Philosophy Books for Beginners

Get Email Updates Email this Topic Print this Page

Victor Eremita
 
Reply Mon 5 Oct, 2009 04:15 pm
@Fernando phil,
I would also like to know why Russell is rubbish and charlatan! Whew! Sure I disagree with him when he says philosophy is just for intellectual enrichment, and not for existential transformation, but I still like some of his books.

As for the original topic, some people do like Sophie's World, if that floats your boat.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Mon 5 Oct, 2009 04:20 pm
@Victor Eremita,
If we're talking about agreement/disagreement, sure, I have disagreements with Russell, but that hardly makes his book rubbish or him a charlatan. He made great contributions to philosophy, won a Nobel Prize for Literature, was jailed for pacifism, campaigned against Hitler's rise to power, was active in combating American involvement in Vietnam.... he was the kind of philosopher we need: not just an academic, but someone who goes out and does.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 5 Oct, 2009 05:37 pm
@rhinogrey,
rhinogrey;95272 wrote:
Russell is a charlatan in general I would never recommend that a beginner read his works.


The co-author of Principia Mathematica, the inventor of the Theory of Descriptions, the author of Inquiry into Meaning and Truth, and many other seminal books in philosophy, is a charlatan?
 
longknowledge
 
Reply Mon 5 Oct, 2009 07:02 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
I would recommend:
 
A Brief History of Philosophy: From Socrates to Derrida, by Derek Johnston. (Continuum, 2006). 211 pages.

Overview: "A fun, concise and attractive introduction to a fascinating and challenging subject. This is the ideal book for students coming to philosophy for the first time, or indeed for anyone who just doesn't know where to start. The book examines 18 key thinkers, from Socrates to Derrida, exploring their ideas in relation to each other and to their historical and cultural contexts. Derek Johnston uses clear and accessible language to present an engaging chronological picture of the key figures, events and ideas that have shaped the history of philosophy. No prior knowledge of philosophy is required to enjoy this incisive, reader-friendly introduction. This is the ideal book for a general reader looking for a way into this fascinating but very often challenging subject."

You can get it in paperback for $14 or less at Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Brief-History-Philosophy-Socrates-Derrida/dp/0826490204/ref=sr_oe_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1254789748&sr=1-1
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Tue 6 Oct, 2009 06:35 am
@Emil,
Emil;95200 wrote:

They could be classics for bad reasons. Why are they classics? Because they are read a lot? That would not be a useful criteria in judging what is worth reading. (Circular even, in a sense.) I never wrote or implied they were randomly selected.

I'm aware that people will read the classics in a higher philosophy education. That does not imply that they are worth reading/should be preferred over other books.

What do you think it means to say that some book(s) is "foundational"?


The Apology by Plato is a classic, because the issues of the philosopher that it speaks to is still relevant and essential to understanding philosophy. Most classics are still highly relevant because they speak about universal and timeless concerns. The history of philosophy is littered with thinkers that have come and gone, but some works stand up to the test of time due to everything that has come after, is in some ways responding to those works. Thus, the classic is considered foundational because subsequent works have been built off of it.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Tue 6 Oct, 2009 07:36 am
@Fernando phil,
While the discussions of the relative merits of one philosopher, or whether knowing the philosophical tradition is important to an understanding of the philosophical endeavor, are both interesting and important, these belong elsewhere on Philforum forum. Let us therefore follow the guidelines for this forum by confining our remarks to the original question that asked for reading recommendations.
John
 
Labyrinth
 
Reply Tue 6 Oct, 2009 09:14 pm
@jgweed,
Along with everyone's recommendations of the Platonic dialogues, I'd also add The Republic which is most known for the "cave analogy" in book 7 (pardon me if someone has already mentioned this). Politics and Nicomachean Ethics are good works by Aristotle to start with. Penguin Classics also has a compilation of surviving writings of other Greek philosophers like Heraclitus, Pythagoras, Zeno, and the like. Its called Early Greek Philosophy, and I'm guessing it's most helpful (I haven't gotten my hands on my own copy yet).
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Tue 6 Oct, 2009 09:51 pm
@Fernando phil,
Jose Ortega y Gasset's book "What is Philosophy?" would also make a good starting point, even if it is not in the standard Western cannon of philosophy.
 
Emil
 
Reply Wed 7 Oct, 2009 04:23 am
@Fernando phil,
While we're at it. Start reading logic. Anyone who wants to reason about anything seriously need to learn logic.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 7 Oct, 2009 06:23 am
@Emil,
Emil;95739 wrote:
While we're at it. Start reading logic. Anyone who wants to reason about anything seriously need to learn logic.


Or, what is known as Informal Logic, or Critical Thinking. Philosophizing is, just critical thinking, as applied to philosophical problems.

Informal logic - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
Kroda2003
 
Reply Tue 20 Oct, 2009 10:47 pm
@Fernando phil,
For a beginner who has already had some exposure to the subject, and is interested in contemporary philosophy, I'd recommend the Routledge introductory series. I've read several and they were quite good. Would probably be tough going for someone completely new to philosophy, though.
 
Pangloss
 
Reply Wed 21 Oct, 2009 12:37 am
@Fernando phil,
I don't think anyone should suffer through reading the entirety of one of Aristotle's translated works, i.e. Politics or Nicomachean Ethics, much less someone who is just starting a study of philosophy! Seriously, just get the cliffs notes when it comes to Aristotle...the complete historical perspective is unnecessary, and the arguments lose nothing when written in a condensed and much more readable form.

Plato's early-middle dialogues seem to be a good place to start, as well as an introductory philosophy textbook, and a book on logic.

Maybe some of the more hardened academics here will disagree with this, but I think that the book Plato and a Platypus walk into a bar would make a very good, very light, entertaining overview for someone just interested in the basics of philosophy mixed into a fun read. This book could also work quite well for a high school philosophy class, if combined with proper instruction.
 
Kroda2003
 
Reply Wed 21 Oct, 2009 12:55 am
@Pangloss,
Pangloss;98933 wrote:
Maybe some of the more hardened academics here will disagree with this, but I think that the book Plato and a Platypus walk into a bar would make a very good, very light, entertaining overview for someone just interested in the basics of philosophy mixed into a fun read. This book could also work quite well for a high school philosophy class, if combined with proper instruction.


I think this is a good suggestion for someone how has absolutely no idea what philosophy is.

More suggestions, all authored by Julian Baggini:

The Pig That Wants to be Eaten: And Ninety Nine Other Thought Experiments

The Philosophers Toolkit: A Compendium of Philosophical Concepts and Methods (most useful for someone who already has a serious interest in philosophy and wants to get down to business)

Making Sense: Philosophy behind the Headlines (for someone who wants to see how philosophy relates to current events)
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Wed 21 Oct, 2009 05:39 am
@Kroda2003,
Pangloss;98933 wrote:
I don't think anyone should suffer through reading the entirety of one of Aristotle's translated works, i.e. Politics or Nicomachean Ethics, much less someone who is just starting a study of philosophy! Seriously, just get the cliffs notes when it comes to Aristotle...the complete historical perspective is unnecessary, and the arguments lose nothing when written in a condensed and much more readable form.


To some extent I agree, especially when we talk about his Politics. But I would never recommend the Cliff Notes or Spark Notes to anyone, for any book. Instead of those inane summaries, a scholarly companion to the text would be a great idea.

When it comes to his Ethics, though, I'd hardly call reading the entire text suffering. It's not very long, nor is it the most challenging work around, you know? That particular work, as opposed to his Politics, is already relatively condensed. If the student does not have a teacher or tutor for Ethics, go ahead and read the whole thing - it certainly won't hurt.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 21 Oct, 2009 09:05 am
@rhinogrey,
rhinogrey;95127 wrote:
Sein und Zeit - Martin Heidegger


For beginners?? ???????? Why not the Critique of Pure Reason by Kant? And Kant has the additional advantage of being comprehensible.
 
Pangloss
 
Reply Wed 21 Oct, 2009 10:21 am
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas;98955 wrote:
To some extent I agree, especially when we talk about his Politics. But I would never recommend the Cliff Notes or Spark Notes to anyone, for any book. Instead of those inane summaries, a scholarly companion to the text would be a great idea.

When it comes to his Ethics, though, I'd hardly call reading the entire text suffering. It's not very long, nor is it the most challenging work around, you know? That particular work, as opposed to his Politics, is already relatively condensed. If the student does not have a teacher or tutor for Ethics, go ahead and read the whole thing - it certainly won't hurt.


For "cliff notes", I didn't really mean the actual books in the store called cliff notes...rather, a beginner with an intro to philosophy book could probably get a condensed, yet accurate summary of those works by Aristotle in his textbook, instead of reading the original texts. Someone just getting into philosophy I think can skip reading these original works.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Wed 21 Oct, 2009 10:23 am
@Pangloss,
It just comes down to how much study a person wants to do. If they want to get the gist of basic virtue ethics, any intro to philosophy textbook will have them covered; they will get the basics and have a few examples from Aristotle to employ. But if a student wants to understand Aristotle's virtue ethics, they probably need to read the full text, or have a tutor or teacher help them through the text - like any ethical philosophy class, you'll read the bulk of NE, but not every line, ya know?
 
Pangloss
 
Reply Wed 21 Oct, 2009 11:09 am
@Fernando phil,
Right, which is why I just objected to recommendations for reading something like Politics, when the reader is simply a curious beginner, who would not be able to sit down and read this work cover-to-cover and comprehend it. And that would be a great exercise in how not to stir up someone's interest in philosophy, if Aristotle is first on their list, ha.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Wed 21 Oct, 2009 11:22 am
@Pangloss,
Sure, Politics is... well, a good bit to absorb. I defend NE because when I first began reading philosophy, I studied the text in full, without serious trouble. It helped spark my early interest.
 
RDanneskjld
 
Reply Wed 21 Oct, 2009 12:29 pm
@Fernando phil,
Theres a couple of good books that I would reccomend for beginners, one of them being Nigel Warburton's Philosophy: The Basics though some may find the book a little dry. Another good introduction and overview of western Philosophy is The Story of Philosophy by Bryan Magee.

If your feeling brave you could always jump straight into a classic of Philosophy, The Last Days of Socrates which contains the four dialogues which chronicles the last days of Socrates wouldnt be a bad choice. Unfortunately I cant remember which books I read when starting out in Philosophy.
 
 

 
Copyright © 2020 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.02 seconds on 04/05/2020 at 08:54:04