We often hear people talk about their philosophy of life. Many such philosophies facilitate people's survival in society. Is there a God? What is truth? Do we have free will? Such fundamental questions, when wrestled with, become philosophical questions. This pondering and questioning are what we call philosophy. It is a theoretical understanding of the reason for a phenomenon.
Philosophy is questioning and wondering about existence, values, reason, mind, language, etc. When such questions arise in mind, they need to be satiated by finding a possible explanation. In a way, it is theoretical problem-solving. There have been various methods of philosophy in the history of humanity. These methods include questioning, rational argument, critical discussions, and systematic presentations.
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With so many books available in the world right now, choosing a book can be a daunting task at times. This buying guide will assist you in deciding the right book according to your taste.
The best books are the ones that blow your mind with the simplest of ideas. God's Debris is one such book. A book does not need to be filled with complicated ideas and fancy vocabulary to be good. Also, the ideas mentioned in a philosophical book must be relatable and easy to comprehend.
While selecting the best 10 books for you, we kept this criterion in mind. We have included only the books that do not have any complex or esoteric ideas. The authors of these books appeal to the masses for the very same reason.
Philosophy can be difficult to comprehend at times. Most classic texts are not written in modern English, and therefore, need to be translated. Sometimes the essence or meaning is lost in translation.
The right way to approach the dilemma of reading the primary or the secondary text is to read the secondary text with caution first. Even if some ideas get polluted, the gist will remain the same. Subsequently, you may read the primary, classic texts too.
For example, the classic Indian or Hindu philosophy has a 'Sampradaya' system, but the modern-day translations are called Indological system. You can know the basic philosophy by reading modern authors, but it has to be done cautiously. This may intrigue you to learn Sanskrit and read the classic texts - Vedas, Upanishads, and Puranas.
Before picking a book to read, you need to know what you are seeking from that book. If your aim is to be entertained, then fiction would be the right genre for you. However, if you are looking to answer fundamental questions about life, society, or existence, then you must pick books on philosophy.
There have been many philosophy writers in the world, and each one of them has their own view of life. Online sources like Goodreads and LibraryThing give you a good insight into a book and its author. You can go through these reviews before starting to read a book on philosophy.
These sources have genuine reviews from people who have already read these books and probably have a similar mindset like yours.
A book needs to form a connection with its readers. A reader can form a bond with a book with more ease if he's convinced that the author is a learned person and has authority over the topic.
In the case of books on philosophy, authors like Aristotle, Plato, and Nietzsche come to mind as they have stood the test of time. This brings a lot of credibility to any author. If a book about philosophy is written by an author with little experience of life, he or she won't be able to tell you anything substantial about your questions.
Again, online sources like Goodreads contain information about the author and his or her previous works. Knowing the background of the author can bring a better reading experience for you.
Audiobooks are the latest fad in reading. Well, technically, you won't be reading. People are getting busier each day. With so much to manage, it can be hard to find time to read. An easy solution to that is audiobooks.
You can play a book while working out, driving to work, trying to sleep, etc. This way, you won't have the excuse of not finding any time for reading books. We strongly suggest that everyone must read a little every day.
This reading can also come in the form of listening. It can be a real stress-buster, and you also won't have to strain your eyes for a long duration. This is a great way of reading books, especially for those who wish to develop a reading habit.
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Secrets to a Perfect Society
Examine the Nature of Happiness
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Melody in a Battlefield
Discourses, Fragments, Handbook
Have the Power of Will
Memoir of a Catholic Saint
The Consolation of Philosophy
Philosophy the Saviour
Anselm and Thomas Williams
Three Philosophical Dialogues
Know the Relationship Between Freedom and Sin
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
Declaration of Female Independence
On the Genealogy of Moral and Ecce Homo
Learn the History of Ethics
Meditations on First Philosophy
Remove the Pre-Conceptions
It is said that "All of philosophy is a footnote to Plato", meaning that every philosophical idea after Plato is a reaction to Plato's work. The Republic is considered Plato's best work. This book is a series of dialogue between Plato and other Athenians about justice and a just individual.
This book is written in a Socratic manner, which means that there is a line of questioning that Plato addresses. They discuss various regimes and different cities to realise a utopian state ruled by philosophers. It is probably the most read philosophical book in the world.
Aristotle is regarded as one of the greatest thinkers of all time and has left a lasting impression on particular Western thought. In this book, he discusses the true nature of happiness. He argues that happiness lies in moral virtues such as courage and generosity and intellectual virtues such as knowledge and wisdom. This is a fascinating take on happiness - one that makes you think.
This book also discusses the true nature of practical reasoning. Aristotle talks about the importance of objects of pleasure, different forms of relationships and friendships, and individual virtue. This book is a typical example of the Aristotle school of thought, something that every seeker should read.
We cannot get over this book and its significance! Bhagavad Gita can be categorised under Philosophy because it is filled with questions about life and existence. In a way, it reflects the Hindu or Sanatani philosophy in a nutshell. Arjuna was facing a lot of predicaments when he entered the battlefield against his cousins. Krishna, his chariot driver, answers these questions in the midst of chaos and guides him towards the right thing to do at the time.
Almost everyone turns towards philosophy to find answers to life's meaningful questions. The dialogue in this book between Krishna and Arjuna will make you feel like you are asking the questions. It is a great book for a true seeker of knowledge. This book is known to declutter your mind and do things of value.
Epictetus gives a great insight into the Stoic ideals. Stoicism is a system in the philosophy that logically explains the significance of being immune to any emotion. This might sound coldhearted, but Epictetus reflects on his life and how he used the power of will to do the impossible.
He was a slave who was exiled by Emperor Domitian. His pupils then transcribed his ideas on ethical dilemmas. He cleverly uses humour, imagery, and analogies to connect with a broad audience. His teachings result in universal justice and calm indifference in a painful experience.
Confessions is one of the most influential works of Latin literature. The author, Saint Augustine, wrote this book in his forties. He reflected on his past life to see what shaped his mind. Augustine believed that Virgil and Cicero, Neoplatonism, and the Bible gave structure to his thought.
He was a skilled writer and has skillfully explained his philosophical and theological questioning of the concept and idea of God. In this memoir, he goes on to discuss what is it to be a human being. This book is quite popular among students of Latin literature, theology, and church history.
The circumstances that this book was written in makes it particularly interesting. Boethius was an eminent figure in the regime of Theodoric, the Gothic emperor. He got involved in a conspiracy that led to his execution by the emperor. Before his execution, Boethius found solace in Greek philosophy.
This book is a dialogue between him and the philosophical books that he read during that time. This book is written in a prose and verse form, in which he takes instructions from philosophy about fortune, happiness, good, evil, fate, and free will. It is said that after getting answers to these questions, he restored his health and got enlightened.
These three dialogues are renowned for their dialectical structure and linguistic precision. He discusses the definition of freedom of choice as the power to preserve morally correct behaviour. Anselm talks about the fascinating implications of God, human beings, and angels.
Each of the three dialogues in this book is a conversation between a teacher and a student and begins with a quote from the Bible. The intention of this book is clearly of understanding the idea of God and existence.
Mary Wollstonecraft is considered a pioneer in the women's rights movement. At a time when women were seen as docile, she laid out the principles of equality for them. She strongly voiced her opinions on education for boys and girls and end of prejudice. She can be termed as the first "feminist" in the world.
She vouched for the increased representation of women in society. She also stressed treating women not as women but as human beings first as, according to her, this would naturally create an equal society with time. Many modern-day feminists use Wollstonecraft's ideas and ideals to push their causes.
This book by the renowned Friedrich Nietzsche discusses the history of morals and ethics. He believes that ethics come from a history of cruelty, which led to the exposure of Judaeo-Christian values - compassion, equality, and justice. Many disquieting issues are discussed in this book about the violence of ethics and interpretation.
He even goes as far as claiming that religion and science do not have authority over absolute truth. Nietzsche's other works also question the lineage of every behaviour or tradition. The Genealogy of Morals was written to question his own presuppositions. It is a highly acclaimed book even by modern thinkers.
This book has six meditations, out of which the first one throws every belief out of the window. This book is written in a way that it seems like the author had meditated for six days, and each meditation refers to the previous one as "yesterday". He tries to bring his metaphysical state and form it into a philosophical one.
Further, he tries to understand the human mind and its various urges. Discussing God, he also expresses his realisations of truth and false. It is a very interesting read and is still read by a lot of intellectuals, who consider this as a philosophical guidebook.
If you’re someone who doesn’t like reading books but has a longing for the fundamental questions of life, you can start with this podcast. In this podcast, Sam Harris discusses such basic questions about life.
There are many more topics as well; watch the video to know more!
Philosophy cannot answer every question for you. In fact, not every question has a theoretical answer. Many things need to be experienced in order to be realised. These experiences can come from traditional practices like yoga and meditation. Read the following books on meditation and spirituality to master these skills and experience transcendental reality.
Philosophy studies the fundamental nature of knowledge, wisdom, God, existence, among many other things. Being philosophical means that one has a guiding principle for his or her behavior. Reading various authors can be overwhelming as they give their own principles of leading life. You must carefully analyse what is it that you are looking the answers for before picking up a book.
We hope this article made your decision easier. Happy reading!
No. 1: Plato | The Republic
No. 2: Aristotle | Nicomachean Ethics
No. 3: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada | Bhagavad Gita
No. 4: Epictetus | Discourses, Fragments, Handbook
No. 5: Saint Augustine | Confessions
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