From beginner-friendly introductions to classic books on the philosophy of mind, this page features books to suit any learning style. It’s important to note that there is no single best book on the philosophy of mind. 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. For example, if you tend to find classic works of philosophy difficult to understand, you might want to start with a short, beginner-friendly introduction. If you prefer more depth, you can choose a more comprehensive introduction or read the classic works for yourself.
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 the philosophy of 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
Category: Comprehensive Textbook | Length: 832 pages | Published: 2011
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. …
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.
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding – John Locke
Publisher description: In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, first published in 1690, John Locke (1632-1704) provides a complete account of how we acquire everyday, mathematical, natural scientific, religious and ethical knowledge. Rejecting the theory that some knowledge is innate in us, Locke argues that it derives from sense perceptions and experience, as analysed and developed by reason. While defending these central claims with vigorous common sense, Locke offers many incidental – and highly influential – reflections on space and time, meaning, free will and personal identity. The result is a powerful, pioneering work, which, together with Descartes’s works, largely set the agenda for modern philosophy.
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding – David Hume
Publisher description: A landmark of Enlightenment thought, Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding is accompanied here by two shorter works that shed light on it: A Letter from a Gentleman to His Friend in Edinburgh, Hume’s response to those accusing him of atheism, of advocating extreme skepticism, and of undermining the foundations of morality; and his Abstract of A Treatise of Human Nature, which anticipates discussions developed in the Enquiry.
In his concise Introduction, Eric Steinberg explores the conditions that led Hume to write the Enquiry and the work’s important relationship to Book I of Hume’s A Treatise of Human Nature.
The following sources were used to build this list:
University Course Syllabi:
- Philosophy of Mind – University of Kentucky
- Philosophy of Mind – University of Pittsburgh
- Philosophy of Mind – Kings College London
- Philosophy of Mind – Princeton University
- Books on Philosophy of mind
- Thinking of getting a book or two on the philosophy of mind
- The best books on Philosophy of Mind recommended by Keith Frankish
You might also be interested in the following reading lists:
- The Best Introductory Philosophy Books
- The Best Introductory Books on Metaphysics
- The Best Philosophy Books on Free Will
Or browse this collection of over 100 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.