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Recommended Reading and Resources for Incoming Joint Honours Philosophy Students

To help students on our Joint Honours courses to get prepared, we asked some of our colleagues in other disciplines what reading they recommend to their students. Here is what they said.

Philosophy with Psychology

Basic reading for first year modules can be from general textbooks, with additional reading coming from more specialised texts and journal articles. Any of the four general textbooks below, and the statistics text, would be suitable basic reading in the first year.

Gleitman, H., Gross, J., & Reisberg, D.(2010). Psychology (8th ed.). New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

or

Kowalski, R., & Westen, D. (2011). Psychology (6th ed.). Hoboken, N. J., USA: Wiley.

or

Martin, N. G., Carlson, N.R., & Buskist, W. (2013). Psychology (5th ed.). Allyn & Bacon.

or

Nolen-Hoeksema, S., Fredrickson, B. L., Loftus, G. R., & Wagenaar, W. A. (2009). Atkinson & Hilgard's introduction to psychology (15th ed.). London: Wadsworth.

and

Howell, D. C. (2008). Fundamental statistics for the behavioral sciences (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.

On the intersection of the discipline Philosophy and Psychology, we recommend:

Fodor, J. (1983). The Modularity of Mind: an Essay on Faculty Psychology. Bradford book. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass ; London.
Starmans, C. and Friedman, O. (2012). 'The folk conception of knowledge.' Cognition, 124(3): 272–283.
Godfrey-Smith, P. (2016). Other minds: The octopus and the evolution of intelligent life. William Collins, London.

Mathematics and Philosophy

The following three books below can serve to introduce you to university mathematics.

  1. The Foundations of Mathematics by I. Stewart and D. Tall (Oxford 2015; ISBN: 019870643X).
  2. Guide to Analysis by M. Hart (Macmillan 2001; ISBN: 0333794494).
  3. Algebra and Geometry by A.F. Beardon (Cambridge 2005; ISBN 0521890497).

The book by Hart is a recommended text for the first-year module “Analysis”. Browsing through any of them will give you a flavour of what mathematics at university will be like, and doing the exercises will prepare you for the kind of thing you will be asked to do once you are here. But there is no need to read them systematically before you arrive.

The books in the next list are not textbooks. You should be able to get hold of at least one of them through your school or public library. They are fun to read (at least in parts) but do not expect to read them as you would a novel. In particular, you may choose not to read them from cover to cover but to browse through the chapters and select sections which grab your attention. Do not be discouraged if you become confused during the first reading. Read on; new ideas are usually easier to assimilate at a second or third reading. Getting to grips with mathematical ideas requires many hours of careful reflection. Be patient, and persist until enlightenment dawns!

  1. Mathematics: a Very Short Introduction by T. Gowers (Oxford Paperbacks, 2002; ISBN: 0192853619). Also very inexpensive.
  2. What is Mathematics? by Richard Courant and Herbert Robbins, 2nd edition revised by Ian Stewart (Oxford University Press, 1996; ISBN: 0195105192). This is a classic; Courant and Stewart are both master expositors, from different epochs.
  3. The Pleasures of Counting by T. W. Körner (Cambridge University Press, 1996; ISBN: 0521568234).
  4. The Book of Numbers by John H. Conway and Richard G. Guy (Springer NY, 1998; ISBN: 038797993X).
  5. Calculus Gems, by George F. Simmons (McGraw Hill, 2007; ISBN: 978-0070575660). Small pieces of interesting mathematics, with historical background which, surprisingly, adds a lot to one's understanding.
  6. Letters to a Young Mathematician, by Ian Stewart, (Basic Books,2006; ISBN 978-0-46508-232-2).
  7. Beautiful Mathematics, by Martin Erickson, (Mathematical Association of America; ISBN 978-0-88385-576-8). A potpourri of topics to browse through.

Philosophy and Literature / Philosophy, Literature and Classics

The following is an eclectic, non-exhaustive list of books that you might find interesting and helpful in preparation for joining us on the course. Please do not feel obligated to buy or to read any of these texts—there is nothing compulsory here. This is just a list intended to give you a steer, if you want to get some intellectual and imaginative wheels turning over the summer.

Our main advice is to take advantage of the summer as a time to read for pleasure and expansion of horizons. Read things you might not have time to read once you are in the thick of your studies at university. Perhaps try a ‘big novel’ (a few listed below) or a poet or novelist you have heard of, but have not yet read.

First, here is an assortment of nonfiction works that are in some way relevant to the relations between philosophy and literature or philosophy and art. Some are interesting as creative texts in their own right, and some are more straightforward academic works, including some works of literary theory and criticism. Any of them would be worth taking a look at in the course of your degree, if not right now. The first three books are helpful overviews of debates concerning philosophy and literature (and I note that one author, Ole Martin Skilleås, did his PhD in Philosophy and Literature at Warwick!).

 

Peter Lamarque, The Philosophy of Literature

Ole Martin Skilleås, Philosophy and Literature: An Introduction

David Davies, Aesthetics and Literature

Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘On truth and lies in an extra-moral sense’

Martha Nussbaum, Poetic Justice; Love’s Knowledge

Erich Auerbach, Mimesis

Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark; Nobel Prize speech

Arthur Danto, Transfiguration of the Commonplace (philosophical essays on art)

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations

Jenefer Robinson, Deeper than Reason (on emotional expression in art)

Leo Tolstoy, What Is Art?

bell hooks, Art on My Mind

Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory

Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation

T. S. Eliot, ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’

Ben Lerner, ‘The Hatred of Poetry’

Dorrit Cohn, Transparent Minds: Narrative Modes for Presenting Consciousness in Fiction

Virginia Woolf, ‘Modern fiction’, ‘How should one read a book?’ (in The Common Reader)

John Dewey, Art as Experience

Cynthia Freeland, But Is It Art?

Wayne Booth, The Rhetoric of Fiction; The Company We Keep

Plato, Republic; Ion

Elaine Scarry, On Beauty and Being Just

Jacques Rancière, The Ignorant Schoolmaster

Why I Write: Thoughts on the Craft of Fiction, editor Will Blythe

Also, some good introductions to philosophy:

Simon Blackburn, Think

Thomas Nagel, What Does It All Mean?

Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy 

 

Now, some works of fiction and poetry. Some specific titles are listed here; you might try other works by these authors if you can’t get your hands on these titles.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah

James Baldwin, Going to Meet the Man (also see his essay collections)

Pat Barker, The Silence of the Girls (pair it with Homer’s Iliad)

Samuel Beckett, Endgame

Elizabeth Bishop, poetry (any collection)

William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths

Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Albert Camus, The Outsider, The Plague

Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

Anton Chekhov, short stories (any collection)

J. M. Coetzee, Life and Times of Michael K; Disgrace

Lydia Davis, short stories

Don DeLillo, White Noise

Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment; Notes from Underground

George Eliot, Middlemarch 

T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land; Four Quartets

Jenny Erpenbeck, The Book of Words

Homer, Iliad; Odyssey

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go

Henry James, short stories (novels as well if you have the time)

Ha Jin, short stories

Franz Kafka, short stories

Ursula K Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 100 Years of Solitude

Toni Morrison, Beloved

Flannery O’Connor, short stories

Ovid, Metamorphoses

Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49

J.D. Salinger, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymore: An Introduction

José Saramago, Blindness

Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Zadie Smith, On Beauty

Wallace Stevens, poetry

Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

John Williams, Stoner

William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads