New to Philosophy

Hey all, I don’t know if this is anywhere on the board, but I’m new to philosophy and don’t know where to start. Are there any good general books for beginners? I bought The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, but not too sure if it’s philosophy, I guess it could be considered evolutionary philosophy. I’ve heard of a few different philosphers, Aristotle, Voltaire, and Socrates, but I eventually want to get into the lesser known philosophers too. I’ve always been interested in studying philosophy, just other things took precedance. Now I’ve got time to look into it and I’m totally overwhelmed by it all. Any help as to where to start would be appreciated! My e-mail is Thanks!


Others declaring themselves to be philosophical newbies have preceeded you on this board. You might look for their posts. (Although have we not all been philosophers since birth?!)

I remember posting as a response a long MA reading list with lots of notable name philosophers.

If you want the big names, you might look at who is read in “Great Books” programs: They probably list the books on their sites. If you have not been to college yet (or even if you have) you might consider entering one of these programs as they should help you digest their works.

Vale bene, (Be well)

Start with the basics of analytical philosophy, not with difficult original works. I read a few chapters in Introduction to Philosophical Analysis by John Hospers, and it seemed quite good. Another book thats often recommended to beginners is Bertrand Russell’s Problems of Philosophy, but I haven’t read that one. I’m sure there are plenty more and maybe better. Check out the home pages of philosophy departments at universities. I’m sure they have listed the literature for introductory courses.

Again, start with basics, do not start with too difficult books. It doesn’t matter how intelligent you are, you won’t understand.

Also, understand that in philosophy exactness in thought and expression is everything. So it is very important that you learn some basic stuff about language, meaning and definition. An intermediate level book is Robinson’s Definition from 1950.

Bertrandt Russell’s “A History of Western Philosophy” The best and only intro book you’ll ever need. When i was in your position, jrl_03 (typing that, i feel like i’m talking to a robot), i came across this book at the bookstore, and am glad i bought it becasue it’s hard to find now. But I read the first part of it, which gives a breif biography andf outline of the main philosophers from before pythgoras, to the late Roman period. It goes on the same all the way up to William James or so. No, however, I read the original works first, or simultaneously, and use this book as a secondary source. Also, a dictionary of philosophical terms and ideas may be helpful.

Bretrand Russell’s “A History of Western Philosophy” Get It! And that goes for everyone else here as well. It’s thick but enjoy the read and your new endevours in thought.


The Great Philosophers - By Bryan Magee

That’s a great book that will introduce you to some of the greatest philosophers while giving you much info about some of their best theories. It also sort of connects you with them all and how they all relate with eachother.

Very good book, and brings you from Plato all the way to modern philosophers in a somewhat short book.

After this you can probably begin reading books by various philosophers mentioned within the book.

Russell’s “A History” is mighty fun but not always very accurate or fair to the philosophers. I would suggest more sober books for a start, like Anthony Kenny’s A Brief History of Western Philosophy.

However, I think people often focus way too much on the great philosophers in history and too little on the philosophical problems. Too be sure, you need some knowledge about what the great philosophers thought in order to understand today’s philosophical discussion. It is also valuable in order to get a deeper understanding of general philosophy. However, what is really important is the philosophical problems, and there the great guys were wrong on almost every point. So, in order to get the best arguments in philosophy, one should study the best philosophers of today. But as I said, you can’t start reading them, start reading introductory books. In order to understand many original texts in analytic philosophy you also need basic training in formal logic.

I got a good introduction to the lives and times of many philosophers through “The Story of Philosophy” by Will Durant. It is well written and is interestingto read - and there are several anecdotes that let us in on how these philosophers we talk so much about understood and reflected upon the world.

For evolutionary philosophy, I recommend a couple of books by Richard Dawkins - “The Selfish Gene” and “River out of Eden”. They’re both pretty good.

Russell’s fascinated me for some time also. “An Outline of Philosophy” by Russell is another book to read, perhaps.

Also, Im interested in the effects of language on conversations and I’m trying to buy the Tractatus by Wittgenstein online. Any other books I must read for this?

I remember there was this obscure philosopher I had read about on the Internet encyclopedia of philosophy who was in advocacy of Pragmatism. I’d like to know about his arguments and maybe some more material online about it. Can anyone help?