Friday, August 12, 2011

Some Philosophy Books

Since I will have the opportunity to introduce Greek and Roman philosophy in my courses, I've been giving some thought to the books that formed my own philosophical outlook. It occurred to me that many people, who want to do philosophy, may lack an entrée into the discipline.

As the ancient, medieval, and modern canon* is (or ought to be) well-known to the liberally educated person, I've limited myself to books that might reasonably be called secondary sources or books that are reckoned---by me---to be generously illustrative of the Western tradition. (I leave altogether to one side the distinction between a philosopher who uses philosophical history to philosophize and a historian of philosophy.) I've appended a list of books written by non-academic philosophers; the authors of these books are, to my mind, wise to an exemplary degree and typify the lover-of-wisdom in the contemporary era. You won't learn a great deal about any one thinker or movement in their works; but perhaps even more than the other books, you'll glimpse what it means to live a philosophical life.

* (If unfamiliar with the canon, that deficiency can be redressed by looking to the historians of philosophy --- Copleston and Brehier below --- for a comprehensive survey.)

I've tried to provide a list that addresses, in sum, the prime branches of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. Natural philosophy, political philosophy, psychology, and logic are addressed only tangentially. It is, in short, an idiosyncratic catalog of my own interests and education, a catalog perhaps broad enough to accommodate others' curiosity and interest in the discipline.


* Etienne Gilson

Being and Some Philosophers

The Unity of Philosophical Experience

God and Philosophy

* Jacques Maritain

An Introduction to Philosophy

Degrees of Knowledge

* Pierre Hadot

Philosophy as a Way of Life

* Frederick Copleston, SJ

A History of Philosophy (11 vols.)

* Karl Jaspers

Way to Wisdom: An Introduction to Philosophy

* Leszek Kolakowski

Metaphysical Horror

Why is There Something Rather than Nothing?

* Iris Murdoch

Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals

* Charles Taylor

Sources of the Self

A Secular Age

* Emile Brehier

The History of Philosophy

* Alasdair MacIntyre

After Virtue

Whose Justice? Which Rationality?

* Josef Pieper

Leisure, the Basis of Culture

* Alvin Plantinga

God, Freedom, and Evil

Movements, Thinkers, Epochs

* Roger Scruton: Modern Philosophy; Kant: A Short Introduction

* Pierre Hadot: What is Ancient Philosophy?; Plotinus: The Simplicity of Vision

* A.E. Taylor: Plato: The Man and His Work

* Etienne Gilson: The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy; The Christian Philosophy of St.Thomas Aquinas

* Ernst Cassirer: The Philosophy of the Enlightenment

* Leszek Kolakowski: The Main Currents of Marxism

* Jonathan Lear: Aristotle: The Desire to Understand

* Robert Sokolowski: An Introduction to Phenomenology

* Charles Taylor: Hegel

* Julian Young: Schopenhauer; Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography; Heidegger, Philosophy, Nazism

* William Richardson, SJ: Heidegger: Through Phenomenology to Thought

* Werner Jaeger: The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers

* W.K.C. Guthrie: A History of Greek Philosophy (6 vols.)

* David Roochnik: Retrieving the Ancients: An Introduction to Greek Philosophy

* Babette Babich: Nietzsche's Philosophy of Science: Reflecting Science on the Ground of Art and Life

* John Caputo: How to Read Kierkegaard

* Frederick Beiser: German Idealism: The Struggle Against Subjectivism (1781-1801)

Books You Probably Won't Find in the Philosophy Section

* E.F. Schumacher: A Guide for the Perplexed

* Viktor Frankl: Man's Search for Meaning

* Wendell Berry: Life is a Miracle

* C.S. Lewis: The Abolition of Man

* Richard Weaver: Ideas Have Consequences

* Ivan Illich & David Cayley: The Rivers North of the Future: The Testament of Ivan Illich as Told to David Cayley

* G.K. Chesterton: St. Thomas Aquinas

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