Here’s my list of the 13 best books in philosophy, in no particular order.
- The Republic – The origination of political science and a brilliant critique of government that is still important today.
- The Nicomachean Ethics – The root of Aristotelian ethics and therefore many of the moral ideas that underpin all of western civilization.
- Meditations – Imagine a self-help book written by the emperor of roughly ⅓ of the planet. Yeah, that’s what this is.
- On the Shortness of Life – A short rumination on death and what makes life worth living by probably the most famous stoic philosopher.
- Confessions – The original memoir. Confessions would inform a millennium of church theology and western philosophy.
- Meditations of First Philosophy – Source of Descartes famous “I think, therefore I am.”
- Ethics – The basis of rationalism, a school of philosophical thought that dominated during the Enlightenment.
- An Essay Concerning Human Understanding – The basis of empiricism the rival school of philosophical thought during the Enlightenment.
- The Critique of Pure Reason – Rationalism and empiricism were united under Kant’s immense observations about the limits of human cognition and reason. Arguably the most important philosophical work since the ancient Greeks.
- Beyond Good and Evil – Probably Nietzsche’s most cogent statement of his views: that traditional morality is subjective and that people must evolve to a higher understanding of what’s valuable and what is not.
- Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope – Pumping up my own shit. A look at why we all need hope, but that same hope can often destroy us.
- The Denial of Death – Written on his death bed, a look at how all of our anxieties and motivations are ultimately rooted in our fear of our own non-existence. Profound and thought-provoking.
- Reasons and Persons – A difficult read and a total mind-fuck. Through painstaking logic, Parfit shows that: acting in self-interest is impossible, personhood does not exist, and pretty much anything you do is evil. This is considered by many to be the most important psychological work of the later 20th century.
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