The best philosophy books are those that reflect the ideology of several of the greatest intellectuals in the history of humanity. It is the thought of scholars such as Seneca or René Descartes, to mention some of the best known. In more recent times, the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Simone de Beauvuoir, Osho and Jostein Gaarder, among others, are inescapable.
Also, in bookstores around the world you can buy philosophical texts that are actually compilations completed over several centuries ( Tao Te Ching is one of them). All philosophical books have in common a reflective, deep purpose, worthy of being analyzed with calm and contemplation. Therefore, in this type of reading, rushing is completely meaningless. Below is a list of the best works in this field.
Tao Te Ching (6th century BC)
Also referred to as Dào Dé Jīng or Tao Te Ching, it is an ancient writing from China. Its development can be inferred from its name; since Dào means “the way”, dé symbolizes “power” or “virtue” and jīng refers to “classical book”. According to Chinese tradition, it was made during the 6th century BC. C by Laozi—transliterated Lao Tzu, “old master” —archivist of the Zhou dynasty.
However, many academics question the authorship and antiquity of this text. On the other hand, the statements of the Tao Te Ching established most of the canons of philosophical Taoism . Consequently, this manuscript had a significant influence on other spiritual disciplines or schools on the Asian continent (neo-Confucianism and legalism, for example).
Of the brevity of life (year 55 AD)
De brevitate vitae was one of the texts that made up Dialogues , the book by the philosopher Seneca dedicated to Paulino. In the work, the author alleges that life —despite pretending so— is not short; it is the person who produces that perception by not knowing how to take advantage of it. For this reason, historians point to the Roman thinker as an unequivocal reference for the authors of the Spanish Golden Age.
Discourse on Method (1637), by René Descartes
This essay is considered one of the pillars of Western philosophy and a text with enormous implications for the development of science. The full title of this work is (translated from French) Discourse on the method to conduct one’s own reason well and seek the truth in the sciences .
Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883), by Friedrich Nietzsche
It is considered the masterpiece of Friedrich Nietzsche. Thus spoke Zarathustra. A book for everyone and nobody (full title) explores the main ideas of the German philosopher . Those thoughts are embodied in a sequence of stories and lyrical essays that focus on the experiences and reflections of the prophet Zarathustra (the Zoroaster of the Persians).
In reality, Nietzsche used a fictional figure of Zarathustra—not the historical figure—as a spokesman for his doctrines. He presents him as an enlightened being whose judgment exceeds that of any human being and in antagonistic way to the precepts of the Catholic Church.
Some of the most important philosophical books of the 20th century
The Second Sex (1949), by Simone de Beauvoir
It is a fairly long essay that arose as a result of the French author’s research on the historical conception and role of women in society. Due to its groundbreaking assertions—apart from becoming an impressive bestseller —this book laid the foundation for the equity feminist movement.
In the same way, it is considered an encyclopedic text because of the focus on the identity of women from different theoretical and scientific perspectives. Among the disciplines addressed are: sociology, anthropology, psychology, biology and reproductive anatomy (with its implications in the affective-sexual relationship).
Sofia’s World (1991), by Jostein Gaarder
Although this title is classified as a novel, the Norwegian author took advantage of this context to make a historical review of Western philosophy. The result has been a world best-selling book, translated into more than sixty languages and adapted for film (1999) under the direction of Erik Gustavson.
Consciousness (2001), by Osho
It should be noted, Osho is not an author in the strict sense of the term. His books were compiled from transcripts of impromptu talks and lectures delivered over a period of thirty-five years. In them, his reflections on issues ranging from the search for himself , to deliberations on politics and society are exposed.
In Awareness , the Hindu philosopher urges people to stay alert in “the here and now.” In this way, the human being would be able to understand the irrelevance of emotions such as resentment, anger, jealousy and possessive feelings. In addition, he mentions the acceptance and union of polarities (joy and crying, for example) as a route to full balance.