I do not feel prepared to read primary sources yet.
What should I read, after reading these short introductions?
Are there exhaustive introductory textbooks?
If not, then is the next step to branch into reading textbooks from each major branch of philosophy? If so, which should I read?

  • 3
    Consider the possibility that you have had already an excessive amount of exposure to introductory material, before tackling the classics, directly. Consider also the possibility that philosophy is as much an adventure as it is a systematic discipline. Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 16:22
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    Hi. You may want to try Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy. Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 0:04
  • You may try the Cambridge Introductions to Philosophy series.
    – user13627
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 15:58
  • At least when I was an undergrad, the intro level philosophy classes were divided into "Morals and Ethics" and "Epistemology and Metaphysics." One book that covers all of this would be overly broad, so I think this question should be narrowed. Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 20:57
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    I don't think this question should be closed. It's a good question that lots of people might have.
    – user5172
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 21:50

2 Answers 2


John Hospers's Introduction to Philosophical Analysis is an older text, but one of the few genuinely systematic textbooks at the introductory level in contemporary philosophy.

If you are looking for a more historically-oriented introduction to the subject for self-study, then I think Fieser and Stumpf is what you're looking for. Although let me also mention the excellent one volume anthology put out by Kaufmann and Baird called Philosophical Classics: From Plato to Derrida. I am not recommending Kaufmann and Baird only because for self-study I think the student will require a bit more guidance than K&B give, since their anthology is aimed at students who will have a professor in class to explain the material.

  • I'm going here with @ChrisSunami. An anthology is almost always way better that an interpretative book if read for itself. The best way would be using original texts as basis (reading a text at least 4-5 times before thinking to have understood it) and after that one more time parallel to a systematic/interpretative book explaining it. Philosophy in the end is getting an intuition for yourself, not following standard interpretations that tend to be dogmatic.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 22:10

At this point I would suggest a general anthology of philosophy. There are many of these, and most of them have similar selections of work. The advantage here is that you're reading primary sources, not interpretations (although there are usually introductory essays to go along with them), and you're reading a large cross section of best-known work of the most influential thinkers.

This one (linked) looks to be the latest edition of the one used when I took Philosophy 101 many years ago. If not, it still seems like an excellent overview of at least the classic Western Philosophical canon. You'd need to supplement it if you wanted non-Western philosophy and/or more recent thinkers.

  • @LePressentiment See edit above Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 16:48