10 Must-Read World Philosophy Books for Lifelong Learners

10 Must-Read World Philosophy Books for Lifelong Learners

To comprehend philosophy’s profound depth and diversity, one must engage with the minds that have shaped this field – the philosophers themselves. The best way to do this is through their written world philosophy books

Through these great world philosophy books, we not only gain access to the intellects and insights of these philosophers but also witness the evolution of philosophical thought across different cultures and eras. It’s a journey into understanding the human condition, society, and existence through the lens of numerous philosophical perspectives.

Philosophical investigation is indeed the root of all human knowledge. It is the foundation upon which we build our understanding of the world, ourselves, and our place. Through the ages, philosophy has been the bedrock of developing new concepts, reinterpreting old truths, and reconceptualizing fundamental questions. 

World Philosophy Books Provide a Gateway Into the Minds

For over two millennia, philosophy has not only progressed but has been a pivotal driving force for human progress. This intellectual endeavor, bold in its range and profound in its implications, has been captured in numerous world philosophy books that provide a gateway into the minds of the world’s most influential thinkers. 

In short, we live in a world philosophy has made. Every law, principle, and norm that governs our society has its roots in philosophical thought. From the democratic institutions we uphold to the scientific methods we employ, the underpinnings are undeniably philosophical. 

Even our values and beliefs, consciously or unconsciously, are shaped by the philosophical concepts inscribed in the world philosophy books we read. Thus, world philosophy books are not merely collections of abstract ideas but blueprints of our world.

My Favorite World Philosophy Books

Below, I have curated my favorite world philosophy books. These are not just simple philosophy books but rather a treasure trove of wisdom and insights, each offering a unique perspective on philosophical thought.

Each of these world philosophy books is essential for anyone wishing to delve deeply into the wisdom and insights of philosophical thought. They offer knowledge and a means of interpreting and understanding the world around us.

10 Must-Read World Philosophy Books for Lifelong Learners
Philosophy has been a staple of intellectual thought for centuries, its teachings shaping how we understand the world and our place in it. In "The World Philosophy Made: From Plato to the Digital Age," Scott Soames presents a sweeping overview of the discipline's evolution, from the ancient wisdom of the Greeks to its relevance in our modern digital society. Soames offers insight into the major schools of philosophical thought and highlights their relevance to contemporary debates about morality, politics, and the nature of reality. This comprehensive book is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the history and impact of philosophy on our world....
The Stranger, by Albert Camus, is a celebrated classic that has intrigued readers for decades. Told from the perspective of the enigmatic character Meursault, the novel explores themes of existentialism, individualism, and the absurdity of human existence. As Meursault navigates life with detached indifference and a lack of connection to others, readers are left questioning the very nature of being human. Camus' beautiful and haunting prose makes The Stranger a must-read for anyone exploring the depths of human consciousness. The novel's enduring legacy has cemented its place in the literary canon and continues to captivate readers to this day....
Plato's The Republic is a masterpiece of classical literature, hailed for its profundity and insight into the human condition. Written in a dialogue format between Socrates and his interlocutors, the work explores the concept of a utopian society and the characteristics of the ideal citizen within it. Yet this is not simply an abstract philosophical exercise, for the questions that Plato poses are just as relevant today as they were in ancient Greece: what is morality, what is truth, and what is the role of education in shaping society? With his trademark combination of allegory and lucidity, Plato paints a vivid picture of a society governed by wise and just rulers and, in so doing, establishes himself as one of...
Epictetus was a remarkable philosopher who defied the odds to become one of the most influential thinkers of his time. Despite being born into slavery, his writings and lectures have left an indelible mark on history. Discourses and Selected Writings offer a rare glimpse into the mind of this great intellectual. The transcribed collection of informal lectures was given around AD 108 and gave readers practical advice on living a fulfilling life, even in the face of adversity. Beyond its philosophical insights, the book is also an important example of the usage of Koine Greek, a language widely spoken during the Hellenistic period. Epictetus' work is a must-read for anyone interested in philosophy, history, or language....
Spinoza's masterpiece, The Ethics, is a masterpiece of completely logical reasoning that offers a comprehensive and insightful view of our world. Born from basic principles, this book provides a clear and compelling portrait of the nature of things and the path toward a life of ethical living. The book is structured in a step-by-step format that discusses the nature of God, the mind, the emotions, and the power of understanding. This book is a potent reminder of the power of contemplation and philosophical study to guide us toward redemption, and it has earned a place in Edwin Curley's standard translation of the text. Stuart Hampshire's introduction offers further context and insight into Spinoza's fascinating ideas. Overall, Ethics offers a powerful...
The world of philosophy is fascinating, filled with complex ideologies and theories that have shaped how we view the world today. At the center of this world stands Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy, a groundbreaking work that scholars have hailed as one of the most important philosophical texts of all time. In its pages, Russell takes us on a journey through the ages, exploring the works of some of the greatest minds in philosophy—from Plato and Aristotle to Spinoza, Kant, and beyond. Written by a man who was himself a philosopher of great repute, this book is a true masterpiece that has remained unmatched in the decades since its first publication. If you want to deepen your understanding...
Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason is a monumental work in philosophy that has profoundly impacted the study of metaphysics and epistemology. But it's not the only critique that Kant produced. In fact, the Critique of Practical Reason, his second critique, is equally significant, as it focuses on his moral philosophy and views on free will. It's regarded as a masterpiece of philosophical writing, in which Kant critically examines the use of reason in the moral domain. The theoretical use of reason was his primary concern, as it dealt with objects of the cognitive faculty alone. Kant approached this use of reason properly by applying a critical examination to the pure faculty of cognition. His insights have revealed that this...
Because it seems to provide nonexperiential knowledge of a nonphysical reality of numbers, sets, and functions, mathematics—while a model of precision and objectivity—appears to be separate from the empirical sciences. How may these two mathematical facets be balanced? This brief book offers a comprehensive, approachable introduction to the area of mathematics philosophy, which attempts to address that topic. One of the foremost experts in the field, Ystein Linnebo, presents all of the traditional methods as well as more specific topics including mathematical intuition, potentially infinite, and the look for new mathematical axioms. This book is crucial reading for all math and philosophy students and instructors since it is sophisticated while being understandable and accessible....
Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy has been a seminal work for more than nine decades. It gives the general background necessary for any serious discussion on the foundational crisis of mathematics in the beginning of the twentieth century. Requiring neither prior knowledge of mathematics nor aptitude for mathematical symbolism, the book serves as essential reading for anyone interested in the intersection of mathematics and logic and in the development of analytic philosophy in the twentieth century....

What philosophy books are worth reading?

Other those beautiful world philosophy books above, there are numerous philosophy books that are worth reading, each providing unique insights into the world of philosophical thought. A classic starting point is Plato’s “The Republic,” a foundational text in Western philosophy that grapples with questions of justice, the ideal society, and the nature of reality. 


For an introduction to Eastern philosophy, Confucius’ “Analects” provides a window into ancient Chinese thought, exploring themes of ethics, family, and governance. Descartes’ “Meditations on First Philosophy” ignites a journey of doubt and discovery, laying the groundwork for modern Western philosophical thinking. 


Each of these books and many others offer a unique perspective, enriching our understanding of philosophy and, in turn, the world we inhabit.


Which philosopher should I read first?


Deciding which philosopher to read first largely depends on your interests and the philosophical questions that intrigue you the most. However, a common starting point is Socrates, often considered the father of Western philosophy. Reading his works introduces you to the Socratic method, a form of argumentative dialogue which aims to stimulate critical thinking and expose the contradictions in one’s beliefs.


Plato, Socrates’ student, is another excellent starting point, particularly in his book “The Republic,” which explores justice and the ideal society. If you’re more intrigued by Eastern philosophy, Confucius could be your initial guides. Confucius’ “Analects” present insights into personal and governmental morality.


Remember, philosophy is a vast field with no strict sequence to follow. Start with the philosopher whose ideas resonate most, and continue your journey from there.


Are philosophy books worth it?


Absolutely, world philosophy books are more than worth the investment of time and thought. They offer a deeper understanding of the world and the human condition. Philosophy books illuminate the underlying principles and ideas that shape our society, morality, and individual perspectives.


Philosophy books challenge us to question, debate, and think critically, fostering intellectual growth and analytical thinking. Reading a philosophy book might not provide straightforward answers, but it will certainly equip you with the tools to formulate your interpretations and engage meaningfully with complex ideas. 


Whether you’re drawn towards the metaphysical musings of Kant, the existentialist explorations of Sartre, — every philosophy book opens the door to a new realm of understanding. In essence, philosophy books are not just worth reading; they are valuable journeys into the depths of wisdom and insight.


Who is the most difficult philosopher to read?


The degree of difficulty in reading a philosopher often depends on one’s familiarity with philosophical concepts and the context of the philosopher’s work. However, Immanuel Kant is widely recognized as one of the most challenging philosophers to read. 


His work, especially his magnum opus, the “Critique of Pure Reason,” is notorious for its dense and complex prose. 


Kant delves deep into abstract concepts concerning epistemology, metaphysics, and aesthetics, often utilizing a complex terminology of his creation. His rigorous and systematic approach to philosophy can be overwhelming, requiring readers to invest significant time and effort to grasp his ideas fully. 


Despite the challenges, wrestling with Kant’s work offers immense intellectual reward, as it forms the cornerstone of much modern philosophical thought. Thus, while Kant may be one of the more difficult philosophers to read, the profundity of his insights makes the endeavor worthwhile.


Who is the easiest philosopher to understand?


Identifying the easiest philosopher to understand can be subjective, as it often hinges on individual preferences and backgrounds. But commonly, Rene Descartes is considered one of the more accessible philosophers for beginners. His works, particularly “Meditations on First Philosophy,” use clear and straightforward language, making complex concepts more digestible for the uninitiated. 


In it, Descartes sets out to doubt everything he knows to arrive at some certainty, a process that readers can easily follow and engage with. His famous proposition, “I think, therefore I am,” embodies his clear and direct approach to philosophical inquiry. 


Another philosopher known for his accessibility is John Locke, whose writings on empiricism and human nature are widely considered straightforward and understandable.  Locke’s “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding” is an excellent starting point for those new to philosophy.


However, it’s important to remember that what one finds easy or difficult can vary greatly. It’s always worth exploring different philosophers and philosophical texts to find what resonates most with you.


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Ali Kaya


Ali Kaya

This is Ali. Bespectacled and mustachioed father, math blogger, and soccer player. I also do consult for global math and science startups.