The best epistemology books

4 authors have picked their favorite books about epistemology and why they recommend each book. Soon, you will be able to filter this list by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books.

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Book cover of Knowledge: A Very Short Introduction

Knowledge: A Very Short Introduction

By Jennifer Nagel,

Why this book?

This is my favourite introduction to epistemology. It relates questions about knowledge and scepticism to human psychology, human knowledge to other animals’ knowledge, and the development of Western epistemology to epistemology elsewhere, such as ancient India. Amongst leading epistemologists today, Jennifer Nagel probably has the deepest understanding of relevant work in psychology.

From the list:

The best books on contemporary epistemology and metaphysics

Book cover of A Treatise of Human Nature

A Treatise of Human Nature

By David Hume,

Why 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.
From the list:

The best books on rationality and why it matters

Book cover of Critique of Pure Reason

Critique of Pure Reason

By Immanuel Kant, Paul Guyer (translator), Allen W. Wood (translator)

Why this book?

In Žižek’s view, philosophy as we know it today does not well and truly begin until the late-eighteenth century, with Kant’s critical-transcendental “Copernican revolution.” The Critique of Pure Reason inaugurates this revolution. It insists on the ineliminable centrality of the structures and dynamics of minded subjectivity for the constitution of what we experience as objective reality. Moreover, on Žižek’s psychoanalytic rereading of Kant’s epoch-making 1781/1787 masterpiece, Kant anticipates, among many other things, Lacan’s idea of an internally divided subject as the ultimate unconscious condition of possibility for how we humans register and understand ourselves and our world. Moreover, the Kant…

From the list:

The best books for understanding the work of Slavoj Žižek

Book cover of Theaetetus

Theaetetus

By Plato,

Why this book?

When people think of the great rock bands, they think of the hits, the songs that raced to #1. True fans know that there are some great, even better songs, on the flip sides of the albums, the so-called deep cuts. The same is true with writers like Plato. Few are familiar with his Theaetetus, but it is my favorite. It explores how we know what we know and proves the error of a slogan that is as popular today as it was in his time, “Man is the measure of all things.” Plato shows how logically silly that…

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The best books on the Greeks and Romans you never read in school

Book cover of Riddles of Existence: A Guided Tour of Metaphysics

Riddles of Existence: A Guided Tour of Metaphysics

By Theodore Sider, Earl Conee,

Why this book?

This is a popular, reliable, wide-ranging introduction to metaphysics by two respected philosophers. It covers topics such as personal identity, fatalism, time, God, free will and determinism, possibility and necessity, and criticisms of metaphysics itself. It asks why there is something rather than nothing, and whether distinctions between good and evil and between right and wrong have any objective reality. Ted Sider is a leader of new developments in contemporary metaphysics.

From the list:

The best books on contemporary epistemology and metaphysics

Book cover of Naming and Necessity

Naming and Necessity

By Saul A Kripke,

Why 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…

From the list:

The best books on western philosophy: what it is and how to do it

Book cover of Plurality of Worlds

Plurality of Worlds

By David Lewis,

Why this book?

This is an accessible defence of the astonishing theory that there are infinitely many possible worlds other than our own, with just as much flesh-and-blood reality; they are systems of space and time disconnected from ours. Many of those worlds contain almost exact counterparts of you. Lewis argues that his theory is much less alien to common sense than it seems, and that it provides the best explanation of many puzzling matters, such as the distinction between what is possible and what is impossible. Although few philosophers accept Lewis’s theory, it is extraordinarily difficult to disprove. David Lewis was the…

From the list:

The best books on contemporary epistemology and metaphysics

Book cover of Knowledge and Lotteries

Knowledge and Lotteries

By John Hawthorne,

Why this book?

If you buy a lottery ticket, it is very probable that it will lose, but you do not know that it will lose, otherwise you might as well throw it away. The book uses such simple examples to think very deeply about the nature of knowledge and the way common sense knowledge is threatened by chance. It critically assesses the idea that what we mean by the word ‘know’ depends on the context in which we are speaking, and explores the subtly different idea that whether you know something can depend on how much practical difference it makes to you.…

From the list:

The best books on contemporary epistemology and metaphysics

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

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

By Immanuel Kant, James W. Ellington,

Why 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…

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

Book cover of The Problems of Philosophy

The Problems of Philosophy

By Bertrand Russell,

Why 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…

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The best books on western philosophy: what it is and how to do it

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