28 Important Philosophers List the Books That Influenced Them Most During Their College Days


The web site Demasi­a­do Aire recent­ly asked “some of the world’s most impor­tant philoso­phers which three books influ­enced them the most while under­grad­u­ate stu­dents.” And, from what we can tell, they got a good response. 28 influ­en­tial philoso­phers duti­ful­ly jot­ted their lists, and, for at least the past day, Demasi­a­do Aire has been offline, seem­ing­ly over­whelmed by traf­fic. Thanks to the Inter­net Archive’s Way­back Machine, we can recov­er these lists and pro­vide you with a few high­lights. We have added links to the texts cit­ed by the philoso­phers. The free texts have an aster­isk (*) next to them.

Charles Tay­lor (McGill Uni­ver­si­ty):

Phénoménolo­gie de la Per­cep­tion, Mau­rice Mer­leau-Pon­ty

The Broth­ers Kara­ma­zov*, Fyo­dor Dos­to­evsky

Jalons pour une théolo­gie du Laï­cat, Yves Con­gar

Daniel Den­nett (Tufts Uni­ver­si­ty):

“That’s easy:

Word and Object, Quine.

The con­cept of mind*, Gilbert Ryle

Philo­soph­i­cal Inves­ti­ga­tions, Lud­wig Wittgen­stein

“I got to study with Quine and Ryle, but Wittgen­stein had died before I encoun­tered his work”.

Alexan­der Nehamas (Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty):

Apol­o­gy of Socrates*, Pla­to

Nico­machean Ethics*, Aris­to­tle

Ethics*, Spin­oza

“Also, I should point out that Nietzsche’s On the Geneal­o­gy of Moral­i­ty* had a huge effect on me when I was a grad­u­ate stu­dent and had a for­ma­tive influ­ence on my philo­soph­i­cal devel­op­ment”.

David Chalmers (Aus­tralian Nation­al Uni­ver­si­ty):

“I was an under­grad­u­ate stu­dent in math­e­mat­ics rather than phi­los­o­phy, but the answer is”:

Gödel, Esch­er Bach, Dou­glas Hof­s­tadter

The Mind’s I, Dou­glas Hof­s­tadter & Daniel Den­nett

Rea­sons and Per­sons, Derek Parfit

You can view lists by oth­er philoso­phers, includ­ing Alain de Bot­ton, Wendy Brown, Peter Mil­li­can, and more here. The image above comes via by MjYj.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

44 Essen­tial Movies for the Stu­dent of Phi­los­o­phy

Down­load 100 Free Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es and Start Liv­ing the Exam­ined Life

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Comments (9)
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  • Pre­cise­ly, what influ­enced those writ­ers who had writ­ten those books that went on to leave an impact on those who read them. How many movies were made based on books which influ­enced these lat­er philoso­phers? What dif­fer­ence would it have made if alto­geth­er no one had writ­ten or read those books?

  • Mar Mara says:

    Guess there are no female philoso­phers who read influ­en­tial books, huh.

  • Mar Mara says:

    …or write them,apparently.

  • Pete Emory says:

    Mar Mara:

    There are con­tri­bu­tions from females. See the com­plete list at http://demasiadoaire.com/philosophical-youth/.


  • Mar Mara says:

    Ah my bad, it seems that 3/28 impor­tant philoso­phers are female.

    If the ratio were in reverse, though, I imag­ine it would be a “woman” list:

    “25 impor­tant women philoso­phers list the books that influ­enced them most dur­ing their col­lege days”

  • ross says:

    Does it even mat­ter if they are male or female. A great mind is a great mind.

    But let’s say it’s a list of “the best bal­leri­nas” and major­i­ty were male, I would­n’t get upset being a male If the title read “best male bal­leri­nas”. It’s just
    more con­cise of what the arti­cle actu­al­ly entails.

  • sitz says:

    I’ll vote for OSHO any­way…. his thoughts are way beyond, he spoke 1000s of dis­course and it cut through like a razor and truth was the order of the day.

    Any­one who is aspir­ing to under­stand life. OSHO is it.


  • shivam kumar says:

    I like kau­tilya’s polit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy because he was a great philosh­per in own time… their polit­i­cal views was very inter­est­ed.

  • Eric Koski says:

    Women philoso­phers who should have been asked would include at least Martha Nuss­baum, Ruth Mil­likan, Patri­cia Church­land, Sal­ly Haslanger, …

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