The 10 Greatest Philosophy Books of All Time That Will Open Your Eyes (2023)

What does it mean to live your best life? How should we treat each other and deal with each other? What does it mean to live now? Does it have a more important meaning?

People have been dealing with these questions for as long as we have existed. The question of the meaning of life is a central part of the human mind and sends the seeker of truth on a lifelong journey.

That's one of the reasons one should bother reading philosophy books in the first place. By reading philosophy books we can stand on the shoulders of giants. Thanks to the research, reflection, insight, and insight of some of the world's greatest minds, we can gain insight into life's fundamental questions with relative ease.

Below we have a list of some of the best philosophy books ever written, from Greek to ancient Chinese philosophy books, dating back thousands of years to the 20th century.

The best philosophy books for beginners

The following books are suitable for beginners in philosophy. There is much to discover, contemplate and realize in reading the great works of philosophy, but do not dive headfirst. Without a basic understanding of philosophical concepts, it's easy to get lost and confused as you read through. Instead, come closer with ease. The first two books on the list, Jostein Gaarder's Sophie's World and Bertrand Russell's The History of Western Philosophy, are excellent introductory books as they contain reviews and summaries of important philosophical concepts.

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1. El mundo de Sophie de Jostein Gaarder

Jostein Gaarder's Sophie's World is an excellent introduction to the world of philosophy for beginners. Through his characters' interactions, Gaarder informs the reader of the history and importance of different schools of thought.

Sophie Amundsen is a Norwegian teenager who receives two letters and a postcard addressed to a different name from a mysterious unknown sender. Soon after, he received more mail, a packet of articles introducing philosophy. Sophie soon discovers the identity of the sender, an ancient philosopher named Alberto Knox. Unbeknownst to Sophie's mother, she and Alberto continue to interact, with the philosopher teaching Sophie about the history of Western philosophy.

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Sophie's World is a great first philosophy book for those who want to delve into the subject. Readers learn alongside Sophie, making reading the book an incredibly immersive experience.

"Superstitious." What a strange word! If you believed in Christianity or Islam, that was called "faith." But if you believed in astrology or Friday the 13th, then it was superstition! Who has the right to call other people's beliefs superstitions?

2. The History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russel

The History of Western Philosophy is a comprehensive look at the greatest Western philosophers, from the Greeks to the giants of the 20th century. Russell's work is recognized and is still considered one of the most important and popular texts in Western philosophy.

“Uncertainty in the face of living hopes and fears is painful, but it must be endured if we are to live without the support of comforting fairy tales. It is neither good to forget the questions that philosophy raises nor to persuade ourselves that we have found unequivocal answers to them. To teach to live without certainty and yet not be paralyzed by vacillations is perhaps the most important thing philosophy can do in our day for those who study it.

Famous Philosophy Books

3. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius was a second-century Roman emperor and philosopher. His book Meditation is one of the most influential philosophical texts ever written.

Aurelius was a Stoic and explained the principles and applications of Stoic philosophy in meditations. According to Aureliusstoicismit means grounding yourself in reality and developing a deeper understanding of yourself for the benefit of all.

Stoics view emotions as valid but often irrational. They are phenomena that overwhelm the mind and distract us from our true purpose. Stoics cultivate mental clarity and emotional resilience to overcome the irrationality and pull of our emotions.

In the stoic outlook on life, all emotions, good and bad, can be distracting and must be dealt with with strength, clarity, and resilience. According to Aurelius and the Stoics, good emotions like joy and love can be just as distracting and destructive as bad emotions like sadness or anger. The wise understand that emotional states are fleeting and getting lost in them is a bit foolish.

“When something external weighs you down, the pain is not in the thing itself, but in your appreciation; and you can revoke this at any time.”

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4. Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche

In Beyond Good and Evil, a renowned German philosopher criticizes traditional moral conventions such as religion and the concept of free will. It examines the role and power of the individual and how concepts of good and evil are mere constructs that help us create a "Fest'vision of the world. This struggle for perseverance, according to Nietzsche, blinds us to the fact that life is an ever-changing flux.

Published after another of his most popular works, Also Sprach Zarathustra, which also deals with a similar subject. Nietzsche encourages the individual reader to search for his truth and to organize his thinking in a way based on his own experience of reality and not on constructions and concepts fed to us by a larger society.

“It is the business of very few to be independent; It's a privilege of the strong. And those who try, even with the best of rights, but without being forced to do so, show that they are probably not only strong, but also brave beyond all measure.

5. Tao Te Ching de Laotse

The Tao Te Ching is a book on the teachings of Taoism, an ancient Chinese philosophy based on the teachings of the Zen master Lao Tzu. It contains simple yet profound teachings about the nature of life and change. An ancient philosophy that is still relevant and applicable today, Taoism encourages us to let go of attachments and expectations and to see life in a continuous flow, like a river.

Simplicity, patience, and compassion are the cornerstones of the Taoist approach, and the Tao Te Ching shows us how to apply these concepts to our own lives. When we cultivate these qualities within ourselves, we come closer to the essence of the universe. These qualities help us to still the mind and ultimately release attachments to live more fully in the here and now. Taoism is itself a religious view, but it is fully applicable to secular life.

“Trying to understand is like fighting in murky waters. Please have a little patience! Stand still and let the mud settle."

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Philosophy Books of the 20th Century

6. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Care by Robert Pirsig

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance follows a middle-aged man and his young son on a motorcycle trip from Minnesota to California. the book is afictional busiographyby author Robert Pirsig, who made the trip with his son in 1968.

Pirsig's fictional travelogue makes you think. Throughout the book, the author raises important questions about how life should best be lived. It explores the concepts of mindful engagement with whatever you are doing and how that way of life is more fulfilling than choosing comfort or ignoring the small details of life.

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“The study of the art of motorcycle maintenance is really a miniature study of the art of rationality itself. Working on a motorcycle, working well, caring becomes part of a process of finding inner peace. The motorcycle is above all a mental phenomenon.”

7. Man's search for meaning by Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor. During his years in various camps, including Auschwitz, Frankl recounted his experiences. How could one find meaning in the most infernal of hells? Where could you find meaning and belonging when the world around you wants them gone?

Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning is one of the most important books of modern philosophy. Through the hardships of the Holocaust and the unimaginable trauma of those who suffered, including himself, Frankl explores that there may be no other purpose in life than the meaning we give to ourselves. It suggests that creating one's purpose is an act of creation to which we are entitled, and that without meaning one is destined to lose one's raison d'être.

Man's search for meaning. Frankl introduces the term logotherapy. According to Frankl, logotherapy is the therapeutic use of the search and discovery of meaning in one's own life.

"Everything can be taken from a man except one thing: the ultimate human freedom: to choose one's attitude in any circumstance, to choose one's way."

8. Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre was a French existentialist philosopher and playwright. In Being and Nothing he skillfully explores the concepts of perception, consciousness, self-deception and free will.

Explore what it means to be a conscious being and how we relate to the world and others. One of the main themes Sartre explores is the concept of freedom. According to Sartre, human beings are born free by nature, and every possible direction that life takes is not an anomaly but an expression of human potential.

The problem for humanity is that the very freedom that allows us to live our lives as we wish is also a source of great fear. If there is no set purpose, no Creator to impose his will on man, what is the point of existence anyway?

"Then there's no point in thinking about complaints, since nothing on the outside has decided what we feel, what we live or what we are."

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Advanced Philosophical Books

The following books are best suited for the experienced reader of philosophy books. They are dense and can be complex, so it's best to have a working understanding of the philosophy and concepts explored in each of these books before delving into them.

9. Meditations on the first philosophy of René Descartes

The famous phrase "So I think I am' Ö 'So I think I amIt comes from the French philosopher René Descartes in his book Meditations on the First Philosophy, first published in 1641.

In this renowned book, which for many Descartes 'the father of modern philosophy' explores six important concepts surrounding human life and the nature of existence. In the first meditation he explores the nature of doubt, going so far as to discard thoughts and ideas that cannot be recognized as ultimate truth, and instead encourages us to seek what we know for certain.

In the five meditations that follow, Descartes gracefully explores human nature, the existence of God, truth and falsity, the essence of substance (or "material things"), and the dichotomy of mind and body.

"A few years ago I realized how many untruths I had believed to be true in my childhood, and how very dubious was the whole edifice I later built upon them. I realized that if I wanted to establish something lasting and enduring in science, I would have to tear it down completely and start from scratch once in my life.

10. Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason

In his seminal work The Critique of Pure Reason, the 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant examines the most contrasting schools of thought in history: rational and logical thinking, also known as "First'Knowledge (knowledge acquired independently of direct experience) versus actual experiential knowledge, aka 'as a result“Knowledge (knowledge and understanding acquired through direct experience.

Kant's Critique of Pure Reason is not a philosophy book for beginners. It's hard to read and may take some time, but don't let that discourage you. A large number of abstracts deal with this important work, so it is advisable to read book reviews, commentaries or reviews before reading the book itself.

"The light dove, which in free flight cuts through the air whose resistance it feels, might get the idea that it could do even better in a vacuum. Likewise, Plato abandoned the sense world because it presented so many obstacles in the way of understanding, and he dared to transcend it on the wings of ideas into the empty space of pure understanding.

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Whether you are new to the world of philosophy or looking for inspiration to read your next book, the books we have included in this article will not disappoint.

From Marcus Aurelius to Jean-Paul Sartre, from Immanuel Kant to Viktor Frankl, and from the ancient wisdom of Lao Tzu to the arguments of René Descartes, you're sure to find as many new questions as answers in your quest for greater truth.

These great philosophers paved the way for a greater and deeper understanding of what it all means, so that you can read their works, think for yourself, and maybe even start working on your research.


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