Private Profiles - an update on how they will be changing here
We've partnered up with to offer a space where you can talk directly to Peter from and get an exclusive discount code for a free job listing. If you are recruiting or know anyone else who is please check out the forum here.

Books and links for beginner philosophy

  • 10-04-2004 11:55pm
    Closed Accounts Posts: 658 Trebor

    Ok people, am really interested in philosophy but don't know were to start can anyone recommend some titles to read?




  • Closed Accounts Posts: 4,731 DadaKopf


    If it's general introductions you're looking for, one thing to keep in mind is that very often, what you're getting is the author's idea of what's important in his/her opinion, often, some important thinkers and even entire movements can be left out. All the same, any good introduction is better than none, and you can always dive in deeper later on.

    A History of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell is always considered a classic. Still, a lot of it is his opinion and not as impartial as you might like. Plus, it's huge. You might also like to check out 'The Problems of Philosophy', Russell's classic that accessibly aims to raise and explore those big questions,

    This is probably very good as the series it's part of is deadly.

    The Oxford Companion to Philosophy is an excellently compiled reader, including writings by philosophers instead of people writing about philosophers.

    I'd paste more but svchost.exe just crashed and I can't copy and paste anything now, but this 'The Great Philosophers: An Introduction to Western Philosophy' by Bryan Magee is probably very goos 'cos it's published by Oxford.

    Seriously, though, those comic introductions to philosophy are really good and very informative and those short introductions to philosophy that specialise on individual thinkers are excellent also, but are really rediculously pricy.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 658 Trebor

    thanks DadaKopf will look them up :)

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,135 KlodaX

    to be a beginner philopoher would you not just come up with an idea... research the idea to see if its out there .. find holes in the arguments ... which then inevitably lead on to different ideas and just keep snowballing from there untill you are a 'philosopher'?

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 4,731 DadaKopf

    Kind of hard to 'research' an idea you don't know is out there in the first place if you don't read up on who got there before you, eh?

    Apart from the fact that it can just be a pleasure to read about philosophy.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,151 ✭✭✭ Thomas from Presence

    I found my Oxford Dictionary Of Philosophy a most useful little book when you're not down with the lingo.

    They were selling these in Hodges Figgis on Dawson Street for a mere €5 recently and they looked like a nice way into the whole thing!

    Bertrand Russells book is very useful in that it also places the trends of thought in their proper historical socio-political contexts making it a lot easier to see how progressive trends of thought arose.

  • Advertisement
  • Closed Accounts Posts: 50 ✭✭✭ Seamie

    Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder is a very accessible introduction to western philosophy, written in the form of a novel. Tis a nice easy engaging read.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 4,731 DadaKopf

    Aye, Sophie's World is very good. The story's a bit mingin' but the philosophy bits are good.

    The other thing about that Russell book is that it's not very up to date. Since it was written, a number of influential contemporary trends/branches have popped up in philosophy which he wasn't, um, really alive to write about. Some of it is a little archaic.

    Trebor: head along to Hodges Figgis or Waterstones, they have good philosophy sections, and find a decent general introduction - anything published by Oxford, Blackwell or Routledge should be good. You should probably steer clear of pop philosophy like Alain de Botton's yokes, 'cos they're a waste of money.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,254 chewy

    my opinion on this which ill gently add with a sledgehammer:)

    does one want to learn about the theories of philosophers or about oneself

    ie what philosphy is about,

    firstly i'd go for books that describe the ideas not the philosophies or the philosophers...

    is there any books that would help you examine yourself and practice the tenants of philsophy which i think are
    learning about yourself and observing the world better

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 658 Trebor

    thanks all for the info. will go into Hodges Figgis & Waterstones during the week to have a look.

    am interested in learning about philosophy not sure if i want to be a philosopher :D

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,005 MeatProduct

    Hi Trebor,

    What topics are you interested in?


  • Advertisement
  • Closed Accounts Posts: 658 Trebor

    am a rank amateur when it comes to philosophy, but i would be interested in the whole religion debate aswell as how morality is determined by the majority and how what was acceptable is not now.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,005 MeatProduct

    Originally posted by Trebor
    am a rank amateur when it comes to philosophy, but i would be interested in the whole religion debate aswell as how morality is determined by the majority and how what was acceptable is not now.
    I think you should give yourself more credit. I think a good debate would be religion Vs spirituality. Spirituality is so much more empowering.
    Morality, hadnt' really thought about it in relation to the majority, I'd certainly like to discuss that. There's two topics that could be started off, I'm sure you'd get plenty of views on it!


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 852 m1ke

    - that site is pretty good for when you need some quick info on a philosopher or want to know bits and pieces about references you might come accross.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,362 ✭✭✭ blobert

    Throughout the four years of my philosophy degree (which really wasn't very much fun) I think I must have read pretty much every beginers guide to philosophy in an attempt to understand what was going on.

    Two of the best, both by the same author, were "Philosophy, the basics" and "Philosophy the classics" (Nigel Warburton - Routledge Books)

    The first is a great overview of many of the basic concepts and thoughts in philosophy. The second is a summary of many on the most important/famous works.

    While Americans tend to get quite a hard time for being stupid, I always prefered their academic books, especially in philosophy. Mr Warburton explains things very simply and clearly, two concepts that tend to be missing from most philosophical works!

    Anyway, either or both of these books is/are a great place to start

    Russell's History of Philosophy is, as others have said, pretty good too, though rather hefty!

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 531 juno75

    steer clear of pop philosophy like Alain de Botton's yokes, 'cos they're a waste of money

    I picked up the consolations of philosophy without knowing anything about the subject and it had a proufound effect on the way I look at life.
    He may be, as you say 'pop' but it is highly accessable and from him I have dug far deeper and am still digging. He open up a world I was not aware was there.
    From his name dropping I was able to get a basic grip on who is who.
    Of course its not a proper academic introduction but I HIGHLY recommend him, in conjunction with more wieghty tomes.No matter how many letter you got after your name.
    I probably would never have read any books on this subject had I not ,by chance picked up that book.
    nuff said .respect to de botton.

  • Registered Users Posts: 505 NightStrike

    Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder is a very good book for beginners. It reads kind of like a novel but explains everything and really gets an interest in the subject going. I'd recommend it to anyone

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 6,602 ferdi

    The solitaire mystery by Jostein Gaarder, i prefer it to sophie's world. its a little childish in places and not in others but then again plenty of adults read hairy porter.

    i'm doing philosophy in college, i always find these sites usful:

    edit/ maybe a sticky with good philosophy sites like this might be usful simu?

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 4,731 DadaKopf

    Where are you doing philosophy? What year are you in?

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 6,602 ferdi

    dont know if i'm meant to give you this but here are the Notes and Readings by Year for the Philosophy debt in UCD, could be useful for people thinking of taking it up in college.

    ucd philosophy notes

    in particular first year would be useful:

    if you take the time to read through some of these i think you will find it very interesting.

  • Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators Posts: 10,500 Mod ✭✭✭✭ ecksor

    I don't know if this will be cringed at, but I read I think, therefore I laugh by John Allen Paulos last year or the year before and enjoyed it a lot. Certainly not tough going either.

  • Advertisement
  • Closed Accounts Posts: 10,737 ✭✭✭✭ simu

    I was reading a book called "Modern British Philosophy" by Bryan Magee over the weekend. It's based on a radio series he did for the BBC and consists of a series of interviews with British philosophers and philosophers working in Britain about their own work and the work of other philosophers. It's got interviews with Gilbert Ryle, Peter Strawson and Karl Popper to name but a few and discusses such topics as linguistic philosophy, analytic philosophy, Wittgenstein, Bertrand Russell and his opposition to linguistic philosophy, Ryle on the mind-body problem and more. In brief, it seems like a pretty good intro to British philo from the start of the 20th century to 1970 (when it was published). It's fun to read, especially the interviews where there are two or three philosophers disagreeing on topics! And there's also a pretty comprehensive bibliography for each interview at the end.

    I'm not sure if you can buy it new anymore (I just found it in my parents' summer house) but if you see it in any 2nd hand shop, it's worth a look!

  • Registered Users Posts: 15,813 ✭✭✭✭ Pherekydes

    Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

    Read all you can. And think about others' arguments with a cold, clinical mind. In particular, look at politicians' arguments. Look at them from an ethical angle and from a logical angle.

    The advantage of doing a formal course in Philosophy is that you will learn Logic. It's a great tool.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 10,737 ✭✭✭✭ simu

    This is, basically, a philosophy magazine for people with an interest in but not necessarily an in-depth knowledge of the subject. Here's what the makers say about it. I saw it in Eason's in Galway so it should be available in other parts of Ireland too. The issue I got focused on consciousness and seemed to be pretty accessible and varied in its content.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,394 ✭✭✭ Transform

    Totally agree with the Alan de Botton comment - was my first intro philosophy and it gave me the peep through the key hole to study practical philosophy further through the John Scotts School of Philosophy

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 13,331 ✭✭✭✭ Orion

    Check out the reading lists in the Oscail course handbook:
    (300k pdf file -

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 111 ✭✭ Dooid

    I think the best place to start with philosophy is with the daddy of the them all, Socrates, i.e. Plato. Get yourself, 'The Symposium,' by Plato it's the business and really approachable. It's a dialogue that describes a drinking party that Socrates and his friends have where they all make speeches about love. Socrates boyfriend crashes the party at one stage. Its a great place to start. Let me know what you think, if you like it I can recommend loads of other books.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1 God ha ah

    Ok i suggest you start with
    René Descartes this man was a master at maths and philosophy too good to mention everything but lets just say hes great
    Friedrich Nietzsche now most students that read / do philosophy never get to the real understanding of this mans ideas take the time to do so you will know your there when you feel very very very depressed.
    Then Richard Dawkins now he is not a philiosopher but a great scientist and athiest,--- his two best books are
    The Selfish Gene and A Devils Chaplin //well worth the read
    Someone in the board said
    A History of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell i would say this is a must
    The pre-Socrates philosophers are a mind of wonders i really like Pythagoras
    he believed justice would be repersented by the number 2 the first even number "justice is even". rumor has it he killed one of his students when he proved there existed a square root of 2 wich works out to be roughly 1.4 which he thought was proof that justice could be corrupt i dont know how true this is but its a nice story all the same
    well if you finish that book your on a good track to becoming a good philosopher but still dont forget that most philosophers, believe it was the first science and science is the new philosophy they are closely related thats why i suggested Richard Dawkins but remember you dont need to read much be a philosopher in fact id say a truly empty mind would be a great place to start then fill it with a little knowledge and see how u go

    In order to improve the mind, we ought less to learn, than to contemplate.
    Rene Descartes

    Darwin's Evolution by natural selection is a great read too and yes it is science but there is an element of philosophy in it too.

    good luck on your quest
    i hope you figure out the universe.

    The reading of all good books is indeed like a conversation with the noblest men of past centuries who were the authors of them, nay a carefully studied conversation, in which they reveal to us none but the best of their thoughts.
    Rene Descartes

  • Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators Posts: 10,500 Mod ✭✭✭✭ ecksor

    God ha ah wrote:
    rumor has it he killed one of his students when he proved there existed a square root of 2 wich works out to be roughly 1.4 which he thought was proof that justice could be corrupt i dont know how true this is but its a nice story all the same

    The controversy wasn't that the square root of 2 existed, but that it was proven to be irrational. In other words, when it was discovered that you could not write the square root of 2 as a fraction.

    It was a messenger that was killed after delivering the news to someone else if I remember the story correctly, after pythagoras or one of the pythagorean school sent news of the discovery to someone else. They killed the messenger to prevent news of the discovery getting out. I don't know if that's where the phrase "killing the messenger" came from.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 4,184 neuro-praxis

    God ah ha, it was Augustine, in Against the Academicians, that first reached the conclusion "I think therefore I am".

    Plus, I'd say go with Gould over Dawkins.

  • Advertisement
  • Closed Accounts Posts: 79 ✭✭✭ lost_lad

    The Passsion of the Western Mind by Richard Tarnas. and a good dictionarry.

    I'm new to philosophy but this book gives a fantastic in chronological order history of philosophy in the west from greece to now. I have been reading it and now know what i would like to learn more of and what i would like to steer clear of, for now.