This page contains a list of the four best books on phenomenology. 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 phenomenology” 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 phenomenology. This list tries to account for this ambiguity by recommending different types of books on phenomenology. This list was created by compiling recommendations from across the internet and is not a list of personal recommendations. More information about this process is at the end of the post. Here are the best books on phenomenology in no particular order:
Phenomenology: The Basics – Dan Zahavi
Publisher description: Phenomenology: The Basics is a concise and engaging introduction to one of the dominant philosophical movements of the 20th century. This lively and lucid book provides an introduction to the essential phenomenological concepts that are crucial for understanding great thinkers such as Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty. Written by a leading expert in the field, Dan Zahavi examines and explains key questions such as:
- What is a phenomenological analysis?
- What are the methodological foundations of phenomenology?
- What does phenomenology have to say about embodiment and intersubjectivity?
- How is phenomenology distinguished from, and related to, other fields in philosophy?
- How do ideas from classic phenomenology relate to ongoing debates in psychology and qualitative research?
With a glossary of key terms and suggestions for further reading, the book considers key philosophical arguments around phenomenology, making this an ideal starting point for anyone seeking a concise and accessible introduction to the rich and complex study of phenomenology.
Introduction to Phenomenology – Dermot Moran
Publisher description: Introduction to Phenomenology is an outstanding and comprehensive guide to phenomenology. Dermot Moran lucidly examines the contributions of phenomenology’s nine seminal thinkers: Brentano, Husserl, Heidegger, Gadamer, Arendt, Levinas, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty and Derrida.
Written in a clear and engaging style, Introduction to Phenomenology charts the course of the phenomenological movement from its origins in Husserl to its transformation by Derrida. It describes the thought of Heidegger and Sartre, phenomonology’s most famous thinkers, and introduces and assesses the distinctive use of phenomonology by some of its lesser known exponents, such as Levinas, Arendt and Gadamer. Throughout the book, the enormous influence of phenomenology on the course of twentieth-century philosophy is thoroughly explored.
This is an indispensible introduction for all unfamiliar with this much talked about but little understood school of thought. Technical terms are explained throughout and jargon is avoided. Introduction to Phenomenology will be of interest to all students seeking a reliable introduction to a key movement in European thought.
The Oxford Handbook on Contemporary Phenomenology – Dan Zahavi
Publisher description: The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Phenomenology presents twenty-eight essays by some of the leading figures in the field, and gives an authoritative overview of the type of work and range of topics found and discussed in contemporary phenomenology. The essays aim to articulate and develop original theoretical perspectives. Some of them are concerned with issues and questions typical and distinctive of phenomenological philosophy, while others address questions familiar to analytic philosophers, but do so with arguments and ideas taken from phenomenology. Some offer detailed analyses of concrete phenomena; others take a more comprehensive perspective and seek to outline and motivate the future direction of phenomenology.
The handbook will be a rich source of insight and stimulation for philosophers, students of philosophy, and for people working in other disciplines of the humanities, social sciences, and sciences, who are interested in the state of phenomenology today. It is the definitive guide to what is currently going on in phenomenology. It includes discussions of such diverse topics as intentionality, embodiment, perception, naturalism, temporality, self-consciousness, language, knowledge, ethics, politics, art and religion, and will make it clear that phenomenology, far from being a tradition of the past, is alive and in a position to make valuable contributions to contemporary thought.
The Phenomenology Reader – Timothy Mooney & Dermot Moran
Publisher description: The Phenomenology Reader is the first comprehensive anthology of seminal writings in phenomenology. Carefully selected readings chart phenomenology’s most famous thinkers, such as Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre and Derrida, as well as less well known figures such as Stein and Scheler. Ideal for introductory courses in phenomenology and continental philosophy, The Phenomenology Reader provides a comprehensive introduction to one of the most influential movements in twentieth-century philosophy.
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:
- Bibliography for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Phenomenology
- Bibliography for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Phenomenology
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