempted to clip:


A success. The toenail flew into the air and over to the far reaching corner of my room. I had done it:


[repeat measure]

Well if this is a post conecrning the reading of philosophy books and people are going on about how great Nietzsche is, it seems pertenant to point out that Nietzsche warned against reading too much. This seems an excellent point to me. Philosophy isnt just about going over the past ideas of the last two thousand years. Of course we can’t just make our own philosophy up out of thin air. But the best thing about philosophy (which Plato shows in his dialogues) is that just by discusing ideas together we can come to a higher understanding. Although books can help you towards this, it must be secondary to the doing of philosophy. Philosophy is not a science.

Good points, Luke.

I agree with you to a point. To know a truth, a person must experience it, they cannot simply expose themselve to an authority and its word. This means that although some truths can exist and can be represented through the medium of words, the events that revealed those truths to that writer are not experienced by the reader. A minor technicality, really, but still a valid point and in good keeping with the qualifications of “proof.” The only exception to this rule would be in the case of logic and mathematics. For example, the statement “one plus one equals two” is just as provable being stated as it would be if it were experienced. I don’t need to live your story to believe you when you tell me that “one plus one equals two.” On the other hand, the statement “life brings hardship and struggle, therefore it should be avoided” must be experienced if it is in fact a truth. In other words, whatever it is that that statement means is lying behind a myriad of not necessarily logical conclusions. If “hardship” isn’t really “hard” for me, then I’ve got no way to determine exactly what “hardship” is. Since it is a matter of degree and opinion it is a relative truth, which I cannot experience without your subjectivity or by relying on logic to decipher it.

We should be talking with numbers.[insert Husserl’s Private Language]

But then again, I disagree with you. I don’t think someone would get more “philosophy” from climbing mount everest than they would from sitting in a dark room for eternity. In the end all experiences are equally nullified. There is no alternative route around the final destination. There is point A and point B, what is done during the meanwhile is only important at that point. I don’t see the use of calling anything “higher understanding.” If knowledge is a contingency in the first place, then degrees of “height” or levity are not exceptional events, but only specific points of advancement toward an inevitable end.

I just thought Id collect reading recommendations thats all…

: )

I dont plan on subbin it for experience in my life.


it’s cool how ancient philosophy’s all but disappeared from your analysis.

i agree, in many ways hegel takes the final kick at the can at where many philosophies seem to lead. i often refer to his lectures on this history of philosophy for interperting particular thinkers. have you read spinoza? i think you’ll like him. if anyone’s coming round to me saying they believe in god, they best have gotten their shit together as good as spinoza.

descartes wasn’t a rationalist, and the divide between empiricism and rationalism isn’t neat at all. i think the divide centers more on those who believe in the one and those who have the many parts – william james breaks it down pretty good.

metaphysics and masterbation, coming to a book store near you… :wink: :laughing:

God De’Trop! That part about knowledge being a response to deal with obstacles seems to be similiar to some of Jose Ortega Y Gasset’s epistemological premises in “What Is Knowledge” by Jose Ortega Y Gasset edited and translated by Jorge Garcia Gomez ISBN 0-7914-5172-0.

Excellent points Luke. I think Nietzsche’s remarks about reading should also be understood in light of what Georg Brandes called ‘aristocratic radicalism’. Nietzsche felt that the common man should not have access to books in addition to the fact (as mentioned) that too much reading was not good. Recall, however that Nietzsche himself was a philologist and teacher.

De’Trop’s toenail flies through the air hitting one of his birds… Trix continues to talk about masturbation…

Taken from an encyclopedia.

yes my dear, i too can read encylodpedias. shall we move this discussion to an iloveenyclopedia forum, or engage in philosophy?

i think the meditations and descartes entire project begins with him feeling/sensing that his consciuosness (that he exists). from there it gets rational, but if you compare this to rationalists after him, they don’t need this distinctly empiricist starting point. which makes desarctes actually pretty close to locke, then say liebniz or spinoza. in my opinion.