Fr. Barron’s Recommended Books on Philosophy 101

During my visit to Chicago, I had several good book conversations with Fr. Robert Barron. In one of them I asked him to recommend some introductory philosophy books for someone like me who has no formal training in philosophy but wants to dive deeper into it.

He offered many great titles. Since I didn’t have a pen or paper around, I used my iPhone voice recorder to take them down. At the time, I wasn’t planning on publishing the recording, but since I think others will enjoy Fr. Barron’s suggestions, here it is:

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Download the short clip here (1 minute)
Here are his recommended titles:


In another conversation, Fr. Barron also praised Fr. Copleston’s nine-volume History of Philosophy series:

What are your favorite philosophy books?


50 thoughts on “Fr. Barron’s Recommended Books on Philosophy 101

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  2. Here’s my personal list:

    Primary sources and Catholic secondary sources

    Fides et Ratio – Pope John Paul II
    The Trial and Death of Socrates: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Death Scene from Phaedo – Plato (Hackett Publishing)
    Aristotle: Selections (Hackett Publishing)
    An Introduction to Philosophy – Jacques Maritain
    Confessions – St. Augustine (Oxford World’s Classics or Hackett Publishing)
    Theology and Sanity – Frank Sheed
    Knowing the Love of Christ: An Introduction to the Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas – Dauphinais & Levering
    Holy Teaching: Introducing the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas – ed. Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt
    Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide – Edward Feser
    Pensees – Pascal (Hackett Publishing)
    Grammar of Assent – Blessed John Henry Newman

    Secondary sources, not from a Catholic perspective. “Test everything; hold fast to what is good.”

    The Story of Philosophy – Bryan Magee
    Aristotle in Outline – Timothy A. Robinson
    God and the Philosophers: The Reconciliation of Faith and Reason – ed. Thomas V. Morris
    Thinking About God: First Steps in Philosophy – Gregory E. Ganssle

    Some anthologies

    Hackett Readings in Philosophy –
    Voices of Ancient Philosophy: An Introductory Reader – ed. Julia Annas
    The Meaning of Life: A Reader – ed. Klemke & Cahn
    Happiness: Classic and Contemporary Readings in Philosophy – ed. Cahn

  3. Although it may have appeared too recently to be noted by your correspondents, readers of the above philosophical writers may be helped by my Words of Wisdom: A Philosophical Dictionary for the Perennial Tradition (University of Notre Dame Press, 2012). Available in paperback and electronic versions, it is the only volume in print that focuses on what Bl. John Paul II called the “enduringly valid” tradition of philosophy.

  4. For those who want to be introduced to philosophy at ‘kindergarten level’ (which is how I had to start) ‘Sophie’s world’ by Jostein Gaarder is a novel which is worth reading.

    • If you like Sophie’s World, I recoment you take a look at Action Philosophers! It is a work of graphic non-fiction, that I think can be well coupled with Gaarder’s book. It’s author is Ryan Dunlavey; it’s artist is Fred Van Lente.

  5. One of my favorite philosophy books has to be Edmund Husserl’s Ideas 1. It is foundational for the phenomenological method and the school of thought that influenced such thinkers as Edith Stein, Dietrich von Hildebrand, and John Paul II, among many others.

  6. Gilson’s Elements of Christian Philosophy is out of print but this and any of Gilson’s books are .excellent. His logical sylllogistical style and extensive end notes are great. Also check out Anton Pegis, Jacques Maritain, Aidan Nichols o.p.

  7. I enjoyed Gilson’s books, in addition to those listed above I liked”The Spirit of Mediaevl Philosophy”. Pieper’s “Guide to Thomas Aquinas” was quite good. Hans Urs Von Balthasar’s “Test Everything” and “Love Alone is Credible” are a mixture of both Theology and Philosophy.

  8. FR. SCHALL recommends philosophy:an introduction by j. M. Bochenski. Plus the aquinas books listed above. The bochenski is agood intro book. However the last time i looked for it on amazon it was listed at around $90.
    Its a short book so i got it through interlibrary loan and photocopied the whole book.

  9. I have not read it, so this is not a recommendation exactly, but Peter Kreeft’s, Summa Philosophica, which was just released in the last month or two, has the chance to be a great general work for “lay” philosophers.

  10. Leaving all of Barron’s eight recommendations intact, I would add Allen’s ‘Philosophy for Understanding Theology’, Kierkegaard’s ‘Sickness Unto Death’, and St Augustine’s ‘City of God’. And one truly oddball recommendation, Hulsmann’s ‘The Ethics of Money Production’.

    What is that doing on there? Well, it is nice now and again to see the application of philosophy to current issues, particularly an issue that are so taken for granted it isn’t even noticed there might be a philosophical underpinning to examine, in this case the provision of money in society.

    In the realm of practical moral philosophy, it is hard exceed Cicero’s De Officiis, De Senectute, and De Amicitia.


    Clarke’s ‘Person and Being’ is also a classic.

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