The Six Best Books on Analytic Philosophy

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This page contains a list of the six best books on analytic philosophy. Finding good introductory philosophy books can be difficult for two reasons. First, searching google for recommendations usually doesn’t bring up anything useful. Second, phrases like “best books on analytic philosophy” are ambiguous. One person may be looking for a short, beginner friendly introduction, someone else may want a comprehensive academic overview, a third person may be looking for classic works on analytic philosophy. This list tries to account for this ambiguity by recommending different types of books on analytic philosophy. Here are the best books on analytic philosophy in no particular order:

Analytic Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction – Michael Beaney

Category: Short Introduction | Length: 152 pages | Published: 2018

Originating in the pioneering work of Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, G. E. Moore, and Ludwig Wittgenstein in the four decades around the turn of the twentieth century, analytic philosophy established itself in various forms in the 1930s. After the Second World War, it developed further in North America, in the rest of Europe, and is now growing in influence as the dominant philosophical tradition right across the world, from Latin America to East Asia.

In this Very Short Introduction Michael Beaney introduces some of the key ideas of the founders of analytic philosophy by exploring certain fundamental philosophical questions and showing how those ideas can be used in offering answers. Considering the work of Susan Stebbing, he also explores the application of analytic philosophy to critical thinking, and emphasizes the conceptual creativity that lies at the heart of fruitful analysis. Throughout, Beaney illustrates why clarity of thinking, precision of expression, and rigour of argumentation are rightly seen as virtues of analytic philosophy.

A Brief History of Analytic Philosophy: From Russell to Rawls – Stephen P. Schwartz

Category: Textbook | Length: 368 pages | Published: 2012

A Brief History of Analytic Philosophy: From Russell to Rawls presents a comprehensive overview of the historical development of all major aspects of analytic philosophy, the dominant Anglo-American philosophical tradition in the twentieth century.

  • Features coverage of all the major subject areas and figures in analytic philosophy – including Wittgenstein, Bertrand Russell, G.E. Moore, Gottlob Frege, Carnap,Quine, Davidson, Kripke, Putnam, and many others
  • Contains explanatory background material to help make clear technical philosophical concepts
  • Includes listings of suggested further readings
  • Written in a clear, direct style that presupposes little previous knowledge of philosophy

Twentieth-Century Analytic Philosophy – Avrum Stroll

Category: Textbook | Length: 304 pages | Published: 2001

Analytic philosophy is difficult to define since it is not so much a specific doctrine as a loose concatenation of approaches to problems. As well as having strong ties to scientism -the notion that only the methods of the natural sciences give rise to knowledge -it also has humanistic ties to the great thinkers and philosophical problems of the past. Moreover, no single feature characterizes the activities of analytic philosophers. Undaunted by these difficulties, Avrum Stroll investigates the “family resemblances” between that impressive breed of thinkers known as analytic philosophers. In so doing, he grapples with the point and purpose of doing philosophy: What is philosophy? What are its tasks? What kind of information, illumination, and understanding is it supposed to provide if it is not one of the natural sciences? Imbued with clarity, liveliness, and philosophical sophistication, Stroll´s book presents a synoptic picture of the main developments in logic, philosophy of language, epistemology, and metaphysics in the past century. It does this by concentrating on the individual thinkers whose ideas have been most influential. Major themes in Twentieth-Century Analytic Philosophy include: · the innovation of mathematical logic by Gottlob Frege at the close of the nineteenth century and its independent development by Bertrand Russell; · the impact of advancements in science on the world of philosophy and its importance for understanding such doctrines as logical positivism, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, and eliminative materialism; · the refusal by such thinkers as Wittgenstein, Moore, and Austin to treat logic as an ideal language superior to natural languages; and · a conjecture about which, if any, of the philosophers discussed in the book will enter the pantheon of philosophical gods.

A Companion to Analytic Philosophy – A. P. Martinich & David Sosa

Category: Comprehensive Textbook | Length: 508 pages | Published: 2005

A Companion to Analytic Philosophy is a comprehensive guide to many significant analytic philosophers and concepts of the last hundred years.

  • Provides a comprehensive guide to many of the most significant analytic philosophers of the last one hundred years.
  • Offers clear and extensive analysis of profound concepts such as truth, goodness, knowledge, and beauty.
  • Written by some of the most distinguished philosophers alive, some of whom have entries in the book devoted to them.

Analytic Philosophy: An Anthology – A. P. Martinich & David Sosa

Category: Anthology | Length: 594 pages | Published: 2011 (2ed.)

Featuring updates and the inclusion of nine new chapters, Analytic Philosophy: An Anthology, 2nd Edition offers a comprehensive and authoritative collection of the most influential readings in analytic philosophy written over the past hundred years.

  • Features broad coverage of analytic philosophy, including such topics as ethics, methodology, and freedom and personal identity
  • Focuses on classic or seminal articles that were especially influential or significant
  • New articles in this edition include “Proof of an External World” by G. E. Moore, “Criteria, Defeasibility, and Knowledge” by John McDowell,“Sensations and Brain Processes” by J. J. C. Smart,selections from Sense and Sensibilia by J. L. Austin, “Other Bodies” by Tyler Burge, “Individualism and Supervenience” by Jerry Fodor, “Responsibility and Avoidability” by Roderick Chisholm, “Alternative Possibilities and Moral Responsibility” by Harry Frankfurt, and “Personal Identity” by Derek Parfit
  • Offers diverse approaches to analytic philosophy by including readings from Austin, Wittgenstein, Quine, and Davidson

The Problems of Philosophy – Bertrand Russell

Category: Classic | Length: 152 pages | Published: 1912

Bertrand Russel’s The Problems of Philosophy is a classic text that both analyzes and explains the best ways to approach philosophical discussion. First published in 1912, the book is a must read because it does not simply look at one set philosophy, but rather all thinking styles, ranging from the early days of Aristotle and Plato up through David Hume and John Locke. In this way, the text lays out many thought provoking questions, and, focusing on the birth of knowledge, brings many questions to light that are applicable to all people regardless of background or age.


This list was created by following a method that I’ve found to be useful when searching for introductory philosophy books. It involves:

  • browsing required reading lists on university course syllabi
  • searching for books using the Open Syllabus Project
  • browsing the bibliographies of articles on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • searching for recommendations on philosophy forums

The following sources were used to build this list:

University Course Syllabi:

Bibliographies:

Other Recommendations:

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