Which philosophers are easiest to read

To show off: These are the must-reads of philosophy students

Aristotle, Plato, Descartes: Long dead and irrelevant today? Not at all. What the ancient philosophers wrote, students and people with a lot of time read to this day. In the Open Syllabus Project, we can filter out those works that are read particularly frequently at universities.

For the project, developers and scientists working with Joe Karaganis from Columbia University packed more than a million reading lists from university courses into a table, sorted them by university and field of study, corrected typing errors and standardized spellings. Karaganis told Quartz in January that the data set is still "dirty" at best.

From the result, the statisticians developed a teaching score (“TS”). This value says how important a work is in university teaching and should also be relevant for the authors.

What is striking, however, is that many philosophical works are high in the ranking. If you want to read up on the most important, here you go:

These are the most learned philosophical works

Aristotle: ethics

What's the matter?We humans want to be happy and nothing else. We achieve this through virtuous action.

When did he write that? In the 4th century BC

Why is that still so important today?Because we want to live happily. Aristotle gives instructions on this that have been tried and tested for more than 2000 years.

Where can i read this? Browser, e-reader

John Stuart Mill: Utilitarianism

What's the matter?Basic thesis: An action is justified if it promotes happiness. If it belittles it or threatens it, then it is wrong. Happiness is joy, the absence of pain.

When did he write that?1861 (published)

Why is that still so important today?Because it is about the question of “right or wrong”. It still drives us today. Examples are pre-implantation diagnostics, euthanasia, tax evasion. Mill's work provides food for thought to better deal with these questions.

Where can i read this?As a Reclam booklet, here also in two languages.

Plato: Politeia

What's the matter?For ten books Plato argues with other men, most of the dialogues are fictitious. First of all, it is about justice, later a system for the ideal structure of a state emerges.

When did he write that?In the 5th century BC

Why is that still so important today?We deal with the question of justice every day. It's about refugees, about education, about poverty, about opportunities in life.

Where can i read this?In the Reclam booklet or - together with all other works - in the e-book.

René Descartes: Meditations on the First Philosophy

What's the matter?Descartes overturns his view of the world and generally assumes that everything he had previously believed is wrong. Including his body, his consciousness, the world and what his eyes see. He doubts the principles of mathematics and science. And that's what it's about: the methodological doubt.

When did he write that?1641 (published)

Why is that still so important today?Because we should doubt much more often. Descartes doubts everything except the ego. Remember: I think, therefore I am. We should think about everything else much more often.

Where can i read this? In a book or e-book.

Plato: dialogues

What's the matter?Plato argued about a lot - usually with himself, fictitiously represented in the dialogues by people he knew. About love, for example, Eros, truth and beauty, the teachability of virtue and the immortality of the soul.

When did he write that?In the 5th century.

Why should i read this?It's entertaining! Plato names definitions for concepts and dissects them philosophically until a contradiction is found.

Where can i read this?There are seven tomes here for those who want to read in first: e-books.

Plato: The Apology of Socrates

What's the matter?The apology is based on the speech that Plato's teacher Socrates gave before a people's court in Athens. He was accused of godlessness and was convicted despite his speech. Is it faithfully reproduced? It is unknown.

When did he write that?399 BC.

Why is that still so important today?Most of all, it is interesting. Socrates ‘speech impresses in its structure as well as in its content - after all, the defense of an innocent.

Where can i read this?Directly in the browser, it's not that long.

Immanuel Kant: The Metaphysics of Morals

What's the matter?Kant bases every right on the right to freedom for all people. His doctrine of virtues is about physical, mental and moral perfection - and about the happiness of the community.

When did he write that?1797 (published)

Why is that still so important today?Because he derives duties and virtues based on reason.

Where can i read this?In the browser or as a book.

Jean Paul Sartre: Existentialism

What's the matter?We were thrown into our lives by accident, now we have to see how we deal with it - and sensibly.

When did he write that?1946

Why is that still so important today?Generation Y.

Where can i read this?In the book with other essays.

Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan

What's the matter?Without a state we would all be free - and therefore no state would exist any more, because everyone would struggle for survival against everyone. Hobbes calls this a state of nature. That is why the state, a punitive Leviathan, stands above people. The people agree on it in a social contract.

When did he write that?1651 (published)

Why is that still so important today?Because we are constantly arguing about the relationship between the state and our personal freedom. And we have to decide again what relationship the two should be for us, also with a view to safety.

Where can i read this?In a book or as an e-book.

David Hume: An Inquiry into the Human Mind

What's the matter?Hume starts from a philosophy of consciousness - we perceive something and our ideas are based on it. The basis can be ideas, i.e. thought experiments, as well as actual experiences.

When did he write that?1748 (published)

Why is that still so important today?Okay, it's not really. But the way he explains our thinking and learning is actually very exciting.

Where can i read this?Available as a book and e-book.