From beginner-friendly introductions to comprehensive textbooks on analytic philosophy, this page features books to suit any learning style. It’s important to note that there is no single best book on analytic philosophy. The best book for you will depend heavily on your preferred learning style and the amount of time/energy you’re willing to spend reading.
It’s also worth noting that it is not a list of personal recommendations. Personal book recommendations tend to be highly subjective, idiosyncratic, and unreliable. This list is part of a collection of over 100 philosophy reading lists which aim to provide a central resource for philosophy book recommendations. These lists were created by searching through hundreds of university course syllabi, internet encyclopedia bibliographies, and community recommendations. Links to the syllabi and other sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a broader range of options if the listed books do not fit what you are looking for.
Here are the best books on analytic philosophy in no particular order.
Analytic Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction – Michael Beaney
Publishers description: 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
Publishers description: 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
Publishers description: 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. …
A Companion to Analytic Philosophy – A. P. Martinich & David Sosa
Publishers description: 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
Publishers description: 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
Publishers description: 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.
The following sources were used to build this list:
University Course Syllabi:
- 20th Century Analytic Philosophy – University of Massachusetts
- Introduction to Analytic Philosophy – University of Michigan
- Introduction to Analytic Philosophy – Loyola University of New Orleans
- Topics in Analytic Philosophy – Sample Syllabus
- What are good introductory books on Analytic Philosophy?
- Analytic Philosophy Reading List?
- Are there books which cover the history of analytic philosophy?
You might also be interested in the following reading lists:
- The Eight Best Introductory Philosophy Books
- The Four Best Books on the Philosophy of Language
- The Five Best Books on the Philosophy of Science
Or browse this collection of philosophy reading lists to find more philosophy book recommendations.
The Daily Idea aims to make learning about philosophy as easy as possible by bringing together the best philosophy resources from across the internet. To get started, check out this organized collection of 400+ articles, podcasts, and videos on a wide range of philosophical topics.
A Collection of the Greatest Philosophical Quotations
A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is a collection of the greatest thoughts from history’s greatest thinkers. Featuring classic quotations by Aristotle, Epicurus, David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Michel Foucault, and many more, A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is ideal for anyone looking to quickly understand the fundamental ideas that have shaped the modern world.