This page contains a list of the five best books on the philosophy of mind. 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 the mind” 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 the philosophy of mind. This list tries to account for this ambiguity by recommending different types of philosophy of mind books. Here are the best books on the mind in no particular order:
Mind: A Brief Introduction – John R. Searle
Publisher description: The philosophy of mind is unique among contemporary philosophical subjects,” writes John Searle, “in that all of the most famous and influential theories are false.” One of the world’s most eminent thinkers, Searle dismantles these theories as he presents a vividly written, comprehensive introduction to the mind. He begins with a look at the twelve problems of philosophy of mind–which he calls “Descartes and Other Disasters”–problems which he returns to throughout the volume, as he illuminates such topics as materialism, consciousness, the mind-body problem, intentionality, mental causation, free will, and the self. The book offers a refreshingly direct and engaging introduction to one of the most intriguing areas of philosophy.
Philosophy of Mind – Jaegwon Kim
Publisher description: The philosophy of mind has long been part of the core philosophy curriculum, and this book is the classic, comprehensive survey of the subject. Designed as an introduction to the field for upper-level undergraduates and graduate students, Philosophy of Mind focuses on the mind?body problem and related issues, some touching on the status of psychology and cognitive science.The third edition has been thoroughly updated throughout to reflect developments of the past decade, and it is the only text of its kind that provides a serious and respectful treatment of substance dualism. This edition also includes two new chapters on the nature of consciousness and the status of consciousness. Throughout the text, author Jaegwon Kim allows readers to come to their own terms with the central problems of the mind. At the same time, Kim’s emerging views are on display and serve to move the discussion forward. Comprehensive, clear, and fair, Philosophy of Mind is a model of philosophical exposition and a significant contribution to the field.
Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings – David J. Chalmers
Publisher description: What is the mind? Is consciousness a process in the brain? How do our minds represent the world?
Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings is a grand tour of writings on these and other perplexing questions about the nature of the mind. The most comprehensive collection of its kind, the book includes sixty-three selections that range from the classical contributions of Descartes to the leading edge of contemporary debates. Extensive sections cover foundational issues, the nature of consciousness, and the nature of mental content. Three of the selections are published here for the first time, while many other articles have been revised especially for this volume. Each section opens with an introduction by the editor. Philosophy of Mind is suitable for students at all levels and also for general readers.
The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind – McLaughlin, Beckermann, & Walter
Publisher description:The study of the mind has always been one of the main preoccupations of philosophers, and has been a booming area of research in recent decades, with remarkable advances in psychology and neuroscience. Oxford University Press now presents the most authoritative and comprehensive guide ever published to the philosophy of mind.
An outstanding international team of contributors offer 45 specially written critical surveys of a wide range of topics relating to the mind. The first two sections cover the place of the mind in the natural world: its ontological status, how it fits into the causal fabric of the universe, and the nature of consciousness. The third section focuses on the much-debated subjects of content and intentionality. The fourth section examines a variety of mental capacities, including memory, imagination, and emotion. The fifth section looks at epistemic issues, in particular regarding knowledge of one’s own and other minds. The volume concludes with a section on self, personhood, and agency.
The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind will be an invaluable resource for advanced students and scholars of philosophy, and also for researchers in neighbouring disciplines seeking a high-level survey of the state of the art in this flourishing field.
Meditations on First Philosophy – René Descartes
Descartes’s Meditations on First Philosophy, the fundamental and originating work of the modern era in Western philosophy, is presented here in Donald Cress’s completely revised edition of his well-established translation, bringing this version even closer to Descartes’s original, while maintaining its clear and accessible style.
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:
If you’d like to learn more about the philosophy of mind, check out:
- this collection of beginner friendly resources on the Philosophy of Mind
- Some introductory books on Consciousness
And if you’d like to get more philosophy in your life, follow us on Facebook or Twitter or enter your email below to get a quote/passage from a classic work of philosophy delivered to your inbox each day. They include key passages from Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, and many more. Each passage is paired with a link to a beginner friendly article, video, or podcast, so you can easily learn more about that day’s idea. The goal is to make it easier for everyone to get a little bit more philosophy into their life.