For those who are aspiring to be a philosopher but have zero experience, it is absolutely crucial to start well. I often hear from people who took a philosophy class that they ended up being more confused than before. This is in part because they’re introduced to conflicting ideas but they’re not shown how to think about these ideas. Ideas are dangerous things; capable of destroying or creating societies. I’ll be honest, I do prefer the classical philosophers over the modern philosophers – which my list will reflect – but I think you can still benefit from it despite this bias by evaluating the ideas for yourself. Without further ado, here are the books that I would recommend reading in the following order:
1. Being Logical, A Guide To Good Thinking by D.Q. McInerny
This book starts off with some key logical concepts that are really just common sense ideas. This is important. Some people mistake philosophy for contrarian pseudo-intellectual ideas. I even met someone who thought the best way to do philosophy was to smoke weed.. That’s not philosophy; that’s either sophistry or stupidity. In my opinion it’s a good idea to start with common sense, or else we’ll end up with nonsense. The author’s lucid yet concise writing style is a role model for all philosophers.
2. Ancient Philosophy (Beginner’s Guides) by William J. Prior
It is crucial to start with the very beginnings of philosophy without being bogged down by technicalities and monotonous details as the more advanced books do. What better place to start than the very origins of philosophy itself? An aspiring philosopher needs to be introduced to ideas and the reasons for those ideas in order to prime their minds for philosophical reasoning.
3. Aquinas (A Beginner’s Guide) by Edward Feser
This book is an absolutely essential introduction to medieval / scholastic philosophy. You’ll become familiar with ideas like form and matter, the four causes, universals, five ways, etc. Personally, this book did the most to transform my philosophical perspective. I felt like a child who was seeing familiar things under a new light for the first time; it literally took my passion for philosophy to a new level. Feser does a great job of communicating the ideas clearly and diffusing common misconceptions that moderns have about Aquinas.