I would like to gain some knowledge of the most famous philosophers' ideas. I have only read Plato's dialogues and have some general idea of Western philosophical tradition thanks to youtube lectures on various philosophers. What should I do next? I have tried to read Aristotle's "Metaphysics" but it was too hard to understand. Should I still continue reading original texts or are there any review books that could help me? (I have tried Cambridge Companion series and Bertrand Russell's "History of Western Philosophy" but none of them turned out what I was looking for).

  • See this post Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 10:05
  • What do you mean with "review" in your question? Based on your QA description it seems you want to know something else then your question (in title) asks for. Making your question hard to answer correctly. I think what you're essentially asking for is a duplicate of this: philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/2115/…
    – Allart
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 12:09
  • 2
    Does this answer your question? How to get started with philosophy without getting overwhelmed quickly?
    – Allart
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 12:10
  • By "review books" I meant some kind of material (like Cambridge companion series) that would help me understand philosophical texts and make complex subjects a bit clear.
    – Joshua
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 19:05
  • "like Cambridge companion series" There are many: Aristotle, Plato, Descartes, Kant,... Why not use them? Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 8:11

2 Answers 2


There are innumerable books of the type you're looking for. The problem is that philosophy really can't be taught neutrally. Each individual philosopher is arguing for their own, radically different ways of looking at the world. So even the process of selecting philosophers to include (or omit), and deciding how to present, interpret or summarize their work is going to be opinionated in ways that end up offering very different views of the discipline of philosophy as a whole. In essence, you simply end up studying the philosophy of the editor.

Given that, you might be best sticking with primary sources, some of which can be surprisingly easy to read directly. Plato's early dialogs and the Meditations of Descartes are two of the most influential works in all of Western philosophy, and they are both very easy and quick to read and understand --at least on a superficial level. Some other influential but accessible philosophical works include Ecclesiastes and the Tao Te Ching.

You can also find encyclopedia-style works with capsule summaries of each philosopher, but the value of those is questionable.


Four Ages of Understanding: The First Postmodern Survey of Philosophy From Ancient Times to the Turn of the Twenty-first Century by semiotician John N. Deely is very good. It quotes original sources like Plato's Meno and will enable you to appreciate and understand the original writings of Aristotle, Aquinas, et al.

Deely's PhD student Brian Kemple's free Introduction to Philosophical Principles is also very good.

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