10 books like Philosophical Investigations

By Ludwig Wittgenstein,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Philosophical Investigations. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Language, Truth and Logic

By Alfred Jules Ayer,

Book cover of Language, Truth and Logic

This is a widely-scorned book whose ideas are no longer in philosophical fashion. But it was the work that first hooked me into philosophy, and I recommend it for its sheer verve and confidence. Freddie Ayer visited Vienna in the 1930s and when he returned to the UK he introduced the ideas of the Vienna Circle into the Anglo-American world. The book argued that propositions that were not testable – for example some assertions about God, or about ethics or aesthetics – were meaningless because they were not verifiable. Amazing claims!

Language, Truth and Logic

By Alfred Jules Ayer,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Language, Truth and Logic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A delightful book … I should like to have written it myself." — Bertrand Russell
First published in 1936, this first full-length presentation in English of the Logical Positivism of Carnap, Neurath, and others has gone through many printings to become a classic of thought and communication. It not only surveys one of the most important areas of modern thought; it also shows the confusion that arises from imperfect understanding of the uses of language. A first-rate antidote for fuzzy thought and muddled writing, this remarkable book has helped philosophers, writers, speakers, teachers, students, and general readers alike.
Mr. Ayers…


Reasons and Persons

By Derek Parfit,

Book cover of Reasons and Persons

Arguably the greatest work of moral philosophy of the 20th Century.  It’s rich with vivid thought experiments – including Parfit’s famous tele-transporter, which can make an exact copy of us and transport us to another planet. Is this copy of me the same person as me? The book makes us question some of our deepest assumptions - such as what it means to say that David Edmonds today is identical to David Edmonds yesterday or tomorrow. Parfit was my first supervisor, and I’m now writing his biography.

Reasons and Persons

By Derek Parfit,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book challenges, with several powerful arguments, some of our deepest beliefs about rationality, morality, and personal identity. The author claims that we have a false view of our own nature; that it is often rational to act against our own best interests; that most of us have moral views that are directly self-defeating; and that, when we consider future generations the conclusions will often be disturbing. He concludes that moral non-religious moral
philosophy is a young subject, with a promising but unpredictable future.


Practical Ethics

By Peter Singer,

Book cover of Practical Ethics

There’s a common prejudice that philosophy has nothing to do with the world in which non-philosophers live. I read Practical Ethics as an undergraduate and it came as a revelation. In crystal-clear prose, and with compelling logic, Singer addresses many issues in applied morality – abortion, capital punishment, charity, animal rights. Although some of his conclusions are radical, they’re hard to dissent from. Not long after reading the book I became a vegetarian. I haven’t eaten meat since.

Practical Ethics

By Peter Singer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For thirty years, Peter Singer's Practical Ethics has been the classic introduction to applied ethics. For this third edition, the author has revised and updated all the chapters and added a new chapter addressing climate change, one of the most important ethical challenges of our generation. Some of the questions discussed in this book concern our daily lives. Is it ethical to buy luxuries when others do not have enough to eat? Should we buy meat from intensively reared animals? Am I doing something wrong if my carbon footprint is above the global average? Other questions confront us as concerned…


The View from Nowhere

By Thomas Nagel,

Book cover of The View from Nowhere

Perhaps my favourite philosophy book of all time. Humans have the unique ability to take a detached view of our lives and actions. Call this an objective perspective. Thomas Nagel argues that many of our philosophical problems – such as the attempt to understand free will, or consciousness – stem from a clash between the subjective and objective standpoints. For example, we believe (subjectively), that we are free, that we have free will, that we can raise our right arm, or choose whether or not to go to shopping. But from an objective perspective we might reflect that, like everything else in the universe, we are governed by causal laws. A beautiful writer, Nagel can make the most complex issues seem simple.  He will make you feel cleverer than you are! The View From Nowhere is my model for how philosophy books should be written.

The View from Nowhere

By Thomas Nagel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Much philosophical debate has attempted to reconcile the human capacity to view the world both objectively and subjectively. Thomas Nagel's ambitious and lively book tackles this fundamental issue, arguing that our divided nature is the root of a whole range of philosophical problems, touching, as it does, every aspect of human life. He deals with its manifestations in such fields of philosophy as the mind-body problem, personal identity, knowledge and scepticism,
thought and reality, free will, and ethics.
From reviews of the hardback:

`Remarkable ... all of his discussions are clear and insightful, but some reach a level of originality…


About Philosophy

By Robert Wolff,

Book cover of About Philosophy

It’s one of the best and most accessible introductions to philosophy, now in its tenth edition. It’s also by our favorite college teacher.

About Philosophy

By Robert Wolff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Four Decades of Student-Friendly Philosophy



About Philosophy is an introductory text that covers all the major fields of philosophy in an easy-to-read language, interspersed with short selections from the major philosophers. It has been a best-selling leader in the field for more than forty years and it is written by an internationally recognized author of more than twenty books.


More Than Cool Reason

By George Lakoff, Mark Turner,

Book cover of More Than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor

Lakoff famously contends that metaphor is the crux of all human understanding. This classic academic, literary, philosophical, and sociological text suggests that at the root of what it means to be human is an absolute need to describe all experience and knowledge through comparison. Read More Than Cool Reason to begin gaining an appreciation for the theory of how metaphor makes us who we are and establishes our place in the universe.

More Than Cool Reason

By George Lakoff, Mark Turner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked More Than Cool Reason as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"The authors restore metaphor to our lives by showing us that it's never gone away. We've merely been taught to talk as if it had: as though weather maps were more 'real' than the breath of autumn; as though, for that matter, Reason was really 'cool.' What we're saying whenever we say is a theme this book illumines for anyone attentive." - Hugh Kenner, Johns Hopkins University

"In this bold and powerful book, Lakoff and Turner continue their use of metaphor to show how our minds get hold of the world. They have achieved nothing less than a postmodern Understanding…


Proust's Way

By Roger Shattuck,

Book cover of Proust's Way: A Field Guide to in Search of Lost Time

"Like the Bible, In Search of Lost Time embodies its own sources, myths, and criticism. Like an archaeological site, the novel has come to stand for a state of civilization.” Roger Shattuck is masterful in reach and insight; his “field guide” is aptly named. The reader journeys alongside him to traverse the vast and incomparable terrain of a seven-volume novel. Full of wit and provocation, he leads us through thick and thin, and best of all, he allows our own reading of the great work to revive within us, illuminating the very experience of reading that Proust so brilliantly mined.

Proust's Way

By Roger Shattuck,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Proust's Way as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For any reader who has been humbled by the language, the density, or the sheer weight of Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time, Roger Shattuck is a godsend. Winner of the National Book Award for Marcel Proust, a sweeping examination of Proust's life and works, Shattuck now offers a useful and eminently readable guidebook to Proust's epic masterpiece, and a contemplation of memory and consciousness throughout great literature. Here, Shattuck laments Proust's defenselessness against zealous editors, praises some translations, and presents Proust as a novelist whose philosophical gifts were matched only by his irrepressible comic sense. Proust's Way, the…


The Language Instinct

By Steven Pinker,

Book cover of The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language

Steven Pinker’s The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language, explains how children master language: “Pidgin,” a “rough jargon,” results when persons speaking different languages must communicate to accomplish work. Pidgin is transmuted into a full complex language in one fell swoop by a group, exposed at the age children acquire their mother tongue.” Amazingly, we watch complex language created “from scratch.”

The brain’s inherent wiring drives language acquisition. “Humans are so innately hardwired for language, they can no more suppress learning and using language than suppress the instinct to remove a hand from a hot surface.”* Sequencing language from birth, Pinker concludes: “Three-year-olds are grammatical geniuses—master most constructions, usually obey rules, respect universals, err in sensible, adultlike ways, and avoid many kinds of errors altogether.”

*Quoted: S. Dehane, p.64. Thank you Steven Pinker for the “bible” on what language is! I can find everything I need in Pinker's…

The Language Instinct

By Steven Pinker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Dazzling... Pinker's big idea is that language is an instinct...as innate to us as flying is to geese... Words can hardly do justice to the superlative range and liveliness of Pinker's investigations'
- Independent

'A marvellously readable book... illuminates every facet of human language: its biological origin, its uniqueness to humanity, it acquisition by children, its grammatical structure, the production and perception of speech, the pathology of language disorders and the unstoppable evolution of languages and dialects' - Nature


The Rhetoric of Religion

By Kenneth Burke,

Book cover of The Rhetoric of Religion

Kenneth Burke was Shakespeare scholar, biblical scholar, poet, novelist, literary critic, rhetorical theorist, the father of “Dramatism,” and a ferocious homegrown, self-taught intellect, and this book is Burke at his best. It boldly addresses the vital role that language plays in human life and religious thought, advocates a thoroughgoing study of theology not to assess any veracity therein, but rather, as a specimen of language use, for, whatever else theology may be, it is, at the least, verbal, and, the study of religious language reveals much about human motives and self-understanding. This book also touches upon some of the interesting relations between money, guilt, and the Christian notion of redemption. It ends with an “Epilogue: Prologue in Heaven,” which is a lengthy mind-blowing fictional dialogue set in Heaven between “The Lord” and “Satan” regarding “the word-animal,” and it playfully draws out important connections between language, negativity, property rights, time, and…

The Rhetoric of Religion

By Kenneth Burke,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"But the point of Burke's work, and the significance of his achievement, is not that he points out that religion and language affect each other, for this has been said before, but that he proceeds to demonstrate how this is so by reference to a specific symbolic context. After a discussion 'On Words and The Word,' he analysess verbal action in St. Augustine's Confessions. He then discusses the first three chapters of Genesis, and ends with a brilliant and profound 'Prologue in Heaven,' an imaginary dialogue between the Lord and Satan in which he proposes that we begin our study…


Words and Rules

By Steven Pinker,

Book cover of Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language

I’ve always loved observing children as they learn to speak. But I never understood what a triumph that is until I read Stephen Pinker’s book. He explores a huge range of topics, including what we can learn from the mistakes children make, how languages develop, brain imaging, major ideas in philosophy, computer speech simulation, Noam Chomsky’s ideas about linguistics, and genetic research. And he does all that by focusing on regular and irregular verbs. Sounds dull? Think again. It’s a fascinating book.

Words and Rules

By Steven Pinker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How does language work? How do children learn their mother tongue? Why do languages change over time, making Shakespearean English difficult for us and Chaucer's English almost incomprehensible? Why do languages have so many quirks and irregularities? Are they all fundamentally alike? How are new words created? Where in the brain does language reside?In Words and Rules , Steven Pinker answers these and many other questions. His book shares the wit and style of his classic, The Language Instinct , but explores language in a completely different way. In Words and Rules , Pinker explains the profound mysteries of language…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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