If you had to philosophize…

For some reason, Philosophy is the least understood of all subjects in the Humanities as a choice of study that someone would consciously take up. I’ve always had a hard time explaining to people what Philosophy is about or indeed why one should ever study it in the first place. Plenty of people have asked me for a good book on Philosophy that will “give them a broad and general idea”, and I have rarely been able to comply with this request.

Its not that books like this do not exist, several do and some are excellent as well. The trouble with me, is the acceptance of the idea that an entire discipline can be summarized in one book. Its like asking a Historian to recommend one complete book on all facets of History.

Normally, in situations like this I tell people I’m willing to point them to books they should read on Philosophy which cover at least some substantial philosophical thought in original. This too is a terribly deficient way of readind up on Philosophy, but it appears to me, to be better than the alternatives.

Here’s a list of Philosophical writings (or texts if you like) that are on my essential reading list (fifty titles) for Philosophy. Several of these don’t classify strictly as texts of philosophy, some deal with language, science, physics and even literature.

  1. Plato – The Republic, The Symposium and The Apology
  2. Aristotle – Nicomachean Ethics, The Politics
  3. Epicurus – Sovran Maxims
  4. Cicero – On Friendship and Old Age
  5. Marcus Aurelius – Meditations
  6. St. Augustine – Confessions
  7. Severinus Boethius – The Consolation of Philosophy
  8. Desiderius Erasmus – In Praise of Folly
  9. Thomas More – Utopia
  10. Niccolò Machiavelli – The Prince
  11. Nicolaus Copernicus – Revolutions of Celestial Orbs
  12. Francis Bacon – The Advancement of Learning
  13. René Descartes – Meditations of First Philosophy, Discourse on Method
  14. Thomas Hobbes – Leviathan
  15. Blaise Pascal – Thoughts
  16. Baruch Spinoza – Ethics
  17. Isaac Newton – Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy
  18. John Locke – An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
  19. Gottfried Leibniz – Monadology
  20. George Berkeley – Principles of Human Knowledge
  21. David Hume – Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
  22. Jean- Jacques Rousseau – The Social Contract
  23. Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations
  24. Immanuel Kant – The Critique of Pure and Practical Reason, The Metaphysics of Morals
  25. Jeremy Bentham – Principles of Morals and Legislation
  26. Thomas Paine – The Rights of Man
  27. Mary Wollstonecraft – The Vindication of the Rights of Women
  28. Le Marquis De Sade – Philosophy in the Boudoir
  29. Auguste Comte – Positive Philosophy
  30. Carl Von Clausewitz – On War
  31. Hegel – The Philosophy of Religion
  32. Arthur Schopenhauer – The World as Will and Idea
  33. Marx and Engels – The German Ideology
  34. John Stuart Mill – On Liberty , A System of Logic
  35. Henry D Thoreau – Walden
  36. Charles Darwin – On the Origin of Species
  37. Friedrich Nietzsche -Beyond Good and Evil
  38. William James – Varieties of Religious Experience
  39. Sigmund Freud – Psychoanalysis
  40. Albert Einstein – Relativity
  41. Ludwig Wittgenstein – Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
  42. Adolf Hitler – My Struggle
  43. A. J. Ayer – Language, Truth + Logic
  44. Jean-Paul Sartre – Existentialism as Humanism
  45. Alan Turning – Computing Machinery and Intelligence
  46. Karl Popper – The Logic of Scientific Discovery
  47. Thomas Samuel Kuhn – The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
  48. Simone de Beauvoir – The Second Sex
  49. Fyodor Dostoevsky: Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, The Brothers Karamazov
  50. Franz Kafka: The Trial, The Castle, Metamorphosis

There are probably many many more that should have made it to this list, still, I think anyone looking to read Philosophy beyond the mere crash course should look at these.

6 thoughts on “If you had to philosophize…

  1. @Varna: thanks for my comments being welcomed on your blog,Tehelka featured him in a bad or good way? any reference on net, im kind of lost…..if its a Mag, a scan might help me not becoming a ghost, thinking i shoukd have read that!!!! 🙂

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  2. @Gosay: Just looked him up. Tehelka had featured him a while back. Looks like an interesting mishmash. Though I daresay this is more spirituality than philosophy. Nevertheless ‘Mind is a Myth’ makes for fascinating reading….

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  3. Hi Varna, im still wondering you are processing so much of information, am i jelous or awestruck i have no idea how to express it, but never mind, have you ever heard about UG krishnamurti?, please youtube on him, he is one of the best thinkers so far i encountered .

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