What is the meaning of life? What happens to human beings after we die? Is there a god or a higher power? These are just a few philosophical questions that haunt us.
The fact of the matter is, no one really knows the answers to all the mysteries and secrets of the world and the universe, about life and death and how we got here. The common anxieties we have about life, death, morality, virtue and beyond are discussed in philosophy books by some of the greatest thinkers. However, whether or not they’re something to be believed in is up to you and the gut feelings you have about it.
When it comes to philosophy books and trying to understand the mysteries of life, other big questions are: what should I read? Is any of this information accurate? Philosophy books are a great way for you to get inside the mind of the greatest thinkers and learn their wisdom and interpretations of different movements, ideas, topics, and how everything connects.
With that being said, these are some of the best philosophy books about life, love, death, god, and everything in between.
Best Philosophy Books For Beginners
When studying philosophy for the first time, these are some primary texts you should add to your to-read list:
Greek philosopher Aristotle was notable for his ideas on virtue ethics and the theory of the soul. Metaphysics is his western philosophy idea, theory, and philosophical thought of God’s existence and the metaphysic study in relation to other sciences.
This is another one of Aristotle’s classics. This philosophical book discusses life, but more specifically: how to live well and with a virtuous character. He touches on important topics of courage, justice, wisdom, values, and virtues, and so much more.
Plato was a student of Socrates and a teacher of Aristotle who discussed the idea and definition of justice for man. Plato’s Republic could be considered a political philosophy book because it’s so intellectually and historically influential on existing rulers.
Socrates was a philosopher from ancient Greece and one of the greatest figures in western civilization during the 5th century B.C. Plato, a student of Socrates, provides this classic account of Socrates’ final days of life.
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher who studied and discussed major philosophy ideas, such as epistemology, ethics, metaphysics, and more. In this book, he presents the concepts of morals, values, and the duties of a human being.
Arthur Schopenhauer was one of the greatest philosophers and metaphysicians to ever live. This essay was a section in his final work, Parerga und Paralipomena (1851), and it discusses will, independence, strength, and the impulse of man when wanting to achieve success — life’s highest form of pleasure.
Not only was the author, René Descartes, a great philosopher, but he was also a scientist and mathematician too. This modern philosophy book, published in 1641, discusses topics that will forever be a mystery to us, like God and the human mind.
Tao Te Ching is an eastern philosophy series of meditations by Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher and writer. It’s perfect for those who want to know more about yoga philosophy or the Tao and how it’s guiding light for all. This is a favorite book of many meditation lovers!
Friedrich Nietzsche is a well-known moral philosopher and essayist who studied and discussed life’s most important subjects, like morality, history, power, consciousness, and more. Developing his idea on the morality of man, this is a great introductory book into modern philosophy.
In this philosophy book, author Richard Dawkins discusses his theory on natural selection. He forces readers to rethink their beliefs on life, death, and the savage competition and deceit of human beings existing in nature.
Sun Tzu was a Chinese general and military strategist, writer, and philosopher. This book is an influential text discussing topics of strategy and wisdom and is even considered one of the most important books of all time.
Confucius was a Chinese moral philosopher and politician who emphasized morality, justice, and kindness. He developed what is now known to be Confucianism, a system of thought and behavior. Analects are a collection of his sayings: beliefs on how people should live as well as ideals on wisdom, courage, love, and virtue.
This fiction novel follows the life of Sophie, a fourteen-year-old who is obsessed with life’s haunting questions: who are you? Where do you come from? Is there life after death? She enrolls in a course and learns about some of the greatest philosophers and the truths they address, in all its beauty, mystery, and complications.
This book is considered to be one of the most important western philosophy books of all time. Exploring the critical thinking of the greatest philosophers, like Socrates, Kant, Schopenhauer, Aristotle, and more, this can provide clarity for anyone learning about philosophy.
This book provides an understanding of philosophy through the ideas of the greats, like Kant and Nietzsche. It’s a great introductory text, especially for students who are understanding the influence of philosophy in politics, sociology, literature, anthropology, and psychology.
Best Philosophy Books About Life, Death, Morality and other Philosophical Ideas
Author Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emperor from 161-180 CE. His book Meditations is written in twelve books, all centered around his ideas and opinions on stoic philosophy and how to improve one’s life.
This book by Scottish philosopher David Hume is considered to be one of the most significant books in the history of philosophy. In A Treatise of Human Nature, he discusses skepticism, moral issues, and human understanding of virtues, justice, promises, and obligations.
This three volume series from Arthur Schopenhauer is one of the most important philosophical works of the nineteenth century. In this, he discusses happiness, emotional desires, and the idea that a human’s inner experiences, driven by Will, are the most pivotal.
Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor. His book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is considered to be one of the greatest books of all time. In this, he talks about his experiences in Nazi concentration camps and his exploration of human Will in the midst of all obstacles. It’s an inspiring, complex, challenging, and significant piece of writing.
Pierre Hadot was a French philosopher and historian who focused mainly on Neoplatonism. In Philosophy as a Way of Life, he presents a discussion on Socrates, Christianity, different conceptions of philosophy, and the fate of theory.
This narration starts as a simple motorcycle trip between a father and son, and takes a turn into a personal and philosophical story discussing all the fundamental questions about life and humanism. First published in 1974, this book inspired a generation.
Simone de Beauvoir was a legendary French writer, philosopher, political activitst, and feminist. The Second Sex is a powerful masterpiece about the notion of woman. Her discussion is pioneering and vital. This is a must-read book!
Seneca was a Roman philosopher and a leading figure during the mid-1st century CE, guiding the Roman Empire through his stoic philosophy. These letters depict his ideas of Stoicism: the wisdom and courage of man, humanity and its cruelties, and the dignity of the human mind.
Ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus was born into slavery and lived his life with a pshyical disability. Despite these setbacks, he maintained the belief that people should be free to control their lives and live in peace and harmony. Enchiridion of Epictetus provides stoic ethical advice for those seeking contentment.
Although we know Socrates’ philosophy and ideas, we don’t know much about his life and who he is. This is a book that combines storytelling and historical inquiry about Socrates and his life in Athens during the fifth century B.C. and what experiences he had that shaped his beliefs.
With the beliefs of Chinese scholars and philosophers, you can learn how to improve your life through transformation, good relationships, and influence. Dive into the world of Chinese philosophy and go search for the Good Life.
Immanuel Kant published Three Critiques: Critique of Pure Reason, Critique of Practical Reason, and Critique of Judgement. The second volume, Critique of Practical Reason, explores the ideas of practical philosophy and moral theory, which is used to live a more reflective life.
Michel de Montaigne, also known as Lord of Montaigne, was one of the most significant philosophers of the French Renaissance. His Essays reveal his thoughts on religion, humans, sexuality, cannibals, and other themes that might tiptoe around being controversial subjects. These essays are great for modern philosophy study!
If you’re looking for a book within the modern philosophy genre and about politics and governments, The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli is for you. Discussing his perspectives on powerful rulers, monarchies, colonies, and the treatment of conquered peoples, this is a fresh and direct text. It’s often read by students and scholars.
Jean-Paul Sartre discusses one of the most popular and rarely understood dilemmas to ever exist: modern existentialism. He proves a vivid analysis of this philosophical question and the philosophy movements of every age. It’s profound, aspirational, and forceful.
This essay explores the tricky concept of existentialism, but more specifically: suicide and the question of living in a world devoid of order and meaning. Albert Camus’ text provides insight into despair, living with authenticity, and reaffirms the value of human beings.