The 13 Best Books on Philosophy

Here’s my list of the 13 best books in philosophy, in no particular order.

  1. The Republic by Plato – The origination of political science and a brilliant critique of government that is still important today.
  2. The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle – The root of Aristotelian ethics and therefore many of the moral ideas that underpin all of western civilization.
  3. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius – Imagine a self-help book written by the emperor of roughly ⅓ of the planet. Yeah, that’s what this is.
  4. On the Shortness of Life by Seneca – A short rumination on death and what makes life worth living by probably the most famous stoic philosopher.
  5. Confessions by St. Augustine – The original memoir. Confessions would inform a millennium of church theology and western philosophy.
  6. Meditations of First Philosophy by Rene Descartes – Source of Descartes famous “I think, therefore I am.”
  7. Ethics by Benedict de Spinoza – The basis of rationalism, a school of philosophical thought that dominated during the Enlightenment.
  8. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke – The basis of empiricism the rival school of philosophical thought during the Enlightenment.
  9. The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant – 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.
  10. Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche – 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.
  11. Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope by Mark Manson – Pumping up my own shit. A look at why we all need hope, but that same hope can often destroy us.
  12. The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker – 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.
  13. Reasons and Persons by Derek Parfit – 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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