Most Important Books

Over at Fragments, David Chalmers asks for suggestions for the list of the most important recent-ish books in philosophy of mind. He seems to like books from long ago, thinking nothing post-1970 matches up with the best 1920-1970 work, and nothing post-1987 matches with the best 1970-1987 work. Is he right?

If I had more time (and a pony) it’d be fun to run a poll to figure out now that we’ve got some critical distance the most highly regarded books in several fields in philosophy. (What about metaphysics, for example? Language? I guess political philosophy is relatively easy, but overall it’s tricksy.) But as it is we’ll have to settle for discussion threads.

PS: No discussion of best philosophy of mind books here. All that talk should happen over at Dave’s place.

7 Replies to “Most Important Books”

  1. Wow, that was quick. I think this slightly overstates what I said about older work, though. I just said that nothing else quite matches up with Broad, Ryle, and Armstrong. I didn’t really consider books from the last 15 years on the grounds that this is too recent. But anyway, additions and amendments are welcome. You shouldn’t trust anyone whose HTRR for their first name is undefined (still smarting from a recent demotion from HTRR = 56,000,000).

  2. Hi Brian.
    First time, long time.
    I’ll get it started for metaphysics.
    Most important book of the 80’s: Lewis’s On the Plurality of Worlds.
    Most Important book of the 90’s: Van Inwagen’s Material Beings.

  3. Here are several personal favorites that I consider right up there with Trenton’s astute selections:

    80’s: Parts, Peter Simons; Sameness and Substance, David Wiggins; The Concept of Identity, Eli Hirsch; Events, Lawrence Lombard.

    90’s: Substance Among Other Categories, Joshua Hoffman & Gary Rosenkrantz; Occasions Of Identity, Andre Gallois; A World of States of Affairs, D.M. Armstrong; Dividing Reality, Eli Hirsch.

  4. From the 1970s—One has to include

    Naming and Necessity, Kripke
    The Nature of Necessity , Plantinga.
    Person and Object, Chisholm

    Dave’s point is, I think, that many of the recent books haven’t been vetted by time. I don’t think he thinks that there isn’t high-quality work being done today that will stand the test of time. But philosophical fads abound, and many philosophers—especially younger ones—can lose perspective as to the importance of the current “hot” topic (or book). I think he’s exactly right on this point (assuming this was his point).


  5. If Richard Sharvy’s essays from the late 60s, 70s, and early 80s, were anthologized, which they should be, they would make up a must read book.

  6. How about best (20/21C philosophy):
    1. Autobiographies?
    2. Biographies?
    (This would also be very valuable). Thanks!

  7. I’ll make a vote for Anita and Sol Feferman’s new Tarski biography: “Alfred Tarski: Life and Logic.” Excellent stuff. Also, Tom Morris’ “God and the Philosophers” and Kelly Clark’s “Philosophers Who Believe” both have some interesting autobiographical essays from religious philosophers like Plantinga and Van Inwagen (if thatís your thing).

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