88 books like Mortal Questions

By Thomas Nagel,

Here are 88 books that Mortal Questions fans have personally recommended if you like Mortal Questions. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Problems of Philosophy

Scott Soames Author Of The World Philosophy Made: From Plato to the Digital Age

From my list on western philosophy: what it is and how to do it.

Who am I?

A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, I was educated at Stanford and MIT. I taught for four years at Yale and 24 years at Princeton before moving to USC, where I am Chair of the Philosophy Department. I specialize in the Philosophy of Language, History of Philosophy, and the Philosophy of Law. I have published many articles, authored fifteen books, co-authored two, and co-edited two. I am fascinated by philosophy's enduring role in our individual and collective lives, impressed by its ability to periodically reinvent itself, and challenged to bring what it has to offer to more students and to the broader culture.

Scott's book list on western philosophy: what it is and how to do it

Scott Soames Why did Scott love this book?

In this book, one of the great philosophers of the first half of the 20th century sketches his take on two central philosophical tasks -- explaining what kinds of things exist in reality, and how they are related, and delineating what we can know and how we know it.  In so doing, Russell illustrates the new method of logical and linguistic analysis he used in The Philosophy of Logical Atomism (1918), to lay the foundations of an epistemological and metaphysical system rivaling the great systems of the past. A key transitional figure linking the history of the subject to contemporary concerns, he raised logic and language to central subjects of philosophical study in their own right, without losing sight of their relevance for more traditional philosophical quests.

By Bertrand Russell,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Problems of Philosophy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Immensely intelligible, thought-provoking guide by Nobel Prize winner considers such topics as the distinction between appearance and reality, the existence and nature of matter, idealism, inductive logic, intuitive knowledge, many other subjects. For students and general readers, there is no finer introduction to philosophy than this informative, affordable and highly readable edition.


Book cover of Naming and Necessity

Scott Soames Author Of The World Philosophy Made: From Plato to the Digital Age

From my list on western philosophy: what it is and how to do it.

Who am I?

A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, I was educated at Stanford and MIT. I taught for four years at Yale and 24 years at Princeton before moving to USC, where I am Chair of the Philosophy Department. I specialize in the Philosophy of Language, History of Philosophy, and the Philosophy of Law. I have published many articles, authored fifteen books, co-authored two, and co-edited two. I am fascinated by philosophy's enduring role in our individual and collective lives, impressed by its ability to periodically reinvent itself, and challenged to bring what it has to offer to more students and to the broader culture.

Scott's book list on western philosophy: what it is and how to do it

Scott Soames Why did Scott love this book?

This book, given as three lectures in 1970 by a 28-year-old wunderkind, made its author one of the greatest philosophers of our era.  Just as Russell transformed the philosophy of his day by demonstrating the significance of an advanced system logic he helped to found, so Kripke transformed the philosophy descending from Russell by inventing an expressively richer version logic, and illustrating its significance. This book, more than any other,  provided the starting point for contemporary metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind. It is, nevertheless, remarkably accessible.  Delivered in a delightfully informal style, it presents ideas capable of far-reaching technical elaboration in their simplest and most comprehensible form, revealing their intuitive essence. If you want to understand philosophy today, you need to read this book.

By Saul A Kripke,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Naming and Necessity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Naming and Necessity' has had a great and increasing influence. It redirected philosophical attention to neglected questions of natural and metaphysical necessity and to the connections between these and theories of naming, and of identity. This seminal work, to which today's thriving essentialist metaphysics largely owes its impetus, is here reissued in a newly corrected form with a new preface by the author. If there is such a thing as essential reading in metaphysics, or in philosophy of language, this is it.


Book cover of Plato: Five Dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo

Scott Soames Author Of The World Philosophy Made: From Plato to the Digital Age

From my list on western philosophy: what it is and how to do it.

Who am I?

A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, I was educated at Stanford and MIT. I taught for four years at Yale and 24 years at Princeton before moving to USC, where I am Chair of the Philosophy Department. I specialize in the Philosophy of Language, History of Philosophy, and the Philosophy of Law. I have published many articles, authored fifteen books, co-authored two, and co-edited two. I am fascinated by philosophy's enduring role in our individual and collective lives, impressed by its ability to periodically reinvent itself, and challenged to bring what it has to offer to more students and to the broader culture.

Scott's book list on western philosophy: what it is and how to do it

Scott Soames Why did Scott love this book?

These dialogues introduce the ideas that gave birth to western philosophy and its contributions to civilization. Providing the foundations of rational thought and theoretical knowledge in multiple domains, Greek philosophers, especially Socrates and Plato, imbued the search for truth with the urgency of both a personal, and a communal, quest for meaning. Just as the advances of Greek mathematics required concepts that are precisely defined or rigorously governed by axioms, so, the dialogues teach, advances in our knowledge of the world, and of ourselves, require well-regulated concepts like truth, knowledge, justice, virtue, and happiness. In these dialogues, we see the birth of philosophy's two great projects--providing concepts needed to advance theoretical knowledge in every domain and charting the path to wisdom in leading a good and meaningful life.

By John M. Cooper, G.M.A. Grube, Plato

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The second edition of Five Dialogues presents G. M. A. Grube's distinguished translations, as revised by John Cooper for Plato, Complete Works . A number of new or expanded footnotes are also included along with an updated bibliography.


Book cover of A Treatise of Human Nature

Steven Pinker Author Of Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters

From my list on rationality and why it matters.

Who am I?

I’m a Harvard professor of psychology and a cognitive scientist who’s interested in all aspects of language, mind, and human nature. I grew up in Montreal, but have lived most of my adult life in the Boston area, bouncing back and forth between Harvard and MIT except for stints in California as a professor at Stanford and sabbatical visitor in Santa Barbara and now, Berkeley. I alternate between books on language (how it works, what it reveals about human nature, what makes for clear and stylish writing) and books on the human mind and human condition (how the mind works, why violence has declined, how progress can take place).

Steven's book list on rationality and why it matters

Steven Pinker Why did Steven love this book?

When I wrote Rationality, I mentioned Hume 32 times. He didn’t think of everything, but he explained an astonishing range of topics related to rationality, including causation versus correlation, is versus ought, and individual versus collective self-interest.

His follow-up, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, explained why we shouldn’t believe in miracles. He explored all of these topics with clarity and wit, putting modern academic writing to shame.

By David Hume,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Treatise of Human Nature as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"One of the greatest of all philosophical works, covering knowledge, imagination, emotion, morality, and justice." — Baroness Warnock, The List
Published in the mid-18th century and received with indifference (it "fell dead-born from the press," noted the author), David Hume's comprehensive three-volume A Treatise of Human Nature has withstood the test of time and has had enormous impact on subsequent philosophical thought. Hume — whom Kant famously credited with having "interrupted my dogmatic slumber and gave my investigations in the field of speculative philosophy a quite new direction" — intended this work as an observationally grounded study of human nature.…


Book cover of The Meaning of Life

Stephen Leach Author Of The Meaning of Life and the Great Philosophers

From my list on philosophy and the meaning of life.

Who am I?

I am an honorary senior fellow at Keele University and have written books on philosophy, art history, and archaeology. In philosophy one of my main interests is the comparative analysis of a wide range of philosophical approaches to the question of the meaning of life. 

Stephen's book list on philosophy and the meaning of life

Stephen Leach Why did Stephen love this book?

This anthology is widely acknowledged to be a classic in the field.

It was first published in 1981 at which time there were few professional philosophers who took much interest in the meaning of life.

It has since been updated by Steven Cahn so as to include essays on Buddhism and Confucianism and essays on death (and the possible tedium of immortality) by Thomas Nagel, Bernard Williams, John Martin Fischer, Samuel Scheffler, Harry G. Frankfurt, and Susan Wolf.

That the question of the meaning of life is now more widely discussed by philosophers – rather than being dismissed as a meaningless question – may in some measure be due to this anthology.

By E. D. Klemke, Steven M. Cahn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Meaning of Life is the preeminent anthology on the topic. Featuring twenty-five insightful selections by prominent philosophers, it serves as an ideal core text for courses on the meaning of life and introduction to philosophy courses where the topic is emphasized. In Part I the articles defend the view that without faith in God, life has no meaning or purpose. In Part II the selections oppose this claim, defending instead a nontheistic, humanistic
alternative-that life can have meaning even in the absence of theistic commitment. In Part III the readings address whether the question of the meaning of life…


Book cover of Becoming Los Angeles: Myth, Memory, and a Sense of Place

Mary Camarillo Author Of The Lockhart Women

From my list on life in the real Southern California.

Who am I?

My father was transferred to Southern California from Charlotte, North Carolina when I was fourteen years old. I was excited and my friends were jealous. At that point, all I knew about California was the music of the Beach Boys and the Gidget television series. I thought everyone lived on the beach and knew movie stars. I didn’t know there were neighborhoods like Reseda and Anaheim and Fountain Valley, places where people live lives that have nothing to do with the glamour and celebrity of Hollywood. California has been my home for more than fifty years. I still find it fascinating and puzzling, and I still feel like an outsider.

Mary's book list on life in the real Southern California

Mary Camarillo Why did Mary love this book?

D.J. Waldie elegantly captures the essence of the ordinary in this beautiful collection of essays. He has lived and worked in Lakewood, California his entire life and he doesn’t drive, which is remarkable in Southern California. Instead, he walks, he observes, and he writes about the kinds of Southern California neighborhoods that I know. I wish that I could describe the sky and the light as accurately and poetically as Waldie does. He has taught me to walk slower and pay attention. His stories of the history of Los Angeles are equally compelling. Waldie says he writes “about sacred and humanizing Los Angeles because I find myself there.” How fortunate for us all!

By D.J. Waldie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Becoming Los Angeles as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Best-selling author and beloved chronicler of Los Angeles D.J. Waldie reconsiders the city in a collection of contemporary essays.

Nobody sees Los Angeles with more eloquence than D. J. Waldie.
– Susan Brenneman, Los Angeles Times Deputy Op-Ed Editor

Becoming Los Angeles, a new collection by the author of the acclaimed memoir Holy Land, blends history, memory, and critical analysis to illuminate how Angelenos have seen themselves and their city. Waldie’s particular concern is commonplace Los Angeles, whose rhythms of daily life are set against the gaudy backdrop of historical myth and Hollywood illusion. It’s through sacred ordinariness that Waldie…


Book cover of Many: The Diversity of Life on Earth

Curtis Manley Author Of The Rescuer of Tiny Creatures

From my list on empathy for the world’s creatures.

Who am I?

I’ve always been interested in the natural world. I grew up seeing the birds, raccoons, and deer that lived in the woods near my home in Western Pennsylvania. But over the years I began watching smaller things more carefully: tiny creatures with many legs—or no legs at all! I learned that even though earthworms are blind they can sense light. I realized that among “identical” ants, some behaved differently. I found out that if I was gentle, honeybees didn’t mind being petted. Even if we think they’re icky, we owe these tiny creatures our understanding and compassion.

Curtis' book list on empathy for the world’s creatures

Curtis Manley Why did Curtis love this book?

I admire this lovely book for making a scientific concept both clear and inspiring to young readers. 

Many explains that we are surrounded all the time by many thousands of kinds of living things. Each one depends on others in a big, beautiful, complicated pattern—a pattern that also makes the world suitable for us. But in too many places we humans are breaking that pattern, and animals and plants are going extinct... Repeated readings will reveal new animals and plants in the colorful illustrations teeming with living things both familiar and exotic.

By Nicola Davies, Emily Sutton (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Many as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

After magnifying the beauty of unseen organisms in Tiny Creatures, Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton turn their talents to the vast variety of life on Earth.

The more we study the world around us, the more living things we discover every day. The planet is full of millions of species of plants, birds, animals, and microbes, and every single one — including us — is part of a big, beautiful, complicated pattern. When humans interfere with parts of the pattern, by polluting the air and oceans, taking too much from the sea, and cutting down too many forests, animals and…


Book cover of The Emperor's Handbook: A New Translation of the Meditations

Wendy Thomas Russell Author Of Relax It's Just God: How and Why to Talk to Your Kids about Religion When You're Not Religious

From my list on finding your own philosophy of life.

Who am I?

I’m drawn to the intersection of psychology, philosophy and pragmatism — a dynamic that can be found in the books I write, the conversations I enjoy, and the ways I choose to spend my down time. By getting in touch with my personal psychology (influenced by my brain chemistry, temperament and upbringing) and studying various philosophies (from the Stoics to Alain de Botton), I have begun to find my own truth and formulate my own best practices in life. I don’t always nail it — not by a long shot — but that’s why it’s called a practice. There are so many different ways to live a contented life. It can be awfully rewarding to locate your own.

Wendy's book list on finding your own philosophy of life

Wendy Thomas Russell Why did Wendy love this book?

I often joke that Marcus Aurelius is my brother from another mother. Sure, he was a Roman emperor who, if he’d lived, would be 1,900 years old this year, but the things he wrote in Meditations — his book on Stoic philosophy written for himself between 170 and 180 CE — are perfectly on point. I feel like he’s writing from inside my head, struggling with the same challenges I do. Of course, Aurelius is not so much like me as much as he’s like every human on the planet; he just happened to think and express himself in a direct, accessible way. His “epithets” – guiding principles for how he lived his life – inspired me to come up with my own epithets. Maybe they’ll do the same for you.

By David Hicks, C. Scot Hicks, Marcus Aurelius

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Emperor's Handbook as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

BEAR IN MIND THAT THE

MEASURE OF A MAN IS THE WORTH OF THE THINGS HE CARES ABOUT.

IF IT IS GOOD TO SAY OR DO

SOMETHING, THEN IT IS

EVEN BETTER TO BE CRITICIZED FOR

HAVING SAID OR DONE IT.

ARE MY GUIDING PRINCIPLES

HEALTHY AND ROBUST? ON THIS HANGS EVERYTHING.

Essayist Matthew Arnold described the man who wrote these words as "the most beautiful figure in history." Possibly so, but he was certainly more than that. Marcus Aurelius ruled the Roman Empire at its height, yet he remained untainted by the incalculable wealth and absolute power that had…


Book cover of Life on a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth

Robert M. Hazen Author Of The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet

From my list on planet Earth.

Who am I?

Robert M. Hazen, Senior Staff Scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Earth and Planets Laboratory and the Clarence Robinson Professor of Earth Science at George Mason University, received the B.S. and S.M. in geology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Ph.D. at Harvard University in Earth science. His most recent book is The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years from Stardust to Living Planet, which explores the intricate coevolution of the geosphere and biosphere.

Robert's book list on planet Earth

Robert M. Hazen Why did Robert love this book?

Harvard geobiologist Andy Knoll vividly captures the dynamic field of Precambrian paleontology in this unique, zippy read. Personalities—both fossils and the people who study them—come alive as Knoll races across the eons. With episodes from life’s enigmatic origins, to scrappy contentious black smudges that might or might not be the remains of cells, to some of the most exquisite and revealing microfossils on Earth, Life on a Young Planet takes its readers on a unique journey.

By Andrew H. Knoll,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Life on a Young Planet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Australopithecines, dinosaurs, trilobites--such fossils conjure up images of lost worlds filled with vanished organisms. But in the full history of life, ancient animals, even the trilobites, form only the half-billion-year tip of a nearly four-billion-year iceberg. Andrew Knoll explores the deep history of life from its origins on a young planet to the incredible Cambrian explosion, presenting a compelling new explanation for the emergence of biological novelty. The very latest discoveries in paleontology--many of them made by the author and his students--are integrated with emerging insights from molecular biology and earth system science to forge a broad understanding of how…


Book cover of Meditations

Gary W. Cross Author Of Exploring the Way of Epictetus: His Destination, Directions, and Strategies

From my list on understanding Stoicism from multiple perspectives.

Who am I?

In my series on Ways of the World, my aim is to let the founder of each way tell us of their way in their words: the destination that they suggest we all seek; the directions that they offer to help us to reach the destination, and the strategies that they offer to help us to successfully follow their directions. I find it marvelous that we can listen to people, such as Epictetus, who lived thousands of years ago; people whose words can help us to improve our ways. You would be right if you have guessed that the books I recommend are primary sources.

Gary's book list on understanding Stoicism from multiple perspectives

Gary W. Cross Why did Gary love this book?

Meditations is a collection of personal writings by Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic philosopher and Roman Emperor (at the other extreme, Epictetus was born a slave). The original title is unknown, and over the years many titles have be used, such as ‘The Book of Marcus’ and ‘Things to one’s self’. I suggest that the latter title, more accurately reflect its contents.

By Marcus Aurelius, A.S.L. Farquharson (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A timely book for today's world, Marcus Aurelius's Meditations explores how to endure hardship, how to cope with change and how to find something positive out of adversity.

Part of the Macmillan Collector's Library; a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket-sized classics with gold foiled edges and ribbon markers. These beautiful books make perfect gifts or a treat for any book lover. This edition is translated by A. S. L. Farquharson and features an introduction by John Sellars.

The Meditations are a set of personal reflections by Marcus Aurelius. He writes about the vicissitudes of his own life and explores how…


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Interested in western philosophy, social inequality, and contemporary philosophy?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about western philosophy, social inequality, and contemporary philosophy.

Western Philosophy Explore 23 books about western philosophy
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Contemporary Philosophy Explore 9 books about contemporary philosophy