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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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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