How many great books have you actually read?

EDIT:  There’s been such a large response to this, that I’ve created a survey, which you can take here.  If you’ve already replied in this thread and listed the books you’ve read, I’ll input your response in the survey, so no need to do it again.  If you’ve just given me a number, please do take the survey.  Comments are still open, if you’ve got a point to make.  Here’s the original post:

I’m having an argument with a misguided friend (he’s wrong, obviously) about how many of the so-called great philosophical books people have actually read.  I think most people studying or teaching philosophy have read large parts of what we might call ‘the good stuff’, and we confuse reading that with actually reading the whole of a work.  (I think of myself as having read Berkeley’s Principles, but I really only know the good bit, which is to say the arguments for idealism at the start — God alone knows what’s in the second half of the book.)  So give me a number, anonymously if you like.  How many of the following works have you actually read, cover to cover, in their entirety?  Bear in mind there’s no judgement presupposed here — I’m not suggesting it’s a mistake not to read these works.  And, by the way this list is not meant to be The Canon, if there is such a thing, just a sample of great works.  So go on, scan the list, and say how many you’ve read.

The Republic, Plato
Organon, Aristotle
Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle
City of God, Augustine
Summa theologiae, Aquinas
The Prince, Machiavelli
Novum Organum, Francis Bacon
Discourse on Method, Rene Descartes
Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes
Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes
Ethics, Spinoza
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke
Monadology, Leibniz
Principles of Human Knowledge, Berkeley
A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume
Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Hume
The Social Contract, Rousseau
The Principles of Morals and Legislation, Jeremy Bentham
Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant
Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel
Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill
Vindication of the rights of Women, Mary Wollstonecraft
Either/Or, Soren Kierkegaard
Method of Ethics, Sidgwick
Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche
Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx
Principia Ethica, G. E. Moore
Being and Time, Martin Heidegger
Tractatus, Wittgenstein
Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein
Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre
The Second Sex, de Beauvoir

Well, how many have you read, page by page, cover to cover?

Leave a comment ?

156 Comments.

  1. Just eight, with three ‘near-misses’.

    There is more than one on the list I have no plan on reading ever — not even a little bit. Looking at you, Sartre/Heidegger/Hegel.

  2. I am working on an MA in Philosophy and I admit that I haven’t read any of these books from cover to cover. I pick the chapters I need at times, and sometimes I read around a bit. I have probably read most of Kant (because I can read it in German) and of John Rawls’ “A Theory of Justice”.

    I think however that there is no rush when it comes to reading the classics: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2011/10/15/take-your-time-with-good-books/ Most of us will live to be 75 or 80 years old. If we read all the good books now, there won’t be anything interesting left when we get old. It’s much better to spread these classics out over one’s lifetime.

  3. For what it’s worth, nine. But what I actually remember of what I read, well, that’s another story….

  4. Of the list:

    The Republic, Plato Yes (taught it)
    Organon, Aristotle No
    Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle Yes (taught it)
    City of God, Augustine No
    Summa theologiae, Aquinas Yes (taught it)
    The Prince, Machiavelli Yes
    Novum Organum, Francis Bacon Yes
    Discourse on Method, Rene Descartes Yes
    Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes Yes (taught it)
    Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes Yes (taught it)
    Ethics, Spinoza Yes
    An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke Yes
    Monadology, Leibniz Yes
    Principles of Human Knowledge, Berkeley Yes
    A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume Yes
    Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Hume Yes
    The Social Contract, Rousseau Yes (taught it)
    The Principles of Morals and Legislation, Jeremy Bentham No (but parts of)
    Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant No (but parts of)
    Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel Yes
    Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill Yes (taught it)
    Vindication of the rights of Women, Mary Wollstonecraft No
    Either/Or, Soren Kierkegaard Yes (taught it)
    Method of Ethics, Sidgwick No
    Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche Yes (taught it)
    Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx Yes (taught it)
    Principia Ethica, G. E. Moore Yes
    Being and Time, Martin Heidegger Yes
    Tractatus, Wittgenstein Yes (taught it)
    Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein Yes
    Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre Yes
    The Second Sex, de Beauvoir Yes (taught it)

    I should add that a full half of them I have taught. My suspicion is that when you start teaching full time, you end up reading them either for classes you are teaching or as supplementary material for those class.

  5. 13.

  6. I’ve read 17, but that’s because I’m determined to do whole books (because I compile their ideas for my website). I don’t read much continental stuff, and am cross with myself for not having read a few on your list. I am, you may have guessed, a ‘mature’ student of the subject.

  7. Three! Shameful. Althgouh in my defence, I have read some that aren’t on the list too!
    I think you’re right though, there were a number that I’d like to say I’ve read, but in fact have only read the good bits….

  8. 7 (from cover to cover)

  9. Twelve. But I can’t recall hardly anything I read for two of them. Have not read any Moore or Sedgwick, and have to admit I never thought of reading them.

  10. Just 9 :(. But, of course, there might be other lists according to which I’m doing better. I think Russell’s Principles of Mathematics should be included!

  11. Nine ;)

  12. I believe about 17, and parts of many others, mostly as a student by the way.

  13. 17. But I do history so a lot if those are required reading

  14. I’ve read sixteen cover to cover and at least some parts of all of them except Bacon’s Novum Organum. Not nearly as many as I’d like to get round to. And I don’t read nearly as much now as I used to as a student.

  15. A mere 4 (all from undergrad classes). But not working in an area of philosophy with a vast historical background (philosophy of cognitive science), I don’t feel too bad about it :-)

  16. Wow. So far the numbers are higher than I expected (maybe those inclined to jump to reply are those proud of reading a lot). I thought most people would have read parts but not all of so many books.

  17. @Andreas Moser — I thought of spreading them out through a lifetime too, but then I think about how common it is to forget them so quickly. By the time you get to Marx, will you still recall Aristotle?

  18. 17

  19. @Fillipo- Seriously?! Principia Mathematica? I did pause over it (and stuck something else of Russell’s on the list), but I think you might forgive someone for missing that one out, like you’d forgive someone for missing out Aquinas’ Summa (it’s HUGE).

  20. 12 of them in their entirety. Bits of various others, as you say.

  21. Brandon Robshaw

    I have read 7 of them: Nichomachean Ethics, The Prince, Discourse on Method, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Critique of Pure Reason, Utilitarianism, Communist Manifesto. Of these the most painful was Critique of Pure Reason, which I read to fulfil a New Year’s Resolution, grinding through 10 pages a day until it was done.

  22. I read 11 of the lists of classics and several parts of most of the others.

    The Republic, Plato (y)1
    Organon, Aristotle (y)2
    Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle
    City of God, Augustine
    Summa theologiae, Aquinas
    The Prince, Machiavelli (y) 3
    Novum Organum, Francis Bacon
    Discourse on Method, Rene Descartes (y)4
    Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes (parts)
    Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes (parts)
    Ethics, Spinoza (parts)
    An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke (parts)
    Monadology, Leibniz (parts)
    Principles of Human Knowledge, Berkeley
    A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume (y)5
    Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Hume (parts)
    The Social Contract, Rousseau (parts)
    The Principles of Morals and Legislation, Jeremy Bentham
    Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant (y)6
    Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel (y)7
    Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill
    Vindication of the rights of Women, Mary Wollstonecraft
    Either/Or, Soren Kierkegaard
    Method of Ethics, Sidgwick (y)7
    Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche (y)8
    Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx (y)9
    Principia Ethica, G. E. Moore
    Being and Time, Martin Heidegger
    Tractatus, Wittgenstein (y)10
    Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein (y)11
    Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre
    The Second Sex, de Beauvoir

  23. Yes The Republic, Plato
    Yes Organon, Aristotle
    Yes Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle
    City of God, Augustine (bits)
    Summa theologiae, Aquinas
    Yes The Prince, Machiavelli
    Novum Organum, Francis Bacon
    Yes Discourse on Method, Rene Descartes
    Yes Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes
    Yes Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes (and yes, I did read the second half)
    Ethics, Spinoza (bits)
    An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke
    Yes Monadology, Leibniz
    Yes Principles of Human Knowledge, Berkeley
    A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume (bits)
    Yes Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Hume
    The Social Contract, Rousseau
    The Principles of Morals and Legislation, Jeremy Bentham
    Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant
    Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel
    Yes Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill
    Vindication of the rights of Women, Mary Wollstonecraft
    Either/Or, Soren Kierkegaard
    Method of Ethics, Sidgwick
    Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche
    Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx
    Yes Principia Ethica, G. E. Moore
    Being and Time, Martin Heidegger
    Yes Tractatus, Wittgenstein
    Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein (bits)
    Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre
    The Second Sex, de Beauvoir

    So 13 (and you’re right: bits only of several others)

  24. I’ve read six cover to cover, and parts of another five.

  25. I wrote one.

  26. You co-wrote one, Karl. We’re being honest in this thread.

  27. Roughly 8–and I say “roughly,” because it’s been so long since I read many of these (30+ years) that I can’t recall whether I actually read every word in some of them. Now, ask a follow-up question, regarding how many we could competently summarize, and my number would drop pretty precipitously; maybe that’s a better indication of whatever exactly it is that you’re supposing is the case.

  28. The Republic, Plato – parts
    Organon, Aristotle – not at all :oops:
    Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle – part
    City of God, Augustine – not at all
    Summa theologiae, Aquinas – not at all
    The Prince, Machiavelli – all
    Novum Organum, Francis Bacon – not at all
    Discourse on Method, Rene Descartes – part
    Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes – part
    Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes – most?
    Ethics, Spinoza – most?
    An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke – part
    Monadology, Leibniz – part
    Principles of Human Knowledge, Berkeley – most / all?
    A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume – part
    Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Hume – not at all
    The Social Contract, Rousseau – all
    The Principles of Morals and Legislation, Jeremy Bentham – part
    Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant – part
    Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel – not at all
    Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill – part
    Vindication of the rights of Women, Mary Wollstonecraft – all
    Either/Or, Soren Kierkegaard – not at all
    Method of Ethics, Sidgwick – not at all
    Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche – all
    Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx – all
    Principia Ethica, G. E. Moore – all
    Being and Time, Martin Heidegger – not at all
    Tractatus, Wittgenstein – not at all
    Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein – not at all
    Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre – most
    The Second Sex, de Beauvoir – all

    I’m kind of embarrassed by this.

  29. Vincenzo Politi

    Only 10 from the list, but I’ve read other “classic” books which are not mentioned here:

    – “Meno”, by Plato
    – “Phaedo”, by Plato
    – “De Anima”, by Aristotle
    – “Critic of the Power of Judgement”, by Kant
    – “The Logic of Scientific Discovery”, by Popper
    – “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, by Kuhn

    I notice a sort of trend: people tend to read Greek philosophy (Plato and Aristotle), modern philosophy (Empiricists-Rationalists-Transcendental Criticism) and then some specific contemporary debate. The philosophy of the Middle Age is neglected, as well as the philosophy of Renaissance.

  30. Cover to cover, certainly seven (Republic, Nic Ethics, The Prince, Meditations, Social Contract, Utilitarianism, Communist Manifesto). These I’ve generally read cover to cover several times. Possibly Berkeley’s Principles too, though I was an undergraduate at the time and can’t remember whether I read it all.

  31. 22:
    The Republic, Plato
    Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle
    Discourse on Method, Rene Descartes
    Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes
    Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes
    Ethics, Spinoza
    Monadology, Leibniz
    Principles of Human Knowledge, Berkeley
    A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume
    Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Hume
    The Social Contract, Rousseau
    Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant
    Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel
    Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill
    Either/Or, Soren Kierkegaard
    Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche
    Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx
    Being and Time, Martin Heidegger
    Tractatus, Wittgenstein
    Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein
    Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre
    The Second Sex, de Beauvoir

  32. 7 entire books:
    The Republic, Plato
    The Prince, Machiavelli
    Discourse on Method, Rene Descartes
    Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes
    Monadology, Leibniz
    The Social Contract, Rousseau
    Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx

    and almost all (so much more than bits) of 4 books
    Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle
    Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes
    Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant
    Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill

  33. Cover to cover, 12. I swear.

  34. 17 cover to cover. Mostly because I have to teach them. The rest, bits and pieces, or the “good parts”

  35. @Vincenzo Politi – that trend you suspect lines up with my experience at university. You read some Greeks, there’s a cough, and you read moderns. Once you’re teaching, you end up in the journals around your area of specialization, unless your thing is history.

  36. Georgios Patios

    Eight:
    1) The Republic
    2)The Prince
    3)Critique of Pure Reason
    4)Phenomenology of Spirit
    5)Thus Spoke Zarathustra
    6)Being and Time
    7)Tractatus
    8) Being and Nothingness

    I have enjoyed however only 3: The Republic, The Prince and Thus Spoke Zarathustra…

  37. You should consider adding Daniel Dennett’s book CONSCIOUSNESS EXPLAINED to your list. It is a VERY interesting book (referencing Descartes etcetera, obviously).

  38. Michael Hauskeller

    18.

  39. @ Shannon- no reason to be embarrassed, I don’t think. The question this raises, should we read all of this, is another matter. I’m not sure how to start thinking about that. You wouldn’t expect a researcher at CERN to have read the history of physics (Aristotle’s physics?), but maybe you would expect someone who teaches English Lit to have read all the great books in that neck of the woods. Where philosophers fall on this spectrum might be a start on one sort of answer.

  40. @Beardy – I deliberately left out anyone still living, or indeed any recent books (published in the last 60 years or so). Combination of a pathetic cop out and really not knowing if they’ll make the historical grade.

  41. I’m getting a few answers via email too:

    19

    22

    14

  42. Nine. Three (The Republic, The Prince, Thus Spake Zarathusa) I read before starting to study philosophy. Others are: Discourse on Method, Meditations, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Utilitarianism, Communist Manifesto and The Second Sex.

    Part read ten more. Is it even possible to read Summa Theologica cover to cover? :) (Have read portions of it). Interesting too – I read all of Hume’s Enquiry but not the Treatise and all of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right but not the Phenomenology.

    I see I have more reading to do :)

  43. 9
    The Prince, Machiavelli
    Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes
    A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume
    Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant
    Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill
    Either/Or, Soren Kierkegaard
    Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche
    Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein
    The Second Sex, de Beauvoir

  44. Just 8, and mostly the short ones (The Prince, Meditations, Monadology).

  45. Nicola Jamieson

    Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle
    Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes
    Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant
    Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill
    Tractatus, Wittgenstein
    Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein

    Above are those i’ve read cover to cover. I have read (in part) 5 others though not quite to entirety. However, i’m not sure that what really counts is the number of books read. Understanding the teaching from one book is surely worth more than having read though not absorbed a dozen?

  46. Seventeen. So long.

  47. 10 cover to cover. 14 selections.

  48. I manage 13. Studying the Tractatus was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had as a student. But it’s a bit rough to just list “The Organon” as if that were a single work.

  49. I read 10 items on the list: Plato, Descartes(both works, easy this one…), Aristotle’s Ethics, Kant, Hume, Leibniz, Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, Rousseau, Marx

  50. @John Wilkins– Agreed RE the Organon. It’s sometimes lumped together, but no matter how you slice it Aristotle’s logical works were alarmingly influential. I didn’t want to leave it all out, but a glance at Amazon tells me it’s 500+ pages. Aquinas’ Summa is a 5 volume, 3000 page mega-monster, but, I don’t know, it’s one of THE works of the middle ages, no? Can you really leave it off the list of greats?

  51. 6 read more than once, studied, made essays and discussed with others. Possibly the best way to read such stuff.

  52. 9 cover to cover (though some so much time ago that… you know), 2 almost, amazingly “bits” only from a couple of others.
    Also, not on the list: the other two Kant’s Critiques, Marx’s Capital (book 1, I’m not that masochist).

  53. This is what I’ve read:

    The Republic, Plato
    Organon, Aristotle
    Discourse on Method, Rene Descartes
    Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes
    A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume
    Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Hume
    The Social Contract, Rousseau
    Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant
    Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel
    Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx
    Principia Ethica, G. E. Moore
    Tractatus, Wittgenstein
    Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein

    All the best,
    Luca

  54. yeah, but how can anyone say a book is a great book if he hasn’t read it? i can say a book is great only if i have really read it and liked it. a list of great books must be a list of books that i have read. books that are considered great are not necessarily great for me. i did read the bible cover to cover, hebrew and english version, a great book. and i am proud to say i read the republic by plato also, all the 10 chapters. these are the greatests.

  55. 9. I would add kant’s other two critiques to the list. and also marx’s capital I. Interesting to see that I am not the only one coming up with this suggestion.
    that would make me 12!

  56. Thornton Lockwood

    25

  57. Dennis Sceviour

    4 cover to cover for sure.
    Quotations, pieces or chapters from all of them.

  58. @Demet & G- I know. I don’t want to fall into an argument over which books are great, but I thought I’d limit myself to one book per philosopher if I could help it, so I went for the more famous of Kant’s and Marx’s books. I think in the end it was only Hume and Aristotle who got double dips.

  59. Thirteen it would appear (and working on nr. 14), though I regret having read Sartre completely.

    Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle
    The Prince, Machiavelli
    Ethics, Spinoza
    Principles of Human Knowledge, Berkeley
    Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Hume
    The Social Contract, Rousseau
    Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant
    Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill
    Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche
    Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx
    Being and Time, Martin Heidegger
    Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein
    Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre

  60. Jerry Goodenough

    The Republic, Plato
    Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle (bits)
    The Prince, Machiavelli
    Discourse on Method, Rene Descartes
    Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes
    Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes
    Ethics, Spinoza
    An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke
    Monadology, Leibniz
    Principles of Human Knowledge, Berkeley
    A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume
    Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Hume
    The Social Contract, Rousseau
    The Principles of Morals and Legislation, Jeremy Bentham (bits)
    Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant
    Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill
    Vindication of the rights of Women, Mary Wollstonecraft
    Either/Or, Soren Kierkegaard (bits)
    Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche
    Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx
    Being and Time, Martin Heidegger (bits – one day I’ll get round to it…)
    Tractatus, Wittgenstein
    Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein
    Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre (bits)
    The Second Sex, de Beauvoir

    I make that 20 cover to cover plus bits of 5 others, though that is only about 1 a year since I was a postgraduate. Must read more…

  61. The Republic, Plato certainly
    Organon, Aristotle not every page
    Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle yes
    City of God, Augustine Come on. No one reads all of it.
    Summa theologiae, Aquinas Ditto
    The Prince, Machiavelli Yes
    Novum Organum, Francis Bacon No
    Discourse on Method, Rene Descartes Yes
    Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes Yes
    Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes Again. Come on. Every page?
    Ethics, Spinoza The good parts
    An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke Yes
    Monadology, Leibniz Yes
    Principles of Human Knowledge, Berkeley Yes
    A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume No. Too big
    Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Hume No
    The Social Contract, Rousseau Yes
    The Principles of Morals and Legislation, Jeremy Bentham Not all
    Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant Not all
    Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel No
    Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill Yes
    Vindication of the rights of Women, Mary Wollstonecraft Yes
    Either/Or, Soren Kierkegaard No
    Method of Ethics, Sidgwick Read chunks of it. I don’t think I read it all.
    Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche Yes
    Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx Yes
    Principia Ethica, G. E. Moore Only parts
    Being and Time, Martin Heidegger No
    Tractatus, Wittgenstein Yes
    Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein Yes
    Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre No
    The Second Sex, de Beauvoir No

  62. Margaret Atherton

    15. I might have been tempted to cheat and count the ones I had read “substantial” amounts of until I read your comment on the Principles. Yes, I said to myself, how right he is, how few people have a clue what is in that book, and so I am including only what I am sure I have read cover to cover

  63. 17 – All of them but one as an undergraduate (I had to). I even got detailed notes for each. Some of them again later on. The rest I read ALMOST cover to cover (save perhaps 2 of them) and still have notes for those too. All that thanks to a mad unergraduate program!

  64. Bits of most, but only 13 cover to cover for sure. I’ve forgotten more than I remember;-) And some were just “for fun” so no real studious consideration of the content..

  65. Around 10 or 12, I think.

    Are you drawing a distinction between “reading” and “looking at all the words in the right order”? I suspect that some of those that I claim to read might actually have merely been things I saw.

  66. @ Slobodan Perovic — Good God! What sinister undergrad program was that?! Good for you though.

  67. @Emzyme: good point. Reading vs direct acquaintance is a valuable distinction. Should have been more clear.

  68. An entry by email says 24 — near the top of the leader board.

  69. Daniel Polowetzky

    Many years ago while taking a class on the philosophy of language, I asked the Professor whether, on lecturing on Russell’s Theory of Types, he had as a matter of profesional expectations, read the entire Principia Mathematica.

    He replied something to the effect that he had read the important parts. I suppose this is not entirely different than what one would find in other fields. Assuming actual progress in a field, it would be unlikely to be important to read the entirety of the foundational works.

  70. 11.

    But hey, I’ve read large chunks of many of the books that I haven’t read cover to cover. I demand partial credit! I also want extra credit for reading the Phenomenology of Spirit twice, cover to cover. And extra extra credit for spending 5 minutes back in the 80s thinking I understood the whole thing.

  71. 16.
    A french philosopher.

  72. For sure, 9. Possibly 10, I don’t remember.

  73. !0, or possibly 9 plus one near miss, and substantial chunks (20% +) of 6 others).

  74. Michael Gardner

    Jeeze two but add on The Apology, Plato; The Geneaology of Morals, Nietszche; The Ambiguity of Being, DeBeauvoir.

  75. Cover to cover only 8

  76. 7 for certain:

    The Republic, Plato
    Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle
    Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes
    Monadology, Leibniz
    Principles of Human Knowledge, Berkeley
    Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill
    Tractatus, Wittgenstein

  77. I was an English major, not a Philosophy major.

    I’ve read seven. And they were damn good.

  78. 6 (from cover to cover)
    14 (large parts of)
    But it seems to be a rather anglosaxon list.

  79. In their entirety, eight:
    Republic, Nicomachean Ethics, The Prince, Hune’s Treatise, The Social Contract, Utilitarianism, The Methods of Ethics, The Communist Manisfesto

    and bits of about half the others

  80. I have fully read 19 in your list, with bits of most others. I have published about, and could teach, many of the ones I have fully read. In any case, knowing these works has made no difference whatsoever on my prospects of finding a teaching position in philosophy (I’m unemployed). I’m glad you have raised such an elementary issue,though. It is the first time I have been asked this, and I have lost count of the teaching applications I have sent.

  81. 11; lots of parts of others, as you suppose.

  82. James C. (not G.)

    Of James Garvey’s list of 32, I can claim to have read at least 12 from cover to cover, including the Critique of Pure Reason (which should be read from the middle to the end before starting back at the beginning). I’m not entirely sure whether I have not actually read all of one or two others. On the other hand, of the following list of 19, I have read 13:

    The Confessions, Augustine
    Montaigne’s Essays
    Les Provinciales, Blaise Pascal
    The Search after Truth, Malebranche
    An Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense, Thomas Reid
    Essays on the Intellectual Powers of the Human Mind, Thomas Reid
    Essays on the Active Powers of the Human Mind, Thomas Reid
    An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Hume
    An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, Hume
    Critique of Practical Reason, Kant
    Philosophy of Right, Kant
    On Liberty, John Stuart Mill
    Course in General Linguistics, Ferdinand de Saussure
    Creative Evolution, Henri Bergson
    The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, Henri Bergson
    The New Scientific Spirit, Gaston Bachelard
    The Problems of Philosophy, Russell
    The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn
    Word and Object, Quine

  83. I see 11 that I have a dog eared copy of and can say with complete certainty that I have read at least once.

    The Republic, Plato
    Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle
    City of God, Augustine
    Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes
    Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes
    Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant
    Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel
    Being and Time, Martin Heidegger
    Tractatus, Wittgenstein
    Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein
    Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre

    Then there are another 7 that I am pretty sure I have read at some time but it may have been quite a while ago or I may not have quite finished.

    A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume
    The Social Contract, Rousseau
    Organon, Aristotle
    The Second Sex, de Beauvoir
    Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill
    Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche
    The Prince, Machiavelli

    (If you’re doing math i’d put my total # at 15 to be realistic – )

    I’ve read various degrees of most (not all) of the rest. I’ve even taught portions of Locke, Bentham & Wollestonecraft without having read the treatises cover to cover… I think that backs up your original claim.

    So, no pragmatists?

  84. A measly 5!

  85. I only read The Republic and the Communist Manifesto from cover to cover. Which is ironical for a follower of Popper, of whom I’ve only read excerpts. I’m not a philosopher, I have an MA in Literary Studies.

    I did read some chapters or essays by Kant, Gadamer, Saussure, Bergson, Sartre, Camus and Cicero in the original language. I also read Aristotle’s Poetics, the Mencius and all of Epicurus’ surviving work in translation. Epicurus convinced me that wisdom doesn’t have to be obscure or technical.

  86. 10.
    Better than I expected.

  87. Zenon Stavrinides

    I read, cover to cover, 9 of the books on the list, all a long time ago when I was an undergraduate and felt I should read the books on student book lists.

  88. 16, but I’ve read almost no contemporary analytic philosophy (or contemporary continental philosophy).

  89. 11, and most of another 8. But some of these classics are much longer than others — the Summa, the City of God, PM are monsters, whereas some are little more than essays.

  90. nine, almost ten

  91. 24 :

    The Republic, Plato
    Organon, Aristotle
    Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle
    City of God, Augustine
    The Prince, Machiavelli
    Discourse on Method, Rene Descartes
    Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes
    Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes
    Ethics, Spinoza
    An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke
    Monadology, Leibniz
    Principles of Human Knowledge, Berkeley
    A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume
    Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Hume
    The Social Contract, Rousseau
    Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant
    Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel
    Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche
    Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx
    Being and Time, Martin Heidegger
    Tractatus, Wittgenstein
    Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein
    Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre
    The Second Sex, de Beauvoir

  92. Looking forward to trying to work out what, if anything, all this means. Meanwhile, a few more via email:

    5,with another 2 probably read (but not all at once) — “Has anyone ever read the end section of the Critique of Pure Reason or Book 4 of Leviathan?!”

    “read 6, looked over 10″

    21

  93. Zero.

    FUCK YEAH

  94. I have done the survey and seem to have read 11 books cover to cover after 30 years in the philosophy trade. It’s the cover-to-cover rule that makes it difficult. Having read much of The Leviathan many times, there are bits I’ve never bothered to look at. Same with some of the other classics. It seems I’m most likely to read them cover to cover for pleasure, rather than teaching. And it seems to be Rousseau, Wittgenstein and Descartes I get most pleasure from.

  95. 7 books

  96. vindication ofthe rights of women? no frege?
    are you smoking?

  97. @srk- Nice. You’re not the only one.

    @palma- Thought about Frege, but his best stuff is in articles, not books. Anyway this isn’t meant to be a definitive list of greats, just a sample.

  98. 20.
    This list, although “not a canon”, is odd. For instance I assume most people read Plato’s Symposium… Aristotle’s Organon is not properly a book and most people would have read the Analytic I & II. If you put in the list Lock’s Essay, it would make more sense to put Leibniz’Nouveaux Essais rather then his Monadologie.
    Seriously, apart from medievalists and christians, who would read The City of God in extenso ? Not sure Le deuxième sexe, which I read, qualifies as a “great philosophical work”… What about replacing it with, for instance, Husserl’s Ideen?

  99. Not sure if you literally want to know how many books I’ve read or egnite the desire for me to re-engage in reading. Imgoing with the latter. I’m in. Txs

  100. @FC- I know there’s no way to produce a list that will make sense to everyone, and maybe this one is odd (but I’ve also had people tell me it’s a ‘great list’ too). I stuck the Organon in partly because it really was so influential and also because I was curious about whether anyone would actually claim to have read it (so too Summa). RE de Beauvoir, I thought the list should have some women on it, certainly interesting to see how many have read her — quite a few actually.

  101. I think, as with pop music, different classics get in for different generations although the main list remains the same. For my generation (started in 1979) Gilbert Ryle’s The Concept of Mind and John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice make it onto the ‘books everyone has read’ list. And Hannah Arendt would be there as a must-read thinker although I wouldn’t want to choose a text.

  102. 15, though I’ll admit that many of those were among the shorter ones on the list. (I think I should get bonus points for having read all of Bentham’s _Principles of Morals and Legislation_. Not only is there really no reason to read it all (now I know!) but it’s also wildly tedious at parts.

  103. Zero.

    —PhD student in philosophy

  104. @phil cole- I thought a lot about ‘contemporary’ philosophy books (OK, two minutes) but in the end decided it’s too soon to say who’s going to cut the historical mustard, so I bailed after about 60 years or so ago.

    Having interesting email conversations with philosophers about why they read books and how they read books.

  105. @ John & srk – I suspect there are many, many more zeros out there. Stand up and be counted!

  106. 22 for me, but, like many others, I’ve read them by virtue of teaching them.

    My training is broadly historicist and continental, but my degree is also in Religion…

  107. Just these for me. In retrospect, reading some of these cover-to-cover probably wasn’t the best use of my time.

    The Republic, Plato
    Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle
    The Prince, Machiavelli
    Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes
    A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume
    Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Hume
    The Social Contract, Rousseau
    Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant
    Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill
    Method of Ethics, Sidgwick
    Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche
    Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx
    Principia Ethica, G. E. Moore

  108. Zero.

    I once started being and nothingness and decided it was all crap. Thats my philosophy anyway.

  109. I have read 8 from cover to cover, and bits and pieces of various others.

  110. Dennis Sceviour

    The average number of books that are claimed read from cover to cover is 11.

    What does all this mean? Is it an honesty test? Does it mean some people measure the number of books read like miles run in a footrace? One has to be cautious of statistical bias. Does it mean only European writers have anything to measure in philosophy, and that Asia, Japan, Africa, America and the Middle East philosophers do not count? Does it mean the readers enjoy recognition from the TPM blog and are asking for more numerical recognition?

  111. From cover to cover, 0. Parts of 9. Although, I do own 2 of them.

  112. 3rd yr phd student

    Zero

    don’t have any of the above on my reading list (not that i ever get to reading things on my reading list)

  113. 19 (several of them more than 30 years ago as an undergraduate):

    The Republic, Plato
    Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle
    The Prince, Machiavelli
    Discourse on Method, Rene Descartes
    Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes
    Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes
    Ethics, Spinoza
    An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke
    Monadology, Leibniz
    Principles of Human Knowledge, Berkeley
    A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume
    Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Hume
    The Social Contract, Rousseau
    The Principles of Morals and Legislation, Jeremy Bentham
    Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche
    Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx
    Principia Ethica, G. E. Moore
    Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein
    Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre

  114. I’ve read one cover-to-cover (The Meditations, as an undergraduate) and come close with another (Utilitarianism, teaching it), but that’s largely it.

    This list, as noted, slants quite historical. This seems to me a reason not to read many of them cover-to-cover regardless of the merits of reading philosophy books cover-to-cover in general. In 2012, do we really need to spend much time on Locke’s refutation of the descent-from-Adam theory of the Divine Right of Kings? Or, alternately, in a world with modern cognitive psychology do we really need to read through the entirety of Hume listing umpteen million passions, and his consequent classifications of each in a decidedly pre-scientific taxonomy? Much historical work seems legitimately left to the historians; the rest of us can just read the good bits.

  115. I’ve only read two of these cover-to-cover. I’m not worried though – Nietzsche hardly read any philosophy either, and it didn’t do him any harm.

  116. Whoops, my Oct 9th 3:19pm communication should have listed 20 of the works. I inadvertently omitted Mill. I should perhaps add that I’ve read nearly all of the Critique of Pure Reason and more than half of The Method of Ethics. However, I can’t quite claim to have read either of those two bulky works from cover to cover.

  117. I would like to lodge a protest against including the Communist manifesto instead of Capital. This may give the false impression that reading only the former constitutes ‘reading Marx’ in any useful sense.

  118. Dave,

    Like the fellow after his philosophy MA, (I have one), it’s pretty safe to say I’ve read none from page 1 to end. I’ve read a lot of really fine works, cover to cover, including the old and new testament many times. While you admit this “canon” is not definitive of anything, it certainly dates itself. Further, bear in mind, that the labor in the reading (e.g. Kant), to me indicates mostly the skill of the writer and editor, not the greatness of thought.
    Cheers.

  119. My recount gets me 13 – I’d forgotten that I read Moore’s Principia Ethica all the way through at one point … though given this, I may not have got a lot out of it! Then again, I do think there’s value in reading these classics in their entirety and seeing for yourself the overall context of the “good bits”. I now feel inspired to go and wrestle with a few more of them.

  120. For what it’s worth:
    Russell’s Principia Mathematica =/= Russell’s Principles of Mathematics

  121. Only one, but I wish not even that. I rather have read a bit of all, that only one. Anyway, after a while, I almost completely forget the reading. The one I read is the “Discourse de la Methode”, and I had 17 years old. I hardly remember anything. Of the rest, I have read bits (a bit more, a bit less…) of almost all of them. Hegel is good for insomnia (that is: to sleep) and Hume is to reasonable: have to put him down if you want to go to mass consistently. What I like most is Heidegger, but some essays of “Holzwege” more than “Being and time” (Though I have read that too). The list lacks a few very interesting of India (the logic treatises of the Nyaya system, and the amusing Artha Shastra of Kautilya, for example) and China (Cfr. Tao Te King) but that is the normal bias of some traditions regarding the thought of other parts of the world.

  122. 12. What I find shocking are the zeros from folks in graduate programs in Philo. I mean, The Republic is on the list. Are there actually PhDs in the field who’ve never read The Republic? (Come to think of it, that might explain a lot.)
    And @ PhD Student who claimed, “I’m not worried though – Nietzsche hardly read any philosophy either, and it didn’t do him any harm.”: If Nietzsche is your basis for not being worried, get worried.

  123. Nietzsche’s field was philology, not philosophy, but he read extensively in ancient literature and philosophy and there is even a little known text of his, Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, which shows his knowledge of ancient Greek philosophy.

    So he undoubtedly had read the Republic, Aristotle’s Ethics and Organon.

    Also Machiavelli’s The Prince.

    Given Nietzsche’s enthusiasm for Spinoza, let’s count The Ethics.

    Nietzsche often criticizes Descartes and so we can suppose that he read one of the two texts by Descartes on the above list. Let’s count the Discourse, which is shorter, so short that it can be read in an evening.

    I’m going to include Rousseau, since Nietzsche seems to dislike him enough to have read him as a bete noir.

    I don’t think that he read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, because it’s long and hard, so I’ll not count it, although it’s a possibility, given his criticism of Kant. However, I think it’s more likely that he read Kant on ethics.

    Nietzsche read Zarathustra, so I’ll count it.

    So we get 7 books read by Nietzsche.

  124. that should be 8 books read by Nietzsche

  125. I’m fascinated by the utilitarian view of reading in the comments. Many, if not most, of the great philosophers were also great writers. These books are great books. Except for Kant, reading them was pleasurable.

  126. The Republic, Plato [yes]
    Organon, Aristotle [yes}
    Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle [yes]
    City of God, Augustine [no]
    Summa theologiae, Aquinas [no]
    The Prince, Machiavelli [yes]
    Novum Organum, Francis Bacon [no]
    Discourse on Method, Rene Descartes [yes]
    Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes [yes]
    Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes [yes]
    Ethics, Spinoza [yes]
    An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke [yes]
    Monadology, Leibniz [no]
    Principles of Human Knowledge, Berkeley [no]
    A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume [yes]
    Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Hume [yes]
    The Social Contract, Rousseau [yes]
    The Principles of Morals and Legislation, Jeremy Bentham [no]
    Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant [yes]
    Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel [yes]
    Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill [no]
    Vindication of the rights of Women, Mary Wollstonecraft [yes]
    Either/Or, Soren Kierkegaard [yes]
    Method of Ethics, Sidgwick [no]
    Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche [yes]
    Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx [yes]
    Principia Ethica, G. E. Moore [no]
    Being and Time, Martin Heidegger [yes]
    Tractatus, Wittgenstein [yes]
    Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein [yes]
    Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre [yes]
    The Second Sex, de Beauvoir [yes]

  127. This may surprise you, but the answer is zero.

  128. My reading objective changed for the better a half century ago I read a sentence attributed to Whitehead, “The sole purpose of reading is to force the mind to do its own thinking.” (That’s how I remember it. If in error, that is the price paid for not keeping accurate notes.

    I would edit it to read, “”The primary purposes of reading are to prompt the mind to do its own thinking, the heart to do its own feeling and the will to resolve the consequent conflict.”

    For me, the best books to read are those that engage the whole of my perception.

  129. Only one,actually.
    Feeling surprised that most of you have read a lot ,so it seems that most people still have passion for our canon,or,this just illustrates that I should make a self-criticism?

  130. Have done the survey and ticked 17. Actually bought 12 of them. Have forgotten most of the other 5.

    Yes Filippo, most of the listed texts happen to influence my areas of study, so my total is no measure of philosophical erudition.

    Yes, James, some of us do love reading, so don’t begrudge the time it takes to plough through. But it isn’t that simple. Some of us just can’t properly grasp what’s being said without reading the whole thing.

    What about a survey of the other books we’d put on a list of ‘good stuff’? I’d second Vincenzo Politi with Kuhn – The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and Andreas Moser with Rawls – A Theory of Justice. And nominate Davidson – Actions and Events.

    (Really, swallerstein, saying you’ve read Spinoza’s Ethics because you’ve noted Nietzsche’s “enthusiasm” ….. Nietzsche’s few comments on Spinoza are short quibbles and often plain misreadings.)

  131. i have read every single one of them, except for the two women who, to be honest, dont really belong in this list.
    and by “read” i do not just mean read, i mean studied.

  132. @Margaret Gullan-Whur- I am thinking of writing up a list of books and asking which people think should be ‘in the canon’, but I left off any books in the last 60 years or so, just because we might be too close to say if they make the grade. I actually drew up a long list of 50. Kuhn and Rawls are on it.

    @Mike – Why would you say that women don’t belong on a sample list of great philosophy books?

  133. all of them; they are all metanyms for previously published DNA

  134. 11 (from cover to cover), but parts of others

    The Republic, Plato (yes)
    Organon, Aristotle (this is not a single book, but I read parts)
    Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle (yes)
    City of God, Augustine (no)
    Summa theologiae, Aquinas (parts)
    The Prince, Machiavelli (parts)
    Novum Organum, Francis Bacon (parts)
    Discourse on Method, Rene Descartes (yes)
    Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes (yes)
    Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes (parts)
    Ethics, Spinoza (yes)
    An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke (parts)
    Monadology, Leibniz (yes)
    Principles of Human Knowledge, Berkeley (no)
    A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume (yes)
    Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Hume (no)
    The Social Contract, Rousseau (parts)
    The Principles of Morals and Legislation, Jeremy Bentham (no)
    Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant (almost all)
    Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel (no, and no intention to read it)
    Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill (yes)
    Vindication of the rights of Women, Mary Wollstonecraft (no)
    Either/Or, Soren Kierkegaard (no)
    Method of Ethics, Sidgwick (no)
    Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche (yes)
    Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx (yes)
    Principia Ethica, G. E. Moore (no)
    Being and Time, Martin Heidegger (parts)
    Tractatus, Wittgenstein (yes)
    Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein (parts)
    Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre (no)
    The Second Sex, de Beauvoir (no)

    If you wanted to include women in the list, better Hanna Arendt than any of these two. But this list is very incomplete (just in my opinion)

  135. Unread professor

    i’ve read three from cover to cover and almost all of The Philosophical Investigations (part II doesn’t really belong there). I am a professor of philosophy. Should it bother me that I haven’t read all that many from cover to cover? Especially when so many who have posted here are much better read in these classics than I? Clearly it is better to have done so than not to have done so. Nonetheless, not all of us need to interested in the history of philosophy, and although philosophy is not science, depending on our philosophical interests it may be no more important to have read these books than it is for a physicist to have read Newton’s Principia Mathematica.

  136. The honest truth is that I have always tended to read “text books” for their point(s) – and thus skip read from point to point, often back tracking over the hard bits till I’ve got them, but otherwise rapidly moving on and on till they’re finished. In some cases I have read them cover to cover because of the quality of the narrative (that’s how I read novels). So whilst I am fairly well read in physics, philosophy, and the like I don’t claim to have read more than a few dozen “cover to cover”, but for their essential content – maybe hundreds (gauged by the size of of my library).

    Apparently I am not alone with this technique (that I adopted in 1974 having watched Tony Buzan’s Use Your Head BBC series). I recommend it. Here’s an a more recent update (from an aged Buzan)…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2pQAUqWGWw

    There’s this also…

    http://www.dartmouth.edu/~acskills/success/reading.html

    I like this passage on the myth of the “sin of speed reading”…

    Many college students feel that it is somehow sinful to skip passages in reading and to read rapidly. We are not sure just how this attitude develops, but some authorities have suggested that it stems from the days when the Bible was the main book read, savored, and reread. Indeed, the educated person was one who could quote long passages from these books from memory.

    Today proliferation of books and printed matter brought about by the information explosion creates a reading problem for everyone. Furthermore, much of this printed material offers considerably less than Shakespeare or the Bible in meaning or style. You must, of course, make daily decisions as to what is worth spending your time on, what can be glanced at or put aside for future perusal, and what can be relegated to the wastebasket.

    The idea that you cannot skip but have to read every page is old-fashioned. Children, however, are still taught to feel guilty if they find a novel dull and out it down before finishing it. I once had a student who felt she could not have books in her home unless she had read every one of them from cover to cover. Studies show that this is the reason many people drop Book-of-the-Month Club subscriptions; they begin to collect books, cannot keep up with their reading, and develop guilty feelings about owning books they have not had time to read.

    The idea that some books are used merely for reference purposes and are nice to have around in case you need them seems to be ignored in our schools. Sir Francis Bacon once said that some books are to be nibbled and tasted, some are to be swallowed whole, and a few need to be thoroughly chewed and digested no matter how trivial the content. No wonder many people dislike reading.

  137. one point many of us can cling to … although I’ve only read N of * these * great books, I’ve also read a good number cover to cover of * other * great philosophy books.

    So if you’d just included Aristotle’s De anima or Metaphysics or Lucretius’ On the nature of things or Descartes’ Passions of the soul or Hume’s first Enquiry or [fill in the blank as you wish!] my score might have looked more respectable. :idea:

  138. @Unread Prof- I do wonder about that too, whether we’re like physicists who need not bother with Newton, or whether we’re like English Lit folk, who really do have to know the greats. Somewhere in between is my gut feeling, but I need to do beter than that.

    @Stephen Voss- Agreed. Phase 2 is to work out a list of great books. I’ll have a go at that soon.

  139. Martin Ciupa –
    I agree that the ability to isolate essential points has value – notably for exam revision (thank you Buzan)or as bullet points for a lecture. But I am not sure how well this practice works unless the whole work has been read (e.g. Nietzsche on Spinoza.) We mark passages in the text on the basis of their function as summaries or milestones in the author’s extended argument. But we understand them much better with more background. Are you happy for readers of your own works to flick through or read only a few pages or paragraphs as directed by the index, and then to say they have read your book?

    James – I suggest your gut feeling may – only may – contain a sense that skim-reading and point-culling are somehow unfair, and maybe an element of doubt that we can call ourselves philosophers if we haven’t drunk from all philosophy’s venerated founts.

    The first sense seems to me justified, but the second doesn’t (and I’m not claiming that you proposed it). Patchy knowledge doesn’t bother any other professionals. They know that their specialist knowledge is valued purely as an in-depth aspect or branch of their subject.

    What I object to is claiming understanding of other aspects of your subject when you’ve only pecked at parts of it.

  140. Cover to cover:

    The Republic, Plato
    The Prince, Machiavelli
    Discourse on Method, Rene Descartes
    Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes
    Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes
    Ethics, Spinoza
    An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke
    Monadology, Leibniz
    Principles of Human Knowledge, Berkeley
    A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume
    Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Hume
    Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant
    Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche
    Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx

    Chunks not cover to cover:

    City of God, Augustine

  141. Read Plato’s Republic, the Tractatus and Philosophical Investigations, all as a major at Rutgers. I’ll be adding to my reading diet soon.

  142. Cover to cover? None, I’m sad to say. :oops:

  143. L’obbligo di leggere? « Corrado's blog - pingback on December 3, 2012 at 7:15 pm
  144. Good note ben

  145. Are these in order of greatness? (i.e. if I am interested in starting to read about philosophy do I just start from book one?)

    What do people recommend > easy reads, highly recommended etc.

  146. 2.
    I will never read Sartre.
    I will never read Sartre.

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