A lot of modern and popular books are based on one idea, basically a single idea expanded upon 300 pages. What seminal philosophical or scientific book of the last 200 years has introduced a multitude of ideas, laws or concepts?

  • Much depends on how you count "ideas" and "concepts", one can see multitudes of them as exponents of one big Idea. Going by influence, Darwin's Origin of Species, Heidegger's Being and Time, Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, von Neumann's Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics, Grothendieck's EGA, Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Rawls' Theory of Justice, etc.
    – Conifold
    Nov 19, 2023 at 11:38
  • I found interesting Heidegger's Critical Phenomenological Discussion of Some Traditional Theses about Being which constitutes Part One of The Basic Problems of Phenomenology. It covers ideas on 'existence' from ancient to medieval to Kant, including Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Suarez. Nov 19, 2023 at 12:29

3 Answers 3


My candidate is Friedrich Nietzsche Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None.

The book satisfies all requirements from the OP’s question: It is a single book, dating not before 1823, is a contribution to philosophy, is a seminal work because being highly discussed since its appearance in 1883-1885.

Most of all, the book presents several big ideas: The death of god, the overman (= Uebermensch), the idea of eternal recurrence, the will to power. All of these ideas are highly disputed.


Have a look at Goedel, Escher, Bach: The Eternal Golden Braid.

  • Excellent candidate. Crikey what a book. Not one anyone can or should read too quickly, too many ideas to absorb!
    – CriglCragl
    Nov 19, 2023 at 21:28
  • 1
    @CriglCragl, indeed, it is the equivalent of ordering a plate of greek squid. It's good, but by the end you realize it will be a long time before you feel the need to indulge again. Nov 19, 2023 at 21:47

Good question. You seems to be asking about books by polymaths. This is a person who has knowledge of many subjects. I would recommend "Range" by David Epstein as an introduction to generalism. I consider Christopher Hitchens to have been a modern polymath. Bertrand Russell was a great philosopher and polymath of the previous century. In my view, science and philosophy have become so specialised that it is often difficult to take a broad view.

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