My main interests lie in mathematics, and in particular its foundations, which naturally (though not necessarily) leads me to being interested in the philosophy of mathematics (along with other subjects), which in turn leads me to be interested in related philosophical issues.

I would love to learn the basics of philosophy in general as well, but there is only so much time and the subject of philosophy is overwhelmingly difficult and immense in size (just like mathematics which takes up all of my time, which is why I'm asking this question).

Is there a "giant" book on philosophy summarizing all of the "most important stuff", whatever it might be?

I would like it to focus not only on the Western philosophy, but on other types of philosophy too. I do not particularly care about the size of the book (i.e. it can even be 3000 pages long), but it should be readable given the information about me provided above, and it would also not hurt for it to be an (at least relative, probably modern) classic.

Thank you.

  • A personal favorite is Story of Philosophy by Will Durant. It's slightly dated, it's not math-oriented and philosophy means western philosophy. But it's still good.
    – Rushi
    Oct 28, 2019 at 6:30
  • @Rusi, it sure looks like a great read, but not exactly what I'm looking for. If what I'm looking for simply doesn't exist, I will make sure to read into that book, at the same time reading something else.
    – user42828
    Oct 28, 2019 at 6:34
  • Perhaps the 'Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy'. Good introduction to many thinkers and ideas.and more or less sums up the state of play in academic philosophy. .
    – user20253
    Oct 28, 2019 at 9:48
  • The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, or better yet, "The Ethics Demonstrated in the Geometric Method", by Baruch Spinoza. It responds to virtually every question posed throughout the entire History of Philosophy. Cheers, CMS
    – user37981
    Oct 28, 2019 at 11:22
  • 2
    I'm hesitant to post this as an answer because it doesn't answer your question, but rather changes it. I would urge you away from this search for an encyclopedic volume that knocks it all out of the park. You are looking for the start and the end at the same time. It just doesn't work that way. Instead, I'd just choose one book and go from there. You will get a sense of the whole from reading a really good philosopher, and it will give you a place to start. If you seek to go further, you can. My suggestion given what you've said would be Frege's Foundations of Arithmetic. Oct 29, 2019 at 4:30

2 Answers 2


There is no royal road to geometry, and philosophy is no different. There is no such book, I am afraid, even if you did focus just on Western philosophy, or even on philosophy of mathematics only. Also, philosophy is not mathematics or science, surveys and commentary are not enough to get the "gist". It is as much in the original context as it is in the summarizable content, reading the sources, at least a bit, is indispensable. Here are some partial suggestions.

Philosophy of Mathematics

Colyvan's Introduction to Philosophy of Mathematics is fairly accessible,

"including such topics as the realism/anti-realism debate in mathematics, mathematical explanation, the limits of mathematics, the significance of mathematical notation, inconsistent mathematics and the applications of mathematics. Each chapter has a number of discussion questions and recommended further reading from both the contemporary literature and older sources".

You can supplement it with readings from Jacquette's Philosophy of Mathematics: an Anthology:

"Many of Jacquette's selections are important for understanding current debates, and he provides helpful introductory discussions"; "The featured papers are organized thematically, rather than chronologically, to provide the best overview of philosophical issues connected with mathematics and the development of mathematical knowledge. Coverage ranges from general topics in mathematical explanation and the concept of number, to specialized investigations of the ontology of mathematical entities and the nature of mathematical truth, models and methods of mathematical proof, intuitionistic mathematics, and philosophical foundations of set theory."

Western Philosophy

On Western (not only analytic) philosophy generally Kenny's four volume New History of Western Philosophy is fairly good:

"Kenny tells the story of philosophy chronologically, his lively narrative bringing the great philosophers to life and filling in the historical and intellectual background to their work. Kenny also looks closely at each of the main areas of philosophical exploration: knowledge and understanding; science; metaphysics; mind and soul; the nature and content of morality; political philosophy; and God."

Supplemental reading can be from Cottingham's Western Philosophy: An Anthology:

"Readings are introduced and linked together by a lucid philosophical commentary which guides the reader through the key arguments Embraces all the major subfields of philosophy: theory of knowledge and metaphysics, philosophy of mind, religion and science, moral philosophy (theoretical and applied), political theory, and aesthetics."

Non-Western Philosophy

Try Companion to World Philosophies:

"The text is organized around a series of central topics concerning conceptions of reality and divinity, of causality, of truth, of the nature of rationality, of selfhood, of humankind and nature, of the good, of aesthetic values, and of social and political ideals. Outstanding scholars present essays that articulate the distinctive ways in which these specific problems have been formulated and addressed in the non-Western traditions against the background of their varied historical and cultural presuppositions."

Supplement by readings from Bonevac's World Philosophy anthology:

"The editors have arranged these topics according to their increasing complexity--from the most concrete (ethics) to the most theoretical (philosophical theology)--making the material as accessible as possible for students. Organized both chronologically and geographically, the anthology's five parts include readings from Indian, Chinese, Greek, Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Spanish, Latin-American, and African traditions, as well as selections from early modern, Kantian, and post-Kantian philosophy... Chapters are divided into 93 sections, each of which opens with a detailed introduction that prepares students for the readings that follow."


A giant book that is the starting point of modern philosophy of logic and mathematics is : Russell, Principles of Mathematics. (see at Archive.org).

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