4 books to introduce you to philosophy

If you want to check out philosophy, where do you start? What are the good books to start with? These are questions that Em from School of Life gets asked a lot so she put together a list of four books that helped to make her so passionate about the subject.

If you’re new to it, reading the wrong books on philosophy can put you off it for good. A few books and authors are, as many people have found, impenetrable because it’s hard to follow what the hell they’re saying. You may be left feeling, What’s the point?

That would be too bad because much of what is learned in philosophy can be applied in virtually every endeavor and areas of our life — career, love, and friendships, spirituality, every single one. But the most practical benefit to reading and understanding philosophy is that it can help us develop our critical thinking and inductive reasoning skills. Skills that are great in business and to win arguments.

I’m just saying.

Check out Em’s recommendations, but be warned: Philosophy can be addictive!  To be precise, first you hate it; then you love it!

These are her 4 recommendations:

1. The Conquest of Happiness  – Bertrand Russell

Let me hit you with a couple quotes from it:

“Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.”

AND

“If we were all given by magic the power to read each other’s thoughts, I suppose the first effect would be almost all friendships would be dissolved; the second effect, however, might be excellent, for a world without any friends would be felt to be intolerable, and we should learn to like each other without needing a veil of illusion to conceal from ourselves that we did not think each other absolutely perfect.”

OMG, I love this dude!!! Philosophy helped me understand the true essence of happiness. That people were central to it and that it’s found in the little things. And then, philosophy helped me to understand that it is Joy that I should be working to cultivate because even happiness is something we can’t control.

2. The Consolations of Philosophy  – Alain de Botton

I really like this quote from The Consolations of Philosophy:

“Not everything which happens to us occurs with reference to something about us.”

Here’s why I like it. I’ve always had difficulty accepting the New Age adages that Everything happens for a reason and that We’re attracting what we get in life. I mean, there’s truth to both ideas but they’ve also become burdensome cliches for many people who take them to be gospel. This is an example of how philosophy helps us to examine popular opinions so we can think for ourselves and ultimately, be kinder to ourselves.

3. The Art of Loving – Erich Fromm

We know the topic of love gets a lot of airplay–in movies, in love songs, in discussions about the divorce rates and explorations of different types of relationships like open relationships. Even the bible has a lot to say on the topic. Me? I go with philosophy on this one too and this quote goes to the essence of what Fromm covers in this book.

“Love isn’t something natural. Rather it requires discipline, concentration, patience, faith, and the overcoming of narcissism. It isn’t a feeling, it is a practice.”

4. The Unbearable Lightness of Being  –  Milan Kundera

Philosophy makes you think and sometimes, it gives us answers to questions we never voiced or knew we had. It helps us understand ourselves, so that for example, if right now you’re hating where you live and strongly desire to move, this quote can make you think.

“A person who longs to leave the place where he lives is an unhappy person.”

More than anything else–parents, family, friends, therapy–philosophy has had the most profound effects on who I’ve become. It has helped me understand myself better. I owe my love of quotes to reading philosophy and can trace this love back to when I was nine years old. It may never become as significant for you, but try one of the books here and you just may be surprised to find that the subject is actually quite useful.

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