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11 Books That Had Shaped Societies and Cultures throughout the History of Humanity

by Ane Krstevska

11 Books That Had Shaped Societies and Cultures throughout the History of Humanity

No matter if we know it or not, we are all secretly in love with philosophy. Discussing abstract concepts, as well as analyzing the most human internal struggles, and overcoming while understanding the voices in our head, are things from which we have some benefits, and they are also all related to philosophy.

But, a lot of people today tend to avoid philosophical discussions, principally as it comes off as too challenging or academic. We all think that philosophy is confined to the wide collegiate lecture halls, where an old man in a beard is asking for five-thousand-word essays. Somehow, society has conditioned most of us to ignore or even fear philosophy, as much of it looks like suffering.

Nevertheless, the study of philosophy is not as academic or complicated as one may think. The best philosophers of history were not the academic types at all; instead, they all lived life and set examples that they wrote down afterward. Practical and applicable as it is, anyone could probably understand the philosophy of our forefathers.

In this article, we will list the 15 philosophy books that have shaped societies, as well as cultures throughout the history of humanity.

1. “The Nicomachean Ethics” – Aristotle

The primary question of Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics is: What is the best thing for one human being? The answer he gives is happiness, not as something that we feel, but as a specifically good kind of life instead. Happiness is made up of a few activities in which human beings use their best abilities, both the ones which contribute to they're flourishing as members of a community, as well as the ones which permit them to engage in god-like contemplation.

2. “The Republic” – Plato

One of the most important works on philosophy and political theory which was ever produced, The Republic, has formed a western thought for thousands of years, and it is still as relevant today as when Plato first wrote it at the time of Ancient Greece. It is widely regarded as the foundation of the Western philosophy. The Republic, which is fashioned in the form of communication between the Greek Philosopher Socrates, as well as the three different interlocutors, is actually a search for the notion of an ideal community and the perfect individual within it.

3. “The Enchiridion” – Epictetus

Enchiridion or “manual” has played an essential role in the rise of the modern philosophy. As soon as it has been translated into the vernacular languages, it immediately became a bestseller among some independent intellectuals, as well as anti-Christian thinkers and philosophers of a subjective cast. Also, it was studied and widely quoted by Scottish philosophers like Francis Hutcheson, Adam Smith, as well as Adam Ferguson.

4. “The Stranger” – Albert Camus

This book is one of the seminal texts of existentialism and 20th-century literature in general, at least in the context of French, as well as French-Algerian history and culture. Through the story of a typical man unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on an Algerian beach, Albert Camus has explored what the nakedness of human faced with the absurd.

5. “A Discourse on Inequality” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

In this book, Rousseau set out to demonstrate how the growth of civilization corrupts the natural happiness and freedom of humans, by leading to artificial inequalities of wealth, as well as power, and social privilege. Arguing that primitive man was equal to his fellows, the author supports that because societies became more sophisticated, the strongest, as well as the most intelligent members of the community, gained an unnatural advantage over their weaker brethren. The political and social arguments of Rousseau in A Discourse of Inequality were a greatly influential denunciation of the social conditions of his time, and among the most revolutionary documents of the 18th century.

6. “Candide” – Voltaire

The main character in this book, named Candide, was living a simple, as well as sheltered life in the best of all possible worlds. However, when he fell in love with the wrong woman, the young daughter of his uncle, he was exiled from the castle of the baron, and he suffered great tragedy and catastrophe, which actually left him disillusioned and questioning the goodness of the universe. Penned in only three days, as well as secretly published, the legendary satire deftly of Voltaire skewers religious, romantic, and political naïveté with an acerbic and ribald wit that delights to this day.

7. “Faust” – Johann Wolfgang Goethe

Faust is a classic from the literature world, and it is a philosophical and poetic drama, which is full of satire, irony, as well as humor and tragedy. Dr. Faust, the main character of the book, was a brilliant scholar, who made a contract with the devil, Mephistopheles. The devil would do all that Dr. Faust asked and seek to grant him such a glorious moment that he would wish it could last forever.

8. “Fragments” – Heraclitus

If this book was published today, some might think of it less of a philosophical book and more of a book of short poems. The text of Heraclitus is actually much more poetic than the others on the list, but that does not mean that it is any less philosophical than its peers. This philosopher shares his understandings of the world in short, as well as concise sentences. While some of them can be easily understood, others might be more abstract, with different interpretations for each reader.

9. “Letters from a Stoic” – Seneca

In the book of Seneca, Letters from a Stoic, we actually read the letters which he wrote to his friends, powerful figures of Ancient Rome. These letters actually teach us about the practical teachings of stoicism: how only this which influences your life is significant. Appreciation of pain and hardship, as well as thinking that the ideal way of living our life is to tolerate the difficulties we go through in order to practice our virtue are some of the important lessons of the book.

10. “The Essential Epicurus” – Epicurus

This is one was a famous philosopher and teacher of Ancient Greece, who was best known for having founded the Epicureanism school of philosophy. His thought usually revolves around simplicity – cutting down on the trivialities and nuances that pester our lives and trimming it down to friendship, joy, as well as happiness.

11. “Nature and Selected Essays” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The selected essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson have an amazing way of spurning a reader into motion. So much of philosophy actually leads us to sit down and thin, but Emerson instead encourages us to act, as well as make choices. His selected essays push the reader to reach his or her potential and make the best choices possible. Also, his essays have the American drive to succeed and persevere.

Ane Krstevska
Ane Krstevska



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