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I would like to read the text written by Aristotle, Plato, Socrates and so on. Is there any reference of the best order to read them? Is the chronological order the best or correct one? Or is there a best or correct order?

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    There is certainly no best or correct order in general. Forming a reading strategy is hard work... In passing is there any chance I might be able to persuade you to cleanup the headline a little bit? It is unclear what "Philosopher's texts" is intended to indicate -- and after reading the question and tags it is unclear whether you just mean Ancient Greek philosophy, or philosophy in general, etc. Anyway I would encourage you to reformulate your question and headline somewhat to clarify the scope you intend to ask after here – Joseph Weissman Oct 21 '11 at 20:47
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    The "best" order would depend on your goal. If your goal is to get an A in "Plato class" and you have limited time, the "best" order would be to start with Plato. If your goal is to get an idea of how these ancient philosophers' views changed over time, it might be appropriate to read Socrates, Plato, then Aristotle. Once you define your goal or purpose, we can better help you figure out what's "best". :) – stoicfury Oct 21 '11 at 21:25
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    I'd recommend starting with the writings of Socrates, but ought implies can… – Seamus Jan 6 '12 at 9:19
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Most philosophers are writing in a given historical background, either consciously within it or against it (Kant was reacting to Hume), so a chronological reading will tend to maintain context.

But each author has written quite a lot, so I'd advise against trying to read the totality of one author before moving on to the next one.

I'd suggest some kind of mix-up that generally follows time and influence, but putting off minor things til later.

That is, start with one or two dialogs of Plato then a chapter or two of Aristotle before trying a pre-Socratic. (note that Socrates is really only presented by Plato)

Another suggestion, if you're just starting out, is to read an historical commentary along the way. For example, Bertrand Russell's Intro to Western Philosophy is very readable and gives scope and relation between the main players (sort of a playbook to see were the trends are).

But don't feel like it is a big slog that you have to get through from start to finish. You don't have to read Descartes before Spinoza; they all have a tendency to stand on their own. If you like what people have suggested about Nietzsche, then go ahead and read something by him, you don't have to consume Aquinas first.

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With many philosophers, the idea of reading their major works in chronological order is a good one; unfortunately, there are no reliable records as to the order of composition of the works of Plato and Aristotle (and Socrates, of course, left no writings), so you're completely out of luck in that regard.

I'd suggest you begin with a topic that interests you, and work from there. And, if you have not read them before, I'd definitely suggest using a fair bit of secondary literature to help elucidate; there are many things at play in the works of Plato and Aristotle that may not be obvious on a casual reading.

In addition, if you are new to this, I'd recommend starting with some shorter works, as the texts vary in length significantly.

  • If it were true that reading the work of Plato and Aristotle would benefit from a certain order, couldn't we work backwards to roughly figure out how they must have been written? – Ceasar Bautista Apr 14 '14 at 17:52
  • @Ceasar, You are convoluting something that is really quite easy. Life is already difficult enough. – Darcy Davis Nov 17 '14 at 20:34
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Yes there is an order.

First there is no distinct separation between reading Socrates or Plato since Socrates did not write any books and all his teaching is transferred to us by Plato.

Second it is impossible to read Aristotle before reading and I mean reading almost all major books of Plato.
The reason is that Aristotle presenting his theories mentions or criticises constantly Plato's teaching (Plato was Aristotle's teacher) and assumes that the reader is familiar with it.
So without being familiar with Plato's major books most of Aristotle's points and arguments are incomprehensible.

There is one additional reason for this order i.e. Socrates, Plato then Aristotle, besides that it is the only order you can make sense of what is written.

Aristotle's work is hard. It has very strict language and is like reading a formal paper in some aspects. If you start from Aristotle you may get discouraged.

Plato's books are in dialogues and actually are in a sense very poetic. Plato was one of the best writers (in a sense artist) that ever existed.
It is easy to start reading Plato due to this format and know the basic concepts.
Once you get into it, going to Aristotle, his difficulty will not be discouraging.

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I would highly recommend Hutchins and Adler's guide to The Great Books of the Western World: The Great Conversation: The Substance of a Liberal Education, published by Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. On page 93 you will find "The Contents of the Great Books..." volume-by-volume. On pages 112-113 the editors begin with Plato, The Apology, Crito, then The Republic (Book I-II). There are no surviving works attributed to Socrates, Plato's teacher. We are left with Plato's memories and development of Socrates ideas in the Dialogues. Plato is rarely critical of Socrates, although at times he seems tongue-in-cheek. Next, the editors recommend Aristotle's Ethics (Book I), then Politics (Book I). Each successive year in reading (there are 10-years total in the Brittanica series) has a new listing always beginning with Plato. My dad picked up our copy of The Great Books (1990 edition) at the One-Half Price Book Store for $100. Its leather bound. I'm collecting the original set (the 1952 edition) at about $1.00 per volume. It's cloth bound. There are 54 volumes in this edition. Our education in the Baptist Church Homeschool centers around these sets. Thanks for your question, it's one I can answer.

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