Recommendations for Readings in Philosophy

I’ve been afforded the opportunity to team-teach a course on the history of western philosophy next year with Michael Haykin. I’m very, very excited about it. Out of a twelve-week course, I’ll be giving six three hour lectures. My topics will be Aristotle; Anselm/Aquinas; Descartes/Locke; Hume/Kant; Marx; Foucault.

Our textbooks will likely be:
W. Andrew Hoffecker, Revolutions in Worldview (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 2007).
Anthony Kenney (ed), The Oxford History of Western Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

I was wondering what resources you would recommend for studying either the full swath of western philosophy or individual figures – mostly the ones I’ve listed above. I want to amass a good bibliography. I already have a decent collection, but the more the merrier! This includes good primary and secondary sources; critical editions; out-of-print titles; websites; audio; etc.

You’ll note here at RearViewMirror that I’ll be posting resources both for this course and for my master’s work. It’s a good place to keep everything under one hat and at hand for quick reference.



Filed under books, me, michael haykin, philosophy, tbs

9 responses to “Recommendations for Readings in Philosophy

  1. My Western Phil course covered different characters. Greek / Nietzsche / Heidegger / Beauvoir. Philosophy as a Way of Life by Hadot was the most broad-sweep type of book in the lot. It had a somewhat narrow topical focus, but it did cover a wide range of thinkers. And it has an interesting chapter exploring Christian philosophical thinking (in relation to spiritual exercises). It’s also interesting because it attempts to challenge the perception of philosophy as merely academic. But the author is all over the place, very jumpy.

    Have you ever seen Bertrand Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy?

  2. darth ben

    a few thoughts…

    So have you read the Summa Theologica yet? :P

    Aristotle’s Metaphysics is essential for pretty much everything else he does. If I remember correctly it underlies EVERYTHING else he does (which is a lot of stuff believe me, no other philosopher had the opportunity or talent to be so broad). Aristotles work on Metaphysics. (this is why Christians latched on to him and Plato too by the way)

    Descartes’ influence is famously centred around The discourse on method & ‘meditations’ on first philosophy…and they are a pretty short and interesting read too. Its a pretty important book- it has deceived Christians into a rationalistic form of dualism for years! Huzzah!

    Hume’s the best damnable atheist I know and love. He’s the guy that rips into the “christian” certainty of rationalism. If you want an epistemological bent, go for “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding” or my personal favourite “An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals”. Been a while. I need to read these again.

    Kant…Kant is great. The Metaphysic of morals is what you’ll be confined to if you do any individual study because the Critique of Pure Reason is a tough read…which is sad because it is a fantastic work, and struck a (in my mind) more reasonable balance in its perspective on human reason and what we can know. That being said, he was certainly no Christian. Hegel would, in his special way, mess everything up again to which Kierkegaard and many philosophers would repudiate…though at least Kierkegaard did it without atheism and/or (and) despair.

    Marx…the economic and philosophic papers of eighteen something or other?

    I have to confess that I’ve never read Foucault, but I also have to confess, why in the world would you read a POMO like Foucault if you haven’t read any Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre or Camus? But I think Dr. Haykin’s interest is historical, which is why Foucault is familiar. To sound out my own familiar ignorance and amusement however, the only work I recall by name by Foucault is “A History of Sexuality”. I can feel the anti-reason and cynicism already! Perhaps I am entirely mistaken.

    But aren’t we wasting our time? I thought Hegel synthesized all this stuff years ago into one great World Spirit moving irrevocably through history to unify us in one great orgiastic glory of humanity. It will happen soon don’t worry, because after all, a thousand years is as a day for us too isn’t it?

  3. Mark: Thanks man. I appreciate the reference. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for the book. In terms of Russell, I’ve been thinking of buying that. It’s in a few used stores in TO. You don’t have a spare copy of your syllabus do you?

    Darth: Ah, I knew you’d come through for me. Your post is very helpful man, I’ll be sure to take your advice. I’ve done enough reading that I have a grasp on the broader issues, but I don’t want to mess around with peripherals when I can get to the focal point.
    I got your message – we’ve been busy with some annoying things and I didn’t get to respond – I didn’t send the package. Have you found out what it is yet?
    I will, however, send you some stuff to listen to.
    When are you coming to TO? We must needs consume some beverages!
    We’re in Mexico from the 23rd to the 2nd. Anytime after that is cool though!

  4. Wow. That is, as they say, the motherload. Thanks for this!!

  5. Nathan Tyler


    Some really solid (IMO) general overviews of the main branches of Aquinas’s philosophy:

    AQUINAS by F.C. (Frederick) Copleston (Penguin)

    A HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY: VOLUME II, MEDIEVAL PHILOSOPHY by Frederick Copleston, S.J. (Image; just solid through and through)

    THE CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY OF ST. THOMAS AQUINAS by Etienne Gilson (Notre Dame; also, PIMS at U of T publishes it under the title THOMISM: THE PHILOSOPHY OF THOMAS AQUINAS; a controversial classic)

    AQUINAS by Anthony Kenny (Oxford; Aquinas from an ‘Aquinatic Wittgensteinian’ perspective)

    THE THOUGHT OF THOMAS AQUINAS by Brian Davies (Oxford; Analytic Thomism at its best)

    As for primary sources, in recent years there has been an explosion of English translations of selections from the Summa theologiae and from Aquinas’s lesser-known works. I would check out the titles from Hackett Publishing Co. first of all; the first two volumes in their ‘Hackett Aquinas Series’, featuring text and commentary, are fantastic pieces of scholarship. (For my money it’s all about Dumb Ox Books, with their reprints of old English editions Aquinas’s commentaries on Aristotelian texts, but that’s probably getting a little crazy for an introductory course.) But two really good readers come to mind:

    AN AQUINAS READER (Mary T. Clark, Ed.; Fordham)

    THE POCKET AQUINAS (Vernon J. Bourke, Ed.; New American Library)

    • Thanks for this man, great stuff. I’ve had an aversion to Aquinas and have never paid him too much mind. Lately I’ve been seeing how important he is, especially in terms of his influence on post-Reformation theology.
      It was great getting to meet you today. Keep in touch man! Enjoy Sproul!

  6. Nathan Tyler

    Will do, and thanks again for pointing out the title(s) to me!

    As for Aquinas, I have found that there is often a substantial difference between the traditional (scholastic) Thomism championed for so long by the Roman Catholic Church — which was often used as a kind of battering ram against the ‘errors’ of Protestants — and Aquinas’s texts themselves. Many good Evangelicals in our day, including Sproul, are looking at Aquinas afresh, without that negative historical baggage and the (sometimes highly questionable) interpretations by the scholastic Thomists, and are finding some pleasantly surprising things in the old Dominican’s theology and philosophy. (Sproul has argued that Aquinas’s soteriology is essentially monergistic, and I think that that is a very reasonable interpretation of the relevant texts.)

    This is something new. The evidence suggests that almost none of the great Reformers actually read Aquinas’s texts, let alone the Puritans or the Princeton Theologians (as awesome and otherwise learned as they were!). Generally speaking, what they thought about Aquinas’s work was what they read or heard about the teachings of the scholastic Thomists, and even then often in caricature form. I recall reading something on Aquinas by Francis Schaeffer, in which Schaeffer seemed to be arguing that Aquinas was a ‘rationalist’ a la Ar-Razi and Ibn Rushd! Which is kind of like calling any logician who believes that mathematical rules exist outside of the mind a ‘Platonist’…

  7. Congrats Ian on the opportunity!

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