The Best Philosophy Textbooks of 2021

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Are you looking for the best philosophy textbooks to help you through your studies? Are you struggling with updating your philosophy reading list? Regardless of why you are here, this guide is sure to help you find the best material for you.

Philosophy can be a hard subject to grasp as it may mean something different for different people. In actuality, it is a way of thinking about society, the world, and the universe. Philosophy often poses questions about life, values, knowledge, and even existence.

This list will aim to provide you with not only the best philosophy books for beginners but some introductory texts as well. However, in the event that none of these books spark your interest, we will provide you with some information to help you choose your own.

Learning doesn’t have to be a chore, and your philosophy books don’t have to be boring. Though there a variety of philosophy textbooks, your texts also do not have to follow the pattern of a traditional textbook. Keep reading to find some of the most recommended philosophy books and textbooks from students and philosophy professionals like you.

If you want to just get back to studying, get our top pick for philosophy textbooks here.

Our Top Favorite
A History of Western Philosophy
Our Top Runner Up
Philosophy: An Introduction to the Art of Wondering
Our Top Value Pick
The Philosophy Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained
Book Title
A History of Western Philosophy
Philosophy: An Introduction to the Art of Wondering
The Philosophy Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained
Prime Eligible?
-
Our Top Favorite
A History of Western Philosophy
Book Title
A History of Western Philosophy
Prime Eligible?
Our Top Runner Up
Philosophy: An Introduction to the Art of Wondering
Book Title
Philosophy: An Introduction to the Art of Wondering
Prime Eligible?
-
Our Top Value Pick
The Philosophy Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained
Book Title
The Philosophy Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained
Prime Eligible?

Last update: 2021-01-25

Our Favorites for Best Philosophy Textbooks

A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell

A History of Western Philosophy has come to be known as an extremely important philosophical work within the context of Western Philosophy. It explores the ideologies of several philosophers like Plato and Aristotle. Bertrand Russell is said to have changed the landscape of philosophy with his publication more than five decades ago.

What Makes It Unique:

  • A History of Western Philosophy contains a wimping 76 chapters in which the author provides a clear explanation of philosophy through the years.
  • The philosophers included with this text are all men, which Russell deemed worthy of in-depth explanations and value to the reader. These philosophers have been explained fully with details covered in relation to their lives and social standings.
  • Russell opens the text by explaining his intent behind the text as well as what you can expect to find within the book’s pages. The preface is highly personal and gives the reader insight into the author’s intent.
  • The text covers the likes of Socrates, Plato, Stoicism, Plotinus, and much more. The book is also divided into three books, Ancient philosophy, catholic philosophy, and modern philosophy.

Why Choose This Philosophy Book:

  • The book is 900 pages and still only contains a brief overview of the history of western philosophy. Some users even say that the book is just as much history as it is philosophy.
  • A History of Western Philosophy spends a substantial amount of time covering Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates.
  • If you are looking for a neutral text, this may not be the one for you. Russell also manages to give readers his opinion about the philosophies as he provides information. However, some users say that these opinions make the book more readable and enjoyable.
  • Many students feel that this text is an invaluable read for philosophers and consistently give it five stars. Russell not only explained how ideas and information impacted society, but he also took the time to detail the history behind it.

On Sale
A History of Western Philosophy
A History of Western Philosophy
  • Bertrand Russell (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 895 Pages - 10/30/1967 (Publication Date) - Simon & Schuster/Touchstone (Publisher)

Last update: 2021-01-25


The Great Conversation: A Historical Introduction to Philosophy by Norman Melchert

The Great Conversation is a heavily recommended text from professors and students alike. It is excellent for beginners, as it serves as an introduction to philosophy. The text also serves as an introduction to the philosophical works of several authors that newbies might not understand on their own. The book is also available in separate volumes. The first volume being Pre-Socratics through Descartes and the second being Descartes through Derrida and Quine.

What Makes It Unique:

  • The text aims to demonstrate how philosophers think and respond.
  • The Great Conversation is ideal for undergraduate students. Most readers found it education with large amounts of information.
  • The book explains the historical context behind the development of western philosophy and has a clear progression. The Great Conversation treats philosophy as a continuous story. It is a text that though many students utilize for courses, is excellent at piquing student interest in philosophy.

Why Choose This Philosophy Book:

  • This is an excellent book for students within introductory philosophy classes or for someone who is interested in learning more about philosophy. This would not be an excellent text for an advanced student.
  • Even individuals who loathe philosophy can grasp the information in The Great Conversation.
  • If you are interested in western Philosophy, this is the text for you. The Great Conversation clearly explains the history behind the development of western philosophy.

On Sale
The Great Conversation: A Historical Introduction to Philosophy
The Great Conversation: A Historical Introduction to Philosophy
  • Hardcover Book
  • Melchert, Norman (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2021-01-25


Runner Ups for Best Philosophy Textbooks

Philosophy: An Introduction to the Art of Wondering by James L. Christian

Philosophy: An Introduction to the Art of Wondering is an introductory text to philosophy. It focuses on the origins of philosophical thinking. The book uses a variety of untraditional imagery for keeping students involved and intrigued by philosophy. The book includes brief biographies of essential names in philosophy and invites all students to wonder.

What Makes It Unique:

  • Philosophy: An Introduction to the Art of Wondering uses a variety of cartoons, quotations, and relatable resources to keep students intrigued.
  • Short biographies are riddled through the text for individuals like Marcus Aurelius, Socrates, and many more. These biographies are meant to provide insight into the crucial figures in philosophy without overwhelming readers.
  • The Reflections area of the text provides a checkpoint for users. It includes questions about the reading, which forces students to think and analyze the material in the unit. For example, students must contrast the terms of faith and belief. They must then determine if they are faithful or belief-full.
  • The margins of the text are filled with quotes from a variety of philosophers. These include Lewis Carroll, Epictetus, and several more.

Why Choose This Philosophy Book:

  • This textbook is excellent for students who are looking to self-study. The text covers the basics of philosophy, and some even feel that once complete, they have taken a college course.
  • Philosophy: An Introduction to the Art of Wondering is not asking readers to agree or disagree, instead ponder for yourself. Though initially released several years ago, this is a text that many users find will not go out of style.
  • Some seasoned philosophy enthusiasts have even read this same text over 40 years ago and still vouch for the validity and the readability of the latest edition. It is an excellent foundational text and will change the way you look at philosophy.
  • This is a text which will cultivate your analytical skills and hopefully pique your enthusiasm for philosophy. Many readers recommend reading through the text, taking notes, and thinking about what you are reading. Many older readers find that older books are sometimes overlooked; however, the information in this text is vital and essential.

On Sale
Philosophy: An Introduction to the Art of Wondering
Philosophy: An Introduction to the Art of Wondering
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Christian, James L. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2021-01-25


Philosophy: A Historical Survey with Essential Readings by Samuel Enoch Stumpf and James Fieser

Philosophy: A Historical Survey with Essential Readings is a comprehensive introduction to philosophy. It gives students a quick and clear view of philosophy. The text also provides some historical context of the development of Western philosophy as well as providing information on the most influential philosophers. The text was written by two prominent philosophy professors who authored a number of books as well as participated in a number of philosophy organizations.

What Makes It Unique:

  • This text was initially published in 1966 and has since been considered an authoritative text. Since its creation, there have been minor changes, and new primary source readings added.
  • The book is divided into three sections. These five sections include the following:
    • Ancient Greek philosophy
    • Hellenistic and medieval philosophy,
    • Early modern philosophy
    • Late, Modern & 19th-century philosophy
    • 20th century and contemporary philosophy
  • The text presents a variety of readings in chronological order, and the second half of the book offers a snapshot of great discussions by a number of notable philosophers.
  • With this text, students also have the option to purchase Connect. Connect allows students to not only read a digital version of the textbook but complete assignments given by their professor. Instructors can also share course-related material like notes, syllabuses, reminders, and any other information that students may need. Dashboards will even provide students with a breakdown of their performance and provide them with tips for how they can improve.

Why Choose This Philosophy Book:

  • Philosophy: A Historical Survey with Essential Readingsprovides readable and clear explanations. The text also offers several references if you are looking to do a more serious dive into the topic.
  • The text is an exciting read, and the chapters are long. If you aren’t an avid reader, this may not be the text for you.
  • Many students find that this is a perfect text for their classwork, or it is a required read from their instructors.

Philosophy: A Historical Survey with Essential Readings
Philosophy: A Historical Survey with Essential Readings
  • Stumpf (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 01/27/2021 (Publication Date) - Mc Graw Hill Education (Uk) (Publisher)

Last update: 2021-01-25


Fundamentals of Philosophy by David Stewart, H. Gene Blocker

Fundamentals of Philosophy offers a multitude of information from a variety of sources. These sources include contemporary and classic selections from a number of notable philosophers. Students are able to get a clear idea of each philosopher’s views as information is presented in a clear and readable manner.

What Makes It Unique:

  • All of the readings are set up as a debate on one significant idea. This aids in helping students understand philosophical solutions and issues in real-world situations.
  • The text encompasses nine significant themes. Some of these themes include the Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Art, Eastern Thought, and much more.
  • The text also includes questions for discussion which encourage students to get an in-depth insight into philosophy.

Why Choose This Philosophy Book:

  • Many students find the book interesting and insightful. It is often used as a required text for many philosophy courses.
  • The book includes in-depth discussions with relation to philosophy and pop culture.
  • If you are looking for information in relation to philosophers, the Fundamentals of Philosophy also includes biographies and pictures of notable philosophers. These biographies will hopefully spark your interest in learning more about these philosophers.

On Sale
Fundamentals of Philosophy (Mythinkinglab)
Fundamentals of Philosophy (Mythinkinglab)
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Stewart, David (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2021-01-25


Value Picks for Best Philosophy Textbooks

The Philosophy Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained by DK

Big Ideas Simply Explained is a book that aims to take significant and complex concepts and explain them in a way that is easy for users to understand. They utilize imagery and graphics to make information straightforward and concise. They allow users to explore the history and concepts within philosophy. The text includes information on more than 100 well-known philosophers.

What Makes It Unique:

  • The information in the text is separated by the time frame. For example, some headings include The Ancient World, which encompasses 700 BCE – 250 CE and the Medieval World 250-1000.
  • The Philosophy Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained is also formatted similar to that of a newspaper. Emphasized throughout the text, you will find a variety of images, quotations, and more.
  • Within the In-Context area of text, you will find background information about the person or subject you are reading about. This information includes traditions, philosophical approaches, and more.

Why Choose This Philosophy Book:

  • The Philosophy Book holds massive value because it simplifies a subject that is so complicated. If you are looking to find a book that puts information in an easy to grasp format with striking imagery and quotes, this is it.
  • This is an excellent text for a beginner who is looking to explore the realm of philosophy. This is a unique text to start with.
  • Big Ideas Simply Explained is by no means heavy in-depth, but it comes highly recommended by philosophy lovers of all ages.

On Sale
The Philosophy Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained
The Philosophy Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained
  • DK
  • DK (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2021-01-25


How to Choose the Best Philosophy Textbook for You

Choosing the best textbook for your philosophy needs can be hard and at times, overwhelming if you are not sure about what to look for. However, you can help yourself by asking many of the questions listed below. These questions are aimed at not only narrowing the items within your search but getting you closer to the perfect text.

Are You Self Studying or Taking a Class?

This is a fundamental question to ask as your needs will be different for either option. If you are in a classroom setting, many professors will supply a list of required or recommended readings. However, if you are looking to cover material on your own or struggling to get through your current philosophy text, your starting point is all about preference.

If you are entirely new to philosophy, it may be helpful to start with the same text that a philosophy student may receive in their first-year course or a book that is more focused on providing a general overview. This allows you to ease into the content without being overwhelmed as much as you would if you jumped right into reading Plato or Socrates.

Are you looking for a general overview or a specific topic?

Philosophy encompasses a number of subtopics. It’s important to know those general philosophy textbooks will only scratch the surface of what you are looking for if you are looking for details within a specific area. Topics in Philosophy can range from metaphysics and ethics to Aesthetics. These are all topics that can be explored in depth outside of a traditional philosophy book.

What is your level of expertise? Do you have prior knowledge?

One other thing that is important to remember is that your level of expertise plays a large role in the content that is available to you. For example, if you are just beginning your journey into philosophy, you will not want to start with The Upanishads. It is a difficult read for beginning students.

Do you have a price point in mind?

Generally, when you are looking for books that are outside of the arena of textbooks, finding deals can be easy. However, if you are looking for traditional textbooks, these can be a bit pricier. Before purchasing a text, make sure you evaluate your price point and use it while shopping for texts. You can also take advantage of sites like eBay and Amazon when you are looking for deals. Renting a textbook before buying it can also be a great way to try books before you purchase them.

What level of detail does the text need to cover?

When you begin your search for a textbook, you should also decide what level of detail you are looking for. Are you looking for a supplemental text to cover general information, or are you looking for in-depth research materials regarding a specific topic?

What are the Best Philosophy Books for Beginners?

If you are a beginning student of philosophy student or someone who has not been wholly immersed in its literature, beginning textbooks are a great place to start. These can come in the form of textbooks or general reading. Aside from the texts already listen within this list, there are several options to choose from. This list below will provide you with a multitude of books that a beginning student will enjoy.

  1. Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy – Jostein Gaarder, Paulette Moller
  2. Epicurus - The Essential Epicurus
  3. The Problems of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell
  4. Symposium by Plato
  5. Bernard Williams: Morality: An Introduction to Ethics
  6. Introduction to Philosophy: Classical and Contemporary Readings
  7. History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell
  8. Philosophy: The Essential Study Guide
  9. Meno by Plato
  10. Republic by Plato
  11. Philosophy: A Beginner's Guide by Peter Cave
  12. The Role Ethics of Epictetus: Stoicism in Ordinary Life by Brian E. Johnson

Though the books listed are not all traditional textbooks, they come highly recommended by a variety of philosophy students and enthusiasts.

These are merely a subset of questions that would be helpful when choosing your color philosophy textbook. One pro tip for ensuring that a book is a good fit for you is looking at the images of the interior, which some reviewers post. Many times, a description may say one thing, yet when you receive the book, it does not live up to the hype. The only certain way to know that something is included in a book is to see it for yourself. Many websites give the option to look inside to view a sample of the textbook. These samples can be beneficial when looking to see a book’s format, the index of the book, or when checking out the imagery.

Wrapping Up the Best Philosophy Textbooks

Philosophy is not an easy subject to grasp. Regardless of where you start, you are likely to be confused with your first reading. However, just get through it. Many philosophy lovers suggest beginning your journey with Plato and progressing from there.

The books on this are not listed in order of how you should read them. That is entirely up to you. However, we do hope that you were able to find several books on this list to expand not only your philosophy reading list but your knowledge as well. Books like The Great Conversation: A Historical Introduction to Philosophy and Jostein Gaardner’s Sophie’s World are perfect for beginners. If you are looking for another beginner-friendly text that is structured in the most straightforward manner possible, The Philosophy Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained is just what you need.

Ultimately, finding the best book is subjective, as everyone has different levels of expertise and prior knowledge. Philosophy books also encompass a wide array of subtopics like metaphysics, ethics, enlightenment, and so much more. It’s essential to not only pick a book that fits your needs but one that also fits your knowledge level. Use the tips listed above to zero in on a book that is perfect for you rather than everyone else.

Introduction to philosophy books are a great way to get your feet wet with philosophy without jumping into the deep end. You may not be quite ready to debate the works of Plato or Socrates. No matter you are taking a class or just enjoy reading about philosophy, take a deep breath and give yourself time to get used to your reading. We are sure you will find precisely what you need – happy hunting.

If you found this post helpful, check out our other comprehensive textbook reviews.

> The Best Psychology Textbooks of 2021

> The Best Sociology Textbooks of 2021

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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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