Philosophy discussion

Books and Authors > Philosophy Books For Beginners

Comments Showing 1-38 of 38 (38 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Matt (new)

Matt Brian (m4tt) | 3 comments Hi guys,

I wish to read more philosophical works and have a more grounded introduction rather than throw myself in the deep end and come out more confused than when I went in. Would you be able to suggest any books for me to ease myself into the world and writings of Philosophy?

message 2: by Clayton (new)

Clayton Littlejohn (cmlittlejohn) | 1 comments If you're looking for a sort of general introduction, I'd say Blackburn's Think is good. It sets out some interesting problems in a way accessible to people who haven't read much philosophy. He doesn't insult the reader's intelligence and it's not as dry as other introductory works I've seen. You might also like his book on Truth.

message 3: by Elyse (last edited Apr 03, 2008 04:01PM) (new)

Elyse (elysedraper) | 3 comments In my experiences many general topic philosophy books can only scratch the surface of these complex concepts. May I ask what area you are trying to explore; (some examples may be)ethics, theology, communication, definition, societal issues?

One point to never forget; don't let the grand concept of "philosophy" intimidate you...the definition of Philosophy is literally 'the study of wisdom' as a reader you've already taken the first steps.

message 4: by Morteza (new)

Morteza | 1 comments I dont want suggest anything! i have just lots of questions which I've tried to answer since I was 11! I'm now 17 and seeking for God,life, reasons! can u help me! I've thought on philosophical matters or better not to classify it in my idea! I've thought on Life so much as if I dont want to study! or dont want to enjoy life! can you people help me to get out of this situation! I'm realy sad! cause I'm so behind! I also like math (I'm not good at it, mark:60) so much, astronomy, physics,... like everything that can answer to my questions!!! I haven't studied lots of books in philosophy! so do not address me to some books or other things by names!


message 5: by Matt (new)

Matt Brian (m4tt) | 3 comments To be honest, I have been leaning towards theological books in the past so that might be a good topic to explore in more detail.

message 6: by Elyse (last edited Apr 10, 2008 08:30PM) (new)

Elyse (elysedraper) | 3 comments To start in theology you may want to look at Thomas Aquinas...his Natural Law philosophy is truly the beginning of the beginning in Christianity in particular Catholicism. Many of his arguments are dated and lack in valid rhetoric, but they are an interesting and insightful read.

You might like the basics in virtue ethics as well; I’d recommend The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle.

If your interest does in fact lean toward Christianity; of coarse there is also the classics, such as The Divine Comedy, and/or Paradise Lost. For introduction purposes they can be a good read, and you'll find many references back to them in your more intense philosophy books. If you are looking in other areas of theology as well, let me know.

Ultimately though you might want to consider what you want to get from your reading...history, theory, debate, or just conceptualization. These might be a good place to start though.

Good luck!

message 7: by David (new)

David | 2 comments I've recently sort of arbitrarily run into a couple of books that were theology-ish and good reads. I did Philosophy in college but I don't think you would need a background in it to understand them..

The first is God's Presence in History, by Emil L. Fackenheim, which is about the Jewish conception of God in history and how Judaism is structured around that; the second is The Sacred and the Profane, which tries to give a general account of what Religious Man's existence is like compared with your typical secular modern guy of today. I forget the author just now.

These aren't necessarily Great Books of Philosophy, but I found them to be interesting and readable, which may be more important. I mean, if I were just starting out and my first book was anything by Aristotle, I'd probably make it to about page 4 and then throw the book across the room. Go ahead an crack open an Aristotle tomb and you'll see what I'm talking about. (That said, the Socratic dialogs by Plato are very readable and pretty entertaining, especially the earlier ones..)

message 8: by Elyse (new)

Elyse (elysedraper) | 3 comments I grudgingly agree with David; Aristotle can be a pain to trudge through...but the concepts in his virtue ethics are extremely easy to comprehend.

The idea of picking up Philosophy books with a comfortable reading format is an excellent place to start… to avoid frustration. You're right those would probably be a good beginning.

message 9: by Matt (new)

Matt Brian (m4tt) | 3 comments Thanks ever so much for your comments, I will look to buy a few books as soon as I have finished the 5 waiting for me on my bookshelf!

message 10: by Tyler (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 444 comments And on the book list is another one entitled Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy by Simon Blackburn. It comes in at about 320 pages, and the reviews on it are good.

message 11: by Jimmy (new)

Jimmy | 67 comments May I suggest The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant or Basic Teachings of the Great Philosophers by S E Frost Jr. They are made for beginners. So many people point to Durant as the writer who turned them on to philosophy. For me it was Durant and Frost.

By the way, what did you eventually end up reading?

message 12: by Tyler (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 444 comments Those sound like good recommendations, Jimmy. We didn't agree on any one book because we haven't been doing any group reading. But adding these to the bookshelf will make members aware of them, and I use the "currently reading" display to highlight relevant books anyway.

message 13: by Desgreene (last edited Aug 17, 2010 05:43PM) (new)

Desgreene | 19 comments I have written a novel whose purpose is to introduce modern concepts of philosophy to an audience in an non-academic manner that doesn't threaten or induce frustration. It's called "The Island" - if you want I can give you a free coupon to download it. I'd love to hear the feedback of someone newly acquainted with the ideas of philosophy.

message 14: by Greg (new)

Greg | 2 comments @desgreene I'll give it a once over if you'd like.

message 15: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 140 comments Matt wrote: "Hi guys,

I wish to read more philosophical works and have a more grounded introduction rather than throw myself in the deep end and come out more confused than when I went in. Would you be able ..."

A couple of suggestions.

For starters, Bertrand Russell's The History of Western Philosophy.

Will Durant The Story of Philosophy.

If you like listening to lectures in your home and have a few extra bucks or can get it on interlibrary loan, the Teaching Company, , has an excellent overview course, "Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition." These courses go on sale at least once a year, which is the time to buy them; this one happens to be on sale at the moment.

Mortimer Adler has several useful introductory books. Try his Six Great Ideas or Great Ideas from the Great Books.

For individual philosophers, the series by Paul StrathernPlato/Aristotle/Kant/Hagel/et. al in 90 minutes isn't bad. Not great, certainly, but not bad.

For a useful website, try

Those should get you off to a good start. But start with Bertrand Russell or with the Teaching Company course. Or both.

message 16: by Brian (new)

Brian (brian-nj) | 24 comments I just wanted to give another vote of confidence for Think by Simon Blackburn.

I read Think recently and loved the cohesive and smoothly segueing chapters. Despite having read many books on philosophy I still find getting some kind of meta-narrative useful to shake congealing ideas loose from my brain, so as not to become too docile in one theory of knowledge over another.

My introduction to Philosophy was Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy. I do recommend it, but it has its Russellian tilt to it. Russell's history really covers a tremendous amount of history and is an excellent starting position for anyone.

message 17: by Tyler (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 444 comments Thanks Brian. Here's a link to the book:

Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy

I've also added it to the "currently reading" section so more members can see it.

message 18: by Kari (new)

Kari | 3 comments "The Oxford Illustrated Historie of Western Philosophy" by Anthony Kenny, is a good way to start. And Bertrand Russell is exellent.

message 19: by Tom (last edited Sep 04, 2012 11:00AM) (new)

Tom (mcdonald928) | 31 comments Matt wrote: "Hi guys,

I wish to read more philosophical works and have a more grounded introduction rather than throw myself in the deep end and come out more confused than when I went in. Would you be able to..."

The absolute best place to start is A Beginner's Guide to Philosophy by Dominique Janicaud. Janicaud explains the core and perennial themes of philosophy in a clear but also sophisticated manner. He writes and communicates just as clearly as the best of Anglo Analytic type philosophers but without their bias toward the narrow-minded empiricism which has hobbled philosophy in the English-speaking world throughout the 20th-century.

Anglo Analytic philosophy has its merits (e.g., producing Wittgenstein) but has suffered from having made the discipline into a dry-as-dust and merely academic exercise, mere logic-chopping, cut off from real, human, existential concerns about the meaning of being, human history, and our political and ethical lives and concerns.

Janicaud is a living example of how the post-Kantian tradition continues to serve the classical and perennial mission of philosophy to speak to these dimensions of life so sadly ignored by Analytic philosophy. In illustrating this he makes philosophy relevant and accessible to a general audience.

Stay away from Anglo sources which do not treat Kant or post-Kantian thinking appropriately: as *the* pivotal development in modern philosophy. Janicaud explains Kant in proper but accessible terms.


Best regards,

message 20: by Celine (new)

Celine Haddad | 1 comments Sophie's world might be a gd start

message 21: by Suzie (new)

Suzie Dodd | 2 comments Hello!
There are some good reading suggestions here, but I wondered is there a book(s) on the representations of animals and our relationship to them? I'm well aware of Descartes and the experiments he carried out on animals, but I'd like to read up on more modern contemporary thinking on the ideas of Animal Rights and the arguments for 'non-person' status.
Any suggestions?
Thank you.

message 22: by Stephie (new)

Stephie Williams (stephiegurl) | 78 comments Suzie try books by Peter Singer, and Derrick Parfit is also good on what constitutes personhood

message 23: by Suzie (new)

Suzie Dodd | 2 comments Steven wrote: "Suzie try books by Peter Singer, and Derrick Parfit is also good on what constitutes personhood"
Thank you, Steven.

message 24: by Billy (new)

Billy Candelaria (azriel) | 7 comments Look for "Socrates to Sartre: A History of Philosophy" by Samuel Enoch Stumpf is good book to start with.

message 25: by Feliks (last edited Nov 21, 2014 09:14AM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 120 comments Kinds of Minds: Towards an Understanding of Consciousness
Very engaging and easy to read.

..listed a slew of other 'starter' books somewhere else in this group..aha, here:

message 26: by Goetz (last edited Dec 07, 2014 06:26AM) (new)

Goetz Kluge (goetzkluge) | 4 comments Thinking It Through: An Introduction to Contemporary Philosophy is a good start.

Then there is the Mahásatipatthána Sutta. It helps to get the right input for thinking. (When reading it, keep in mind, that those repetitions, which are boring to us, had a purpose: Around 2500 years ago only few people couldn't read and write. They learned texts by listening rather than by reading.)

Besides that, learning the little lambda calculus was an interesting experience to me. The lambda calculus was developed by Alonzo Church in 1932. Initially learned it just to understand the background of functional programming. You may look at it as a language with just two rules which theoretically could describe everything in mathematics. Practically you won't do that, but it teaches you how important it is to start with a few good rules. In Programmation fonctionelle I found the best (at least for me) quick introduction, but there should be lots of good introductions available in English too.

message 27: by Sajith (new)

Sajith Buvi | 5 comments Philosophy is like sugar. Sugar cannot be treated only as intellectual conceptualization. It must be tasted.

The Only Permanent Solution to All Human Problems is the Rational God

message 28: by Phil (last edited Jan 08, 2017 05:20PM) (new)

Phil (turbulent_architect) I've always felt that the best way into philosophy was to begin with something contemporary, accessible, and fairly urgent, for example, texts touching on questions in bioethics, treatment of animals, religious diversity, the tenability of religious faith, value-pluralism, globalization, the epistemic status of scientific knowledge, etc.

Keeping with this approach, I would recommend books like:

Peter Singer: Animal Liberation
Peter Singer: Rethinking Life and Death
Peter Signer: Famine, Affluence, and Morality
Daniel Dennett: Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon
Daniel Dennett: Science and Religion
Stephen J. Gould: Rocks of Ages
Anthony Appiah: Cosmopolitanism
William E. Connolly: Why I am Not a Secularist
Bertrand Russell: Why I am Not a Christian

Once you have found an issue that you find particularly troubling or urgent, read similar and related texts. Bibliography-surfing is always helpful here. Philosophy has a way of expanding out toward interrelated questions and will quickly lead you down a rabbit-hole of research and cause you to familiarize yourself with all sorts of aspects of it, both contemporary and historical.

This was more or less my own trajectory. I read Singer in first year of university. I was attracted to his position but found the grounds of his utilitarianism somewhat dubious. This led me to the classical utilitarians - Bentham, Mill, Sidgwick, but also to Singer's doctoral supervisor, R.M. Hare. Hare led me to Aristotle's and to Kant's ethics, the latter of which I am studying in depth for my M.A. thesis. Hare's ordinary language philosophy quickly led me to Gilbert Ryle and, through him, to the phenomenology of Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty. Hare's thought also encompasses religious questions. This pushed me to read contemporary analytic philosophy of religion, which in turn led me to the question of religious diversity in a political context, and so to Charles Taylor and Jürgen Habermas, who also feature prominently in my thesis. Understanding Habermas is now leading me to familiarize myself with pragmatics.

Because of this interconnectedness, I tend to think that the most important thing is to find a line of inquiry that will motivate you. So long as you are asking questions and trying to answer them, the rest will take care of itself.

Contrary to some suggestions that have been made, I tend to think that reading a general introduction to philosophy is usually a waste of time, unless you are just looking for a general sense of what philosophy is about without really wanting to get involved in serious philosophical issues. That being said, I highly recommend an introduction to critical thinking. Critical Thinking: An Introduction to the Basic Skills by Hughes, Lavery, and Doran is particularly good.

message 29: by Alex (new)

Alex (biseptol69) I started with Nietzsche's "Ecce homo"

message 30: by Gerard (new)

Gerard | 30 comments Elyse wrote: "To start in theology you may want to look at Thomas Aquinas...his Natural Law philosophy is truly the beginning of the beginning in Christianity in particular Catholicism. Many of his arguments are..."

I think Augustine has every right to disagree with this analysis! Aquinas was working within a long tradition and admitted so. In fact much of his worked was based on the idea of trying to summarise previous theological thought. The very fact he called his great work the Summa Theologica (Summary of theological thought) means he knew this.

message 31: by Gerard (last edited Sep 03, 2019 10:37PM) (new)

Gerard | 30 comments Kari wrote: ""The Oxford Illustrated Historie of Western Philosophy" by Anthony Kenny, is a good way to start. And Bertrand Russell is excellent."

Kenny's book is good but not for the faint hearted. Four volumes summing to many, many hundreds of pages.

Russell is, how shall we say this politely...idiosyncratic, entertaining, amusing and on some topics so flat out wrong it's clear he just doesn't get what the original philosopher was trying to say (in particular the european rationalists of the 16 and 17 hundreds. In fact Kenny, above, said something along the lines of "Only Russell could have written this book and many of us wish he hadn't."

message 32: by Gerard (new)

Gerard | 30 comments Alex wrote: "I started with Nietzsche's "Ecce homo""

Lolz. That must have been a shock.

message 33: by Zordd (new)

Zordd | 1 comments can anyone recommend me a book for philosophy for beginners.I want to read about philosophy in much detail.
thank you in advance.

message 34: by Jack (last edited Jul 10, 2020 02:55AM) (new)

Jack Pilgers (jackpilgers) | 11 comments Jack's Path

@Zordd - This book is written with the beginner in mind, it's based around a medieval pilgrimage, but takes in the main key themes of philosophy.

message 35: by Karen (new)

Karen Z | 3 comments hey guys! im looking for a philosophy read that isn't too complicated and too dictatory? does that make sense? im tired of reading educational philosophy in uni and just want a good read!

message 36: by Michael (last edited Jan 08, 2021 10:09AM) (new)

Michael | 28 comments it never hurts to begin with plato's 'the republic'... RE Allan's translation...The Republic

message 37: by Gary (new)

Gary Merrill | 3 comments Let me recommend two of the best and most readable books available that will provide you with a good foundation of the basic questions, problems, and potential solutions regarding philosophy from a contemporary analytic perspective. You can then move on from there.

The first of these is Richard Taylor's little (~150 page) book Metaphysics. And the second is W.V. Quine's and Joseph Ullian's The Web of Belief. The metaphysics book gives you an easily understood and painless introduction to problems and attempted solutions in that area of philosophy -- and a solid base from which to proceed further. The Quine/Ullian book provides a likewise painless and understandable approach to epistemology (the theory of knowledge) -- dealing with the concepts of belief, justification of belief, and knowledge. It is also an excellent basic introduction to the fundamentals of the philosophy of science.

I have used both these books repeatedly in teaching introductory philosophy courses, epistemology courses, and philosophy of science courses. In addition, you cannot (in general) go wrong with the books (like the Taylor Metaphysics) that are in that Prentice-Hall or Pearson series. Another would be Frankena's Ethics, to provide you with the basics of ethics.

message 38: by Jason (new)

Jason Merchey | 1 comments I'm willing to give away a free e-book or print book(if preferred) to someone willing to give an honest book review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Here is the summary of the book:

"Philos sophia" is ancient Greek for the love of wisdom, and is the precursor of modern philosophy and psychology. As a "lover of wisdom," author Jason Merchey brings a refreshing array of insightful and interesting quotations (and personal reflections) to this deep and wide investigation into the nature of wisdom.

No one can thoroughly and completely manifest wisdom, but clearly a person who has a better understanding of and appreciation for the fascinating phenomenon will perceive their world as less complex, more fulfilling, and easier to navigate. Furthermore, in momentous political and social times such as we are living, there is no better tool for individuals, communities, and society to make progress than wisdom.

Blending philosophy and neuroscience, psychology and personal growth, this substantial read brings great thinking to life. The interesting research findings, unique personal perspectives, and compelling quotes in this book have the potential to assist an earnest reader in making wisdom their greatest strength. Anyone aiming to build a life of value -- one of purpose and happiness -- should consider wisdom to be their blueprint for success.

back to top