In fact, Voltaire revolutionizes the thought of happiness in this little tale: instead of looking for it in the Hereafter (that promise all religions), happiness is to be found “here and now”. Here’s why: whatever book you pick, whatever author you start with, you’re probably not going to understand most of what you read the first time you make your way through it. Before being a field of study, it is above all a way of seeing the world, of questioning it. He asks that Good is the supreme goal of life, and the Good is the object of the politics. Mary Wollstonecraft, Vindication of the Rights of Women10. Sartre defends his major thesis (man is condemned to be free) and place the consequences on the notions of conscience, compared to others, responsibility, bad faith. In the early days of history, almost all human knowledge could fit into a single academic ... 2) Why philosophy can be hard to read. He or she is a philosopher acknowledged almost universally in the profession of being of first importance!” My answers to this would vary, depending on the figure being proposed. Letters From A Stoic by Seneca. The columns of the site are open to external contributions. In fact, were the situation reversed — and I was the reader looking over a similar list you provided — I would likely raise some objections on my own part! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with reading secondary literature. But if you read the Tao, understand the Tao, become the Tao, which is the union of all philosophies, your wisdom mind will awaken and there will be no ideas beyond your understanding. The same caution goes, by the way, for any neat division of thought into historical periods or movements. That by itself is sometimes quite mind-blowing. This post appeared originally in Common Sense Ethics. Philosophy is definitely not — despite this being a catchy phrase, and setting aside that Whitehead is otherwise a quite brilliant thinker — anything remotely like a set of footnotes to Plato! He also weaves together elements and arguments from Platonic, Aristotelian, and Stoic philosophy within a broader Christian context without ever mentioning Christianity. And given how important his teacher, Socrates, was in Plato’s own philosophical development, why not begin with these dialogues that set out the drama of Socrates’ trial, conviction, imprisonment, and execution? If you don’t follow this rule, you might well end up reading Hegel and being upset with him for not placing everything into the “thesis-antithesis-synthesis” schema some hack told you Hegelian philosophy was all about! Existentialism is a Humanism is a great text. When people ask where they ought to begin in reading philosophy I always suggest starting with Plato. This is the ultimate meaning of the famous “We must cultivate our garden.”. (There’s also another sort of secondary literature that practically nobody who isn’t a professional in the field reads — the sort of books and scholarly articles that focus on particular thinkers, movements, topics, or texts — but other than mentioning that, we needn’t discuss that any further here.). And if all deserve our attention, some prove to be both necessary and accessible. Best of all, they are (hopefully) designed for first-time students with no background in philosophy. But for someone just beginning, I think those three treatises provide a better place to start. Quite a few people express worries whether they are really up to the task of reading and understanding classic or contemporary philosophical texts. Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy6. In fact, even the fluffiest of philosophy-lite airport kiosk books that more name-drop philosophy than actually discuss it — even that — can become the equivalent of a gateway drug to the harder (and far better) stuff. Epictetus, Discourses, Fragments, Handbook4. Each of them is a kind of genre, and is restricted by the scope of that format. The fact that you can call Rousseau a “romantic” does not mean that term really helps you grasp Rousseau’s thought. Dialogues, treatises, lecture notes, letters, stories, conversations, poetry, disputed questions, meditations, collections of aphorisms, polemics. When encountering Rene Descartes, you could go with his Discourse on Method, but when there’s sufficient time available, I prefer to have students encounter him through his Meditations on First Philosophy. But it’s also one that I get asked pretty regularly. Anselm is better known for his Proslogion (which contains one version of what has come to be called the “ontological argument”) and for his Cur Deus Homo (which contains an innovative and influential account of the atonement and incarnation).