This is a collection of some of the pages and resources that I have utilised in my attempts at contemplation, hopefully they are of some use to you all. Please note I receive nothing from suggesting any of the paid resources below – although when it comes to voice acting I find it can be very worthwhile to pay for an audiobook which is a little easier on the listener.
Lucas van Valckenborch, Meuse landscape with a mine and smelters, 1580
Free Books: Project Gutenberg
Free Audiobooks: Librivox
Even though both these resources are free I highly recommend you donate, as they are both excellent causes which seek to make information and education freely available to all. Shout out to Jothi Tharavant for his work with Librivox for the readings of the Upanishads, and similarly to Geoffrey Edwards for his work with Greco-Roman philosophy.
Free primary texts: Wisdom Library
An excellent collection of older texts from many of the worlds religious traditions, importantly for the study of Indian philosophy the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism (unfortunately not much on Jainism). All free and very usable!
Contextual history of the Indian World
- A history of India
- A history of British India
- Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund, a history of India
Introductions to Indian thought
With regards to both Indian thought and history, you will find it considerably more difficult to find English language resources to help guide you in your studies when compared to the commercially available books and courses for Western, Greco-Roman or even East Asian cultures. The above resources however make for an excellent start in remediating any shortfalls in your ‘holistic’ understanding.
You can find most of the Mukhya Upanishads at the Wisdom Library, as well as translations from the Sacred Books of the East collection on Wikisource. However, I highly recommend the audio readings on Librivox conducted by Jothi Tharavant.
Understanding the Upanishads
The below books and articles are some recommendations for commentary on both the context and meaning of the Upanishads:
- Brian Black, The Upanisads
- Brian Black, The Character of the Self in Ancient India: Priests, Kings, and Women in the Early Upanisads
- Signe Cohen, The Upanisads: A Complete Guide
Contextual history of the Chinese World
- Understanding Imperial China: Dynasties, Life, and Culture
- From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History
Introduction to Chinese thought
Chinese thought suffers from the same dearth of English language materials that faces those who are attempting to read and understand Indian thought. Despite this the above courses give an excellent and abridged introduction to Chinese philosophy, culture and history.
Free primary texts: Perseus Digital Library
You will be able to find almost all the primary texts for Greco-Roman philosophy (along with texts on almost every other possible topic within the Greco-Roman World!) on the Perseus site. However, I will caution that its reading layout can be a little annoying (a few paragraphs before requiring you to load a new page).
Contextual history of the Greek and Roman Worlds
- Greece and Rome: An Integrated History of the Ancient Mediterranean
- George Grote, A History of Greece
- Theodor Mommsen, The History of Rome
- Primary texts
- Herodotus, The Histories
- Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War
- Xenophon, Anabasis
- Polybius, The Histories
- Livy, History of Rome
- Tacitus, The Histories and The Annals
- Cassius Dio, Roman History
Although the above works are all freely available through the Perseus Digital Library and Project Gutenburg, I recommend that you check out the excellent recordings done by Charlton Griffon through Audio Connoisseur for the primary texts and Mommsen’s books.
Introductions to Greco-Roman thought
- Masters of Greek Thought: Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle
- Practical Philosophy: The Greco-Roman Moralists
Taken together these two courses give an excellent introduction to the breadth and depth of Greco-Roman thought. Although other The Great Courses (TGC) options exist these are, in my opinion, the best in terms of survey courses of the period.
Early Greek Philosophers
- Barnes, Jonathan. THE PRESOCRATIC PHILOSOPHERS (The Arguments of the Philosophers)
- Kirk, G. S.; Raven, J. E.; Schofield, M.. The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selcetion of Texts. Cambridge University Press.
- Guthrie, W. K. C.. A History of Greek Philosophy: Volume 1, 2 and 3.
- Graham, Daniel W.. Explaining the Cosmos: The Ionian Tradition of Scientific Philosophy,
- Cordero, Nestor-Luis. By Being, It Is: The Thesis of Parmenides.
The Early Greek Philosophers (sometimes called the Presocratics) are some of the most difficult and divise minds I have read to date. The publications above give a good spread of the interpretations and arguments for the cradle of thought that emerged in Greece during the Axial age.
This is possibly one of the best TGC purchases I have ever made. The lecturer is highly engaging and it acts as an excellent introduction to the dialogues and development of Plato’s thought.
The Socrates question
One of the most difficult issues in reading the Socratic dialogues is splitting the Plato’s Socrates from the real life figure. As Socrates never wrote any of his own works it is difficult to tell what is a faithful attempt to portray the views and beliefs of his mentor, and what is Plato putting his own theories into Socrates mouth. The Cambridge Companion book is excellent in attempting to walk the novice through this (somewhat intractable) problem.
- The Socratic Dialogues: Early Period, Volume 1: The Apology, Crito, Charmides, Laches, Lysis, Menexenus, Ion
- The Socratic Dialogues: Early Period Volume 2: Gorgias, Protagoras, Meno, Euthydemus, Lesser Hippias, Greater Hippias
- The Socratic Dialogues Middle Period, Volume 1: Symposium, Theaetetus, Phaedo
- The Socratic Dialogues Middle Period, Volume 2: Phaedrus, Cratylus, Parmenides
I find the Ukemi Audiobooks to be of generally very good quality. Also they neatly tie together many books that otherwise are not available otherwise.
The Agora recordings tend to be more dramitised than the Ukemi style recordings, something I find to be quite enjoyable – though this is entirely up to your own taste.
Understanding Plato’s Thought
The below books are some recommendations for commentary on both the context and meaning behind the works of Plato (please take note that some academics see Plato’s Epistles as spurious, and as such his seventh letter should be taken with a grain of salt).