Locke’s Second Treatise offers an in-depth analysis on the origin of our right to liberty and the rights of governments. It shows how, by respecting the laws of nature, we can limit the power of government to best protect ourselves and our property from destruction or worse, tyranny.
Plato’s Republic (c. 380 BCE) is a dialogue in which Socrates and his interlocutors discuss the attributes and virtues that make for the most just person and for the most just form of government. The Republic also examines the relationship between the citizen and the city, and considers how this relationship bears on philosophy, politics, ethics and art.
Meditations on First Philosophy (1641) is one of Descartes’s most influential works, known as the source of the classic quote: “I think, therefore I am” or “cogito ergo sum.” These blinks capture Descartes’ thoughts on how we know what we know, and his attempts to prove God’s existence along the way.
Anticipate (2015) reveals what it takes to become a visionary leader. From Aristotle’s three pillars of leadership to practices and mindsets that strengthen your leadership abilities, these blinks show that having a vision isn’t something you’re born with – it’s something you work at.
Everyday, we benefit from huge advances in both scientific theory and practice. What triggered this progress? In The Beginning of Infinity (2011) – a journey through the fundamental fields of science and philosophy – physicist David Deutsch argues that all progress results from one single human activity: the quest for explanations. Human creativity opens up limitless opportunities for progress, making knowledge the “beginning of infinity.”
Leviathan (1651) examines the relationship of society and rulers and is widely held as a classic work on the nature of statecraft. English philosopher Thomas Hobbes believed that man’s natural inclination to war could only be tamed by a strong, centralized government. In these blinks, you’ll learn why Hobbes felt a commonwealth of men under a strong monarch was the only solution to securing peace and security for all.
Doubt: A History (2004) is a journey through one of time’s best kept secrets: the people who have stood up to accepted truths, even when it cost them their lives. These blinks share the stories of doubters with conviction from Ancient Greece and India to the modern era, and how they have shaped the way we live and think today.
Meditations (170-180 AD) is a journey through the mind of the great Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius. These blinks offer philosophical ruminations on the meaning of death and justice, the nature of the world and why things happen the way they do.
Selfie (2017) takes a hard look at today’s internet-driven age of self-obsession. Asking where our ideal of the perfect person came from, acclaimed British journalist Will Storr traces the history of the self from ancient Greece to the social-media-heavy world of selfies and Instagram brunch pics. Along the way, he picks out a multitude of fascinating facts about the political, cultural and economic factors that have shaped the Western world’s notion of who we should be and what we should look like.
In How to Be a Stoic (2018), philosopher Massimo Pigliucci explores how the ancient philosophy of Stoicism can guide us toward a good life. He shows how Stoicism can help us focus on what we can change, come to peace with the prospect of death and deal with frustrations and problems in everyday life.
At the Existentialist Café (2016) recounts the birth of existentialism in the early twentieth century. Both a biography and a philosophical text, it tells the stories of individual philosophers as well as their ideas. Above all, it explores how big philosophical questions can illuminate our lives and the way we live them.
Great Thinkers (2016) provides a handy guide to some of the most creative and ingenious people who have ever lived. These are thinkers who have changed the way we perceive and think about the world, and their wisdom continues to be highly relevant to people everywhere. By keeping these ideas close at hand and not far from our minds, the great thinkers of the past can continue to help us live better lives today.
A Brief History of Thought (1996) chronicles the big moments in the history of Western philosophy in a lucid and accessible way – from the Stoicism of classical Greece right through to twentieth-century postmodernism. Not simply a description of abstract ideals, it shows how we can apply the wisdom of the world’s best thinkers to live happier and more meaningful lives.
The Year of Magical Thinking (2005) is a poignant memoir about loss and grief. It tells the deeply personal story of Joan Didion’s experiences with the life-threatening illnesses of her daughter and the death of her husband. But more than that, it’s also a thought-provoking philosophical exploration of the meaning of mortality, the fragility of life and the mutability of everything that surrounds us.
Doing Philosophy (2018) dispels some of the stereotypes that continue to hound philosophers. In particular, it takes aim at the pervasive idea that philosophy has become irrelevant in light of the success of the natural sciences, and makes a compelling case for why philosophy is still important and influential today.
For a New Liberty (1973) is a classic work that lays out the foundational principles of libertarianism. It refutes the necessity of a central State and argues against government involvement in all areas of life, from education to the police. The result is a scathing critique of the inefficiency, overreach, and moral crimes of the State.
Politics is a foundational work in the history of Western political philosophy. From Machiavelli to Thomas Hobbes to Karl Marx, few major Western thinkers have been able to avoid a dialogue with the arguments Aristotle advanced some 2,500 years ago. That’s hardly surprising. In his quest to define the purpose and nature of politics, Aristotle left no stone unturned. Justice, slavery, citizenship, class conflict, democracy, and the good life – all are addressed with rigor and nuance in this remarkable text.
What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader (2019) explains how we've lost sight of some of the most important aspects of leadership, and it presents helpful philosophical perspectives to get us back on track. Drawing from both ancient and modern philosophy, the authors outline simple yet powerful approaches to rethinking strategy, management, and communication. And what’s even better is that these philosophical “hacks” aren’t just for CEOs. By using these thought experiments and insights, we can all flourish at work and outside of it.
The Ethics of Ambiguity (1947) is one of the foundational texts of existentialist philosophy. It's both a succinct summary of existentialist thought and a thorough interrogation of its ethical ramifications in the real world. By reflecting on what it means to be human, this book is a call to recognize and act upon one fundamental truth of our existence: that we are free.
Becoming Beauvoir (2019) recounts the story of French philosopher, writer and feminist icon Simone de Beauvoir for a contemporary audience. Making use of previously unpublished letters and diaries, Becoming Beauvoir describes how the famous intellectual became herself.
How to Live a Good Life (2020), edited by Massimo Pigliucci, Skye Cleary, and Daniel Kaufman, is an introduction to 15 philosophies for living our lives. Ranging from ancient ideologies, through the major religions, to contemporary schools of thought, 15 leading scholars enlighten us with the philosophies that guide their lives.
The Critique of Pure Reason (1781) is one of the most groundbreaking, revolutionary, and influential books in the history of Western philosophy. Pointing out the limits of human reason, it argues that we can have knowledge about the world as we experience it, but we can never know anything about the ultimate nature of reality.
A Little History of Philosophy (2011) takes readers on a whistle-stop tour of the thinkers who shaped philosophy over two and a half millennia. From Ancient Greece to twentieth-century Germany, this book makes philosophy’s age-old questions feel as relevant today as when they were first posed.
Time of the Magicians (2020) explores one of the greatest periods of German philosophy: the 1920s. In this decade of extraordinary intellectual productivity, thinkers like Martin Heidegger, Ernst Cassirer, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Walter Benjamin upended traditional philosophical thought completely and left a lasting mark on how we understand the world.
How to Be an Epicurean (2019) brings the ancient philosophy of Epicureanism into the modern age. This fascinating “theory of everything” is about much more than seeking pleasure, and it can help you live an enjoyable, moral, and meaningful life today.
Lives of the Stoics (2020) explores Stoicism through the lives of its earliest followers. Packed with insights into the leaders, wars, and politics of classical antiquity, these blinks provide a fresh yet historical look at this popular philosophy.
Aristotle’s Way (2018) is a study of Aristotle, philosopher and polymath of Ancient Greece – but it’s not a scholarly guide to a historical artifact. Aristotle is simply far too alive to be relegated to that category. Friendship, happiness, talking, thinking, and living well were Aristotle’s great concerns. And what he had to say about those topics remains every bit as relevant today as it was when he first started exploring them some 2,500 years ago.
Man and His Symbols (1964) was the final work of the influential psychologist Carl Jung, and the only one written for a general audience. It breaks down some of Jung’s most complex ideas, such as his theories about archetypes and the unconscious, and it explores the vast expanse of symbols and stories that dwell within our minds.
That One Should Disdain Hardships (2020) is a collection of lectures delivered in imperial Rome in the first century CE by the Stoic Gaius Musonius Rufus. Heralded as the “Roman Socrates,” Musonius’s philosophy is anything but academic. Designed to help listeners lead the best possible lives, his lectures hone in on practical, everyday questions. The result? A doctrine that you really can live by.
The Myth of Sisyphus (1942) is an influential essay that contributed significantly to the philosophical movements of existentialism and absurdism. The essay asks whether life is worth living in a world emptied of religious meaning and considers whether suicide is the only appropriate response to the void of meaninglessness. Ultimately, the essay advises against suicide, arguing that the meaninglessness of existence is, in fact, the condition for a fulfilling life lived with freedom, passion, and happiness.
Knowledge: A Very Short Introduction (2014) is an accessible introduction to the complex field of epistemology. Epistemology is concerned with the nature of knowledge itself. What can we know? And how do we know that we know it? Knowledge surveys epistemological thinking from the ancient Greeks to contemporary philosophy, shining a bright light on this fascinating field of thought.
In an age where science and atheism seek to explain everything we are, The Soul of the World (2014) argues for the continued importance of religion. It doesn’t preach for a particular doctrine; rather, it claims that in art, music, architecture, and interpersonal relations, there is a striving toward the sacred that science alone can’t explain or fulfill. Finally, it argues that by devaluing or ignoring the transcendent, we are willfully giving up one of the very things that makes us human.
The Entrepreneur's Weekly Nietzsche (2021) is a how-to guide for disruptors, examining the surprising ways in which this nineteenth-century philosopher can instruct and inspire twenty-first-century entrepreneurs. From business pitches to pride, and from victory to progress, it offers food for thought from an unfamiliar but stimulating perspective.
Over the years, much has been made of the influence of Enlightenment ideas – particularly those of English philosopher John Locke – on America’s founding fathers. First Principles (2020) takes a different approach. It focuses instead on the ways in which Greek and Roman history and philosophy profoundly shaped the values and goals of America’s first four presidents, and how classical ideas are embedded in the nation to this day.
On Being and Becoming (2021) is simultaneously an introduction to the philosophy of existentialism and a guide to the good life. Drawing on a broad range of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century existentialist writers, the book unpacks the main themes and insights from the movement and explains what that means for how you should live your life.
Beyond Good and Evil (1886) provides a comprehensive overview of the concepts and themes of Nietzsche's philosophy. It’s a work that dramatically parted ways from the Western philosophical tradition of the time, mocking philosophers for their narrow-mindedness and throwing into disrepute such fundamental concepts as truth, self, and morality. It has since proven to be one of the most influential texts of the nineteenth century, planting the seed for many European philosophical movements that followed.
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748) presents a succinct summary of Hume’s empirical and skeptical philosophy, and is one of the most influential texts of the early modern period. In calling for the use of reason in rejecting the “superstitions” of metaphysical philosophy and religion, this text helped to furnish the philosophical basis for the scientific method that was then coming to prominence in Enlightenment Europe. Even today, Hume’s Enquiry remains one of the best introductions to modern philosophy.
The Art of Living (1995) is a clear and concise introduction to Stoic philosophy. This modern interpretation of Epictetus’s teachings gives timeless insight into living a stable and satisfying life.
Four Thousand Weeks (2021) explores concepts of time and time management, arguing that our modern attempts to optimize our time leave us stressed and unhappy. Drawing upon the work of ancient and contemporary philosophers, psychologists, and spiritual leaders, this book proposes a path to cultivating a fulfilling life through embracing our limitations.
The Social Contract (1762) is a seminal work of political and social theory, and is Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s most important and influential text. In the book, Rousseau lays out the conditions required for the legitimate founding and governing of a nation state. Playing a role in both the French Revolution and the founding of the US Constitution, The Social Contract is a cornerstone of modern political thought and essential reading for anyone interested in political theory.
The Constitution of Liberty (1960) is a classic of economic philosophy. As one of the seminal texts of modern liberalism, it reminds us of the values of individual freedom, limited government, and universal principles of law. First published in the 1960s, it contends that social progress depends on the free market rather than on socialist planning. This work remains relevant in an age where socialist ideas are gaining new popularity.
In Praise of Love (2012) is a passionate defense of love in an age when romance is threatened from all directions. The product of a dialogue between French philosopher Alain Badiou and journalist Nicholas Truong, the book lays bare how our sex-obsessed media, our individualistic striving, and our online-dating culture are all setting love up to fail. Its thesis: love needs to be reinvented for the modern world.
The Art of Rhetoric (4th century BCE) is a practical manual on the art of public speaking and persuasion. Written almost 2,500 years ago, The Art of Rhetoric remains one of the most incisive and comprehensive studies on rhetoric ever written.
Ethics: A Very Short Introduction (2001) does exactly what it says on the tin: it’s a clear and accessible introduction to the branch of philosophy that’s concerned with how we ought to treat each other. By exploring key challenges and theories within ethics, Simon Blackburn cuts through philosophical jargon so we can learn to think clearly about how we ought to behave.
Discipline Is Destiny (2022) draws on Stoic virtues to make a case for a life guided by self-discipline. It shows how being in control of your body, thoughts, and emotions is a prerequisite to mastering anything else – and uses historical figures to illustrate how things like sleep, discomfort, and kindness tie into greatness.
The WEIRDest People in the World (2020) describes why Westerners think and behave so differently from most other people. It also explains how the policies of the Western Church in the realms of marriage and kinship have helped cultivate these odd cultural attributes, transforming the world and helping the West flourish in the process.
Humanly Possible (2023) traces the roots of humanism in literature and science back through history. While telling the stories of the great humanist thinkers, it sheds light on humanity today as well as how we can better relate to our lives and environment through humanist beliefs and pursuits.
How to Think Like a Philosopher (2023) draws from the lives and work of thinkers through history to reveal unique perspectives on beauty, truth, and the nature of reality. It presents philosophy as an all-too-human search for meaning, and encourages everyone to do the same.
Being and Time (1927) is perhaps the most influential work of philosophy written in the twentieth century. Infamous for its infuriating, almost impenetrable complexity, its pages explore the most fundamental of all questions for a human being: what is it to be?
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921) is a singular and ground-breaking work of modern philosophy that attempts to illuminate the relationship between logic, language, and reality.
Kybalion (1908) is an occult classic of the New Thought movement that claims that mind and thought are the ultimate powers of the universe, and human beings can harness those primal forces – like thought, rhythm, and polarities – for health, wealth, and influence.
The Odyssey (c. eighth century BC) is one of the foundational works of Western literature. The ancient Greek epic chronicles the arduous 10-year journey of hero Odysseus as he strives to return home from the Trojan War. Battling vengeful gods, mythical monsters, and the siren call of temptation, Odysseus's quest is not just for Ithaca, but for identity and meaning in a turbulent world.
Sophie’s World (1991) is a unique story that takes you on a journey through the history of philosophy, as experienced by a teenage girl named Sophie Amundsen. After receiving mysterious letters containing philosophical questions, Sophie finds herself exploring fundamental questions about life, reality, and the very nature of existence.
The Conquest of Happiness (1930) explores the pursuit of human happiness. It dissects common obstacles to happiness, such as competition and fatigue, as well as the various factors that contribute to it. Equal parts philosophical and practical, you’ll come away with a deepened understanding of, and preparedness for, a fulfilling life.
Ethics (1677) is Spinoza’s enigmatic masterwork that changed philosophy. One of only two published works by the author, with the other published anonymously, the text became a flashpoint for divisions around the nature of god, religion, and nature, as well as a foundation for traditions of western mysticism and spirituality ever since.
Being and Nothingness (1943) is a seminal work of existentialist philosophy. It explores the major themes of existentialism, such as the intricacies of human consciousness, free will, and the interplay of objectivity and subjectivity.
Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco is a complex and intellectual novel that delves into themes of conspiracy theories, history, and secret societies. Set in the late 20th century, it tells the story of three friends who create a fictional conspiracy theory. However, their seemingly harmless game takes a dark turn when they attract the attention of real secret societies who believe their theory to be true.