The best philosophical metaphysics books: What is be-ing? & What does it mean to be?

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a classically and formally trained philosopher. I have a Doctorate in Philosophy from Duquesne University (2011). I've been interested in philosophy for as long as I can remember; however, I began formally studying philosophy when I first discovered the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. I began teaching philosophy at the university level in 2004. I've taught over 100 university-level courses, including graduate-level courses in both philosophy and psychology. I'm presently finishing my tenth philosophy book, along with over 50 professional peer-reviewed articles in philosophy. These days my attention is devoted to sharing philosophy on the internet through The Philosophemes YouTube Channel, @Philosophemes on Instagram, and the Basic Philosophical Questions Podcast

I wrote...

The Philosophy of Being in the Analytic, Continental, and Thomistic Traditions: Divergence and Dialogue

By Frank Scalambrino, Joseph P. Li Vecchi, David K. Kovacs

Book cover of The Philosophy of Being in the Analytic, Continental, and Thomistic Traditions: Divergence and Dialogue

What is my book about?

The Philosophy of Being provides a discussion of the philosophy of being according to three major traditions in Western philosophy, the Analytic, the Continental, and the Thomistic. The origin of each of these traditions is associated with a seminal figure, Gottlob Frege, Immanuel Kant, and Thomas Aquinas, respectively. The questions addressed in this book are constitutional for the philosophy of being, considering the meaning of being, the relationship between thinking and being, and the methods for using thought to access being.

It honors diversity and pluralism, as it highlights how the three traditions may be clearly and distinctly differentiated regarding the philosophy of being. It also honors a sense of solidarity and ecumenism, as it demonstrates how the methods and focal points of these traditions continue to shape the development of Western philosophy. 
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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Philosophy of Material Nature: Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science and Prolegomena

Frank Scalambrino Why did I love this book?

Immanuel Kant is one of the most important figures in the history of philosophy – specifically regarding metaphysics – because he discovered the internal logic and organization for all of philosophical metaphysics. The book with which Kant accomplished that monumental feat is extremely difficult to read and understand. Therefore, Kant wrote an easier-to-read version, and that is the book that I am recommending: Philosophy of Material Nature. This book is highly affordable and readable.

The book that the Philosophy of Material Nature paraphrases is, of course, the Critique of Pure Reason. What all of these works show us is that philosophical metaphysics naturally divides into theological metaphysics, cosmological metaphysics, and psychological metaphysics. Kant’s achievement is standardly characterized as the articulation of philosophical metaphysics as a science. The general term for such a science is “transcendental philosophy.” Thus, the rest of the books in this recommendation list relate to that division and organization of philosophical metaphysics.

By Immanuel Kant, James W. Ellington,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Philosophy of Material Nature as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This volume combines two of Kant's key works on the metaphysics of nature--the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics That Will Be Able to Come Forward as Science and Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science --in the preeminent translations of James W. Ellington. Each work is preceded by an expert Introduction by Ellington and is followed by a German-English List of Terms and an Index.

Book cover of The Metaphysics

Frank Scalambrino Why did I love this book?

Aristotle’s Metaphysics marks the beginning of attempts to articulate the philosophy of metaphysics as a science. Retrospectively applying Kant’s division of metaphysics as transcendental philosophy to Aristotle’s writings: Aristotle’s Metaphysics is an in-depth examination of cosmological and theological metaphysics.

I personally enjoy Aristotle’s Metaphysics because it is mysterious. It is difficult to read, and the fact that it was written with an entirely different alphabet is exciting. Aristotle’s Metaphysics is his attempt to systematically blend his particular preference for empiricism with metaphysical insights learned from Plato’s philosophy.

The history of Aristotle’s Metaphysics – in terms of, for example, its title and organization – is fascinating in itself; however, what always stood out for me was recognizing Aristotle’s own excitement. Book 5 of his Metaphysics is often thought of as a kind of metaphysical dictionary, and shortly after this summary of vocabulary terms, it is as if Aristotle grabs hold of a newly revealed thread and rushes off to discuss theological metaphysics. You can sense the excitement motivating him. Aristotle’s Metaphysics is difficult, though rewarding, philosophical reading.

By Aristotle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Metaphysics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Arthur Madigan presents a clear, accurate new translation of the third book (Beta) of Aristotle's Metaphysics, together with two related chapters from the eleventh book (Kappa). Madigan's accompanying introduction and commentary give detailed guidance to these texts, in which Aristotle sets out what he takes to be the main problems of metaphysics or 'first philosophy' and assesses possible solutions to them; he takes his starting-point from the work of
earlier philosophers, especially Plato and some of the Presocratics. These texts serve as a useful introduction both to Aristotle's own work on metaphysics and to classical metaphysics in general; they are…

Book cover of Being and Time

Frank Scalambrino Why did I love this book?

Heidegger’s Being anTime is the contemporary classic work in transcendental philosophy. Whereas Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology took a Cartesian (René Descartes) point of departure, Heidegger’s phenomenology remained faithful to Kant’s transcendental philosophy. In this way, Heidegger’s Being anTime may be understood as addressing all three divisions of philosophical metaphysics from a more contemporary than Kant's point of view. However, Being anTime focuses primarily on cosmological and psychological metaphysics.

Many scholars, including Heidegger himself, have exerted significant effort to make Heidegger’s Being and Time appear as if it were an island regarding philosophical influence. However, Heidegger’s book definitely participates in the tradition of Kant’s transcendental philosophy. It is also worth noting that Being and Time is always found in the list of the three greatest philosophical works from the 20th century.

By Martin Heidegger, John MacQuarrie (translator), Edward S. Robinson (translator)

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Being and Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A knowledge of Heidegger's Sein und Zeit is essential for anyone who wishes to understand a great deal of recent continental work in theology as well as philosophy. Yet until this translation first appeared in 1962, this fundamental work of one of the most influential European thinkers of the century remained inaccessible to English readers. In fact the difficulty of Heidegger's thought was considered to be almost insuperable in the medium of a foreign language, especially English. That this view was unduly pessimistic is proved by the impressive work of John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson who have succeeded in clothing…

Book cover of Difference and Repetition

Frank Scalambrino Why did I love this book?

In my opinion, Gilles Deleuze was the greatest French philosopher of the 20th century, and that century was loaded with amazing French philosophers. Deleuze wrote a large number of excellent books. However, his doctoral dissertation, Difference and Repetition, is quite special. On the one hand, it is – from a philosophical point of view – very enjoyable to read. Though, some may find its style too layered and allusive. On the other hand, Difference and Repetition is also consistently listed as one of the three greatest works in philosophy written in the 20th century. Ultimately, in regard to Kant’s science of metaphysics, Deleuze’s book is a work in transcendental philosophy. More specifically, Deleuze’s book addresses all three divisions by treating cosmological metaphysics as the point of origin for theological and psychological metaphysics.

One last thing to mention here is that Difference and Repetition is the most difficult to read of all the books on this list. However, when you come to understand how he meant “difference” and “repetition” as metaphysical concepts, the gestalt-shift that it brings about in the reader’s mind is well worth the effort to understand it. In that regard, it is very much like the experience a reader has when they come to understand “the moment of vision” in Heidegger’s work.

By Gilles Deleuze, Paul Patton (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Difference and Repetition as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This brilliant exposition of the critique of identity is a classic in contemporary philosophy and one of Deleuze's most important works. Of fundamental importance to literary critics and philosophers,Difference and Repetition develops two central concepts-pure difference and complex repetition-and shows how the two concepts are related. While difference implies divergence and decentering, repetition is associated with displacement and disguising. Central in initiating the shift in French thought away from Hegel and Marx toward Nietzsche and Freud, Difference and Repetition moves deftly to establish a fundamental critique of Western metaphysics.

Book cover of What Is Existentialism? Vol. I: History & Principles

Frank Scalambrino Why did I love this book?

After extensive research, this is the only book in existence that answers the question: What is existentialism? Existentialism may be understood as the correct point of departure for addressing the philosophy of being as it relates to the individual. In other words, existentialism provides the philosophical framework with which to answer the question: What does it mean to be?

Existentialism is the culmination of the philosophical tradition moving from Kant through the German Romantics to Heidegger and Sartre, among the other existentialists. In regard to Kant’s division, it differs from Deleuze’s choice to articulate transcendental philosophy with cosmology as the point of departure, in that it takes psychology as the point of departure. Yet, at the same time, just as understanding “the moment of vision” brings about a kind of gestalt shift in the reader’s perspective, so too though existentialism may be characterized as transcendental psychology, it has a higher – more philosophical – point of view than merely empirical psychology.

By Frank Scalambrino,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What Is Existentialism? Vol. I as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The term “existentialism” was coined in the 1940s. Whereas other books regarding existentialism merely repeat the platitudes that “There is no such thing as existentialism” or that “The term ‘existentialism’ has no coherent meaning,” this two-volume set actually answers the question “What is existentialism?”

Volume I identifies the seven (7) principles of existentialism and the necessary and sufficient conditions for a philosophy to be existential, and introduces readers to the depth of the problem by showing how the question “What is existentialism?” can be answered in multiple ways, all of which are provided in this two-volume set.

Vol. I, then,…

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Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

By Rebecca Wellington,

Book cover of Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

Rebecca Wellington Author Of Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I am adopted. For most of my life, I didn’t identify as adopted. I shoved that away because of the shame I felt about being adopted and not truly fitting into my family. But then two things happened: I had my own biological children, the only two people I know to date to whom I am biologically related, and then shortly after my second daughter was born, my older sister, also an adoptee, died of a drug overdose. These sequential births and death put my life on a new trajectory, and I started writing, out of grief, the history of adoption and motherhood in America. 

Rebecca's book list on straight up, real memoirs on motherhood and adoption

What is my book about?

I grew up thinking that being adopted didn’t matter. I was wrong. This book is my journey uncovering the significance and true history of adoption practices in America. Now, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, the renewed debate over women’s reproductive rights places an even greater emphasis on adoption. As a mother, historian, and adoptee, I am uniquely qualified to uncover the policies and practices of adoption.

The history of adoption, reframed through the voices of adoptees like me, and mothers who have been forced to relinquish their babies, blows apart old narratives about adoption, exposing the fallacy that adoption is always good.

In this story, I reckon with the pain and unanswered questions of my own experience and explore broader issues surrounding adoption in the United States, including changing legal policies, sterilization, and compulsory relinquishment programs, forced assimilation of babies of color and Indigenous babies adopted into white families, and other liabilities affecting women, mothers, and children. Now is the moment we must all hear these stories.

Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

By Rebecca Wellington,

What is this book about?

Nearly every person in the United States is affected by adoption. Adoption practices are woven into the fabric of American society and reflect how our nation values human beings, particularly mothers. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, the renewed debate over women's reproductive rights places an even greater emphasis on adoption. As a mother, historian, and adoptee, Rebecca C. Wellington is uniquely qualified to uncover the policies and practices of adoption. Wellington's timely-and deeply researched-account amplifies previously marginalized voices and exposes the social and racial biases embedded in the United States' adoption industry.…

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