Do you love reading philosophy? If so, you're in luck, because there are a ton of great philosophy books to choose from.
To help you get started, we've compiled a list of the 20 best philosophy books of all time.
You'll find everything from introductions to the subject or to read with more complex ideas. You'll also find both ancient texts by philosophers such as Plato to newly written reads.
This allows you to start where you want and increase your knowledge as you go!
Written by: Viktor E. Frankl
Published: 2014 (Original publish date: 1946)
In this book, Frankl argues that the meaning of life is something that each individual must discover for themselves. According to Frankl, the meaning of life is not something that can be found in external sources, but rather it is something that each individual must create.
This is because the meaning of life is something that is unique to each individual and cannot be prescribed by another person.
Frankl believes that everyone has the responsibility to create their meaning in life and that this meaning can be derived from even the most difficult experiences. As someone who survived a Nazi concentration camp, he knows of what he writes here.
Man's Search for Meaning is an essential book for anyone seeking to understand the importance of creating their own meaning in life.
Written by: Richard Dawkins
In The God Delusion, biologist Richard Dawkins sets out to examine the evidence for and against the existence of God. He begins by looking at the definition of God, noting that there are many different concepts of deity that have been proposed over the centuries.
He then turns to the question of whether there is any evidence for the existence of God, examining both scientific and philosophical arguments.
In the end, Dawkins concludes that there is no compelling evidence for the existence of any deities and that believing in God is nothing more than an act of faith.
While some may find his arguments convincing, others will undoubtedly disagree with his conclusions. However, it is an important work that forces readers to critically examine their beliefs about religion and those who don’t believe in anything.
Written by: Sarah Bakewell
This book by Sarah Bakewell does an outstanding job of chronicling the history of existentialism.
The book begins with a brief overview of the philosophical movement before delving into the lives and works of some of its key figures, including Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Friedrich Nietzsche.
Throughout the book, Bakewell highlights the ways in which existentialism has shaped our understanding of freedom, being, and other concepts central to human experience.
In doing so, she offers readers a unique and insightful look at one of the most influential philosophical movements of the twentieth century and how they are still applicable in today’s world.
Written by: Albert Camus
Published: 2000 (Original publish date: 1942)
Albert Camus presents a philosophically absurdist view of the human condition.
Camus argues that the human condition is one of futility and meaninglessness through the story of the ancient Greek character Sisyphus, who is condemned to endlessly roll a boulder up a hill only to have it roll back down again.
However, Camus also offers a glimpse of hope, suggesting that humans can find meaning and purpose through rebellion and defiance despite the inherent absurdity of existence. In this way, The Myth of Sisyphus is both a philosophical treatise and an existentialist manifesto.
Though seemingly bleak in its assessment of human life, the book provides a powerful and thought-provoking exploration of the human conundrum.
Written by: Friedrich Nietzsche
Published: 1999 (Original publish date: 1887)
In the book, Nietzsche examines the origins of morality and argues that it is not based on objective truth but rather on subjective preferences.
He also critiques the Judeo-Christian tradition, and its emphasis on altruism, which he believes leads to self-denial and ultimately to self-loathing.
While some have accused Nietzsche of advocating amoralism, he argues that morality can only be understood in light of its history and that it should be evaluated based on its usefulness rather than on absolute principles.
It is a complex and challenging work that has significantly influenced moral philosophy.
Written by: Lao Tzu
Published: 2000 (Original publish date: 1961)
The Tao Te Ching is a book that has been cherished by many for centuries.
It is a book that can be read and understood on many levels. On one level, it is a simple book of teaching, full of wise sayings and proverbs.
On another level, it is a book of deep philosophy exploring the mysteries of life and death. But on the deepest level, it is a book of spirituality, providing guidance on living in harmony with the Tao. And, even if you don’t believe in it, you can apply it to your life by questioning what is fact or fiction.
In whatever way you choose to read it, the Tao Te Ching provides timeless and ageless wisdom.
Written by: Simone de Beauvoir
Published: 2000 (Original publish date: 1947)
Simone de Beauvoir presents a philosophical exploration of the inherent ambiguity of human existence. She observes that every individual is faced with a certain amount of uncertainty in life and that this is unavoidable.
In order to live ethically, de Beauvoir argues, we must learn to embrace this ambiguity and accept that it is an inherent part of being human.
And in addition to that, we must also learn to respect the individual autonomy of others, even when their choices may differ from ours.
By doing so, we can create a more just and equitable society. In conclusion, this book is a thought-provoking work that challenges us to consider the ethical implications of our actions.
Written by: Hannah Arendt
Published: 1998 (Original publish date: 1958)
In her book The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt discusses the different ways in which humans interact with the world around them. She argues that humans engage in three different types of activity: work, labor, and action.
Work is necessary for the production and upkeep of the physical world. Labor is essential for the upkeep of the human body, and action is critical for humans to interact.
Each type of activity has its own set of distinct characteristics. For example, work is typically done for its own sake, while labor is generally done to receive a paycheck. On the other hand, action is usually done to achieve a particular goal.
Arendt's book provides a detailed analysis of each type of activity and how it relates to philosophy and life. It is incredibly useful to consider what stage you are at, no matter what you are doing, and how it affects you and others.
Written by: Will Durant
Published: 1991 (Original publish date: 1926)
This book was initially written by Will Durant and published in 1927.
The book tells the story of Western philosophy from the pre-Socratics to the 20th century. Durant divides the history of philosophy into three parts: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern. In the first part, he covers the period from Thales to Aristotle.
In the second part, he covers the period from Augustine to Thomas Aquinas
In the third part, he covers the period from René Descartes to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Whether you are new to philosophy or have been reading it for decades, this book will give you something new to think about every day. Durant was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for this work in 1927.
Written by: Nigel Warburton
This wonderful book is an engaging and accessible introduction to some of the Western tradition's most influential thinkers and ideas.
The book begins with a brief history of philosophy, tracing its origins back to the ancient Greeks. From there, Warburton moves on to discuss the primary schools of thought that have shaped philosophical thinking over the centuries.
He covers everything from Plato and Aristotle to Kant and Marx and makes complex concepts easy to understand. We especially liked it since it looked at people like Marx, who is often forgotten in the world of philosophy.
The result is a fascinating overview of a subject that is essential for anyone who wants to understand the Western intellectual tradition.
Written by: Alan Watts
Published: 2009 (Original publish date: 1966)
This book is a thought-provoking work that challenges readers to question their assumptions about self and identity.
In it, Watts argues that the root of much human suffering is our inability to see ourselves clearly and that the main reason for this is the taboo against knowing who we are.
This taboo is rooted in our fear of death, which leads us to try to create an artificial self that can be defended against the awareness of our mortality. However, this leads to a split between our true selves and our artificial identities, causing tension and anxiety.
Through a close examination of different philosophies and religions, Watts shows how this split can be healed, and we can come to know ourselves more fully as a singular being.
Written by: Benedict de Spinoza
Published: 1996 (Original publish date: 1677)
Benedict de Spinoza was a Dutch philosopher who was considered one of the most influential figures in the Western philosophical tradition. His magnum opus, Ethics, was published posthumously in 1677.
The work is a systematic attempt to derive all the implications of a single fundamental principle: that the only source of knowledge is through reason.
Spinoza's rationalism led him to believe that the world is determined by an absolute and eternal reality, which he called "God or Nature." Ethics is an ambitious attempt to provide a complete ethical system on this basis.
Although it was not well received in his lifetime, Spinoza's work has profoundly influenced subsequent philosophers, including Immanuel Kant and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.
Written by: Bertrand Russell
Published: 2007 (Original publish date: 1945)
First published in 1945, A History of Western Philosophy is still considered one of the most critical works on the subject.
In it, Bertrand Russell surveys the significant philosophers from Ancient Greece to the 20th century, explaining their ideas and how they have influenced our thinking. He starts with the pre-Socratics, who laid the foundations for Western philosophy and then moves on to Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.
He then discusses the major philosophical movements of the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Enlightenment.
Finally, he examines the work of such modern thinkers as Kant, Hegel, Marx, Freud, and Wittgenstein. A History of Western Philosophy is not only a classic work of scholarship but also an invaluable introduction to the history of ideas.
Written by: Jean-Paul Sartre
Published: 1956 (Original publish date: 1943)
This book is considered one of the most important works of existentialism, and it had a significant impact on the development of philosophy in the 20th century.
In Being and Nothingness, Sartre argues that their relationships with others define humans and that they can only find meaning in their lives through their interactions with others.
He also asserts that humans are unique among all other animals because they are aware of their own mortality, and this awareness gives rise to a sense of anxiety and dread.
Being and Nothingness is a complex work, and philosophers have widely debated its ideas. However, its impact on the field of philosophy is undeniably one of the most powerful reads in the field.
Written by: Henry David Thoreau
Published: 2007 (Original publish date: 1849)
This may seem like a strange book to have on a list about philosophy, but it is a worthwhile read and makes sense since it focuses on the human condition.
Hailed as one of the first and most influential American protesters, Thoreau's essays explore topics such as individual conscience, civil government, and the nature of democracy.
In it, Thoreau argues that citizens have a duty to disobey unjust laws. This essay was immensely influential in shaping the nonviolent resistance movement led by figures such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
In addition to the main story, this collection includes Thoreau's essay on the Duty of Civil Disobedience, Natural History of Massachusetts, Slavery in Massachusetts, and others.
Written by: Alain de Botton
Alain de Botton's The Consolations of Philosophy is a unique and insightful work exploring the lives and teachings of some of history's greatest thinkers.
In doing so, de Botton offers readers a new way of looking at life and its challenges. He argues that the consolations provided by philosophy are not simply abstract concepts but real and tangible ways of overcoming life's difficulties.
For example, the Stoic philosopher Seneca teaches us that not external events cause us distress but our own reaction to them.
By understanding this, we can learn to control our emotions and maintain our stability in the face of adversity. Similarly, Epicurus reminds us that death is nothing to be feared; indeed, it should be seen embraced. Thinking in this style, we become freed from the physical and can become more evolved and open to changes.
Written by: Joseph Campbell
Published: 1993 (Original publish date: 1972)
In this insightful book, Joseph Campbell explores myths' role in our lives. He argues that myths are more than just stories; they are a way of understanding and making sense of the world around us.
Campbell believes that everyone has their own personal myth, which shapes their worldview and influences their actions. While some people may be aware of their mythology, others may not be as conscious of it. However, whether they realize it or not, everyone is affected by myths.
Myths can provide comfort and guidance in times of trouble, and they can inspire us to achieve great things. In short, they are an essential part of what makes us human.
As Campbell says, " Myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human manifestation.”
Written by: Martin Heidegger
Published: 1962 (Original publish date: 1927)
Being and Time is considered one of the most important philosophical works of the 20th century. In it, Martin Heidegger sought to rethink the concept of being fundamentally.
Previous philosophers tended to think of being a static, unchanging category. Heidegger, by contrast, argued that being is constantly in flux, always in the process of becoming.
Because of this, Heidegger's work has had a profound impact on 20th-century philosophy, and his thought has been influential in several different fields, including existentialism, hermeneutics, and deconstruction. This has led some to interpret Being and Time as an early work of existentialism. However, others have criticized it for its apparent embrace of nihilism.
But despite these criticisms, the book remains a pivotal work of modern philosophy, and its influence can be seen in much of contemporary thought.
Written by: Plato
Published: 2003 (Original publish date: 375)
Republic is a Socratic dialogue written by Plato around 380 BCE concerning the definition of justice, the order, and character of the just city-state, and the just man.
It is Plato's best-known work and has proven to be one of the most influential philosophies and political theory works. The dialogue takes place between Socrates and several other men, including Socrates, among others.
Throughout the course of the dialogue, Socrates argues that justice is more than mere obedience to the state's laws; instead, it is a virtue that should be pursued for its own sake.
He also contends that the just city-state would be ruled by a philosopher-king, who would be able to lead the citizens to evolve and leave behind the physical.
Written by: Ryan Holiday
The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday is a book comprised of 366 meditations on wisdom, perseverance, and the art of living.
Each of the meditations deals with philosophy and the great thinkers of their time. The topics of the meditations range from dealing with difficult people to handling failure. Each meditation is relatively short, making it easy to read one every day.
The book also includes quotes from a variety of famous figures, including Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus.
In addition, there are several helpful illustrations throughout the text. Overall, The Daily Stoic offers readers practical advice for incorporating stoicism into their everyday lives.