Encounters with the work of thinkers in all media help to define who one is. Oxy faculty are sharing the works that played a formative role in their academic lives, work that shaped interests and served as milestones in their intellectual autobiography.
The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus; Justin O'Brien (Translator)A pair of books that were particularly important in my own intellectual development in college. They each in different frames grapple with a common problem: how to strive for understanding, and how to appreciate the limits of one's ability to understand without accepting them.
Accessing Kant by Jay F. RosenbergBecause you're not going to read the Critique by yourself. Jay was one of my mentors in graduate school; I took his class on Kant twice. This book essentially is that class, developed and refined over 20+ years of teaching.
Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Josef Johann WittgensteinFor my money, the one of the two most important philosophical works of the twentieth century (metaphysics and epistemology side). Wittgenstein offers a powerful critique of some of the pretensions of traditional philosophy.
Naming and Necessity by Saul A. KripkeFor my money, the other of the two most important philosophical works of the twentieth century (metaphysics and epistemology side). Kripke reconceives the received view in philosophy of how words have their meaning, and of the role of imagination in drawing philosophical conclusions.
The Nature of the Physical World by A. S. EddingtonThe introduction of this book introduces the famous image of the “two tables”, and crystallizes the philosophical question that I, personally, find the most troubling: what is the relation between the commonsense conception of the world and the conception of the world that the sciences are collectively creating? And what if those turn out to be incompatible with each other?
Science, Perception and Reality by Wilfrid SellarsMy philosophical hero, and someone whose work is criminally under-appreciated within philosophy. Sellars takes the lessons of Kant and redevelops them within the context of the modern scientific worldview. Jay Rosenberg (see above) learned his Kant from Sellars.
The Language of Thought by Jerry A. FodorFodor has been at the forefront and center of empirically-informed philosophy of mind since philosophy of mind started being systematically empirically informed, and has articulated a rich and systematic vision of what the mind must be like according to the presuppositions of cognitive science. The Language of Thought is probably the foundational text of philosophy of cognitive science.
Representations by Jerry A. FodorFodor has been at the forefront and center of empirically-informed philosophy of mind since philosophy of mind started being systematically empirically informed, and has articulated a rich and systematic vision of what the mind must be like according to the presuppositions of cognitive science. “The Present Status of the Innateness Controversy”, in RePresentations, extends Chomsky-inspired reasoning about the innateness of language to argue that our conceptual systems are largely innately fixed. My dissertation and subsequent work has primarily focused on trying to articulate an alternative to this conclusion.
The Big Book of Concepts by Gregory L. MurphyI'm primarily interested in what concepts are and where they come from, and these two works collectively provide a picture of the current state of research in philosophy and psychology on these questions.
White Queen Psychology and Other Essays for Alice by Ruth G. MillikanI tend to disagree with a lot of those people who consider themselves Sellars' biggest proponents about what Sellars was doing and what was important to him. Millikan's work is, I think, the most natural descendent of Sellars' approach; she situates philosophical conceptions of mind within an understanding of humans as fundamentally biological organisms. Also, as the title suggests, she's inspired by Alice as well.
What the Tortoise said to Achilles by Lewis CarrollCarroll was a logician and philosopher, and the Alice books are suffused with philosophical issues and puzzles. “What the Tortoise Said to Achilles” is a fine illustration of this, as well as an important paper in logic in its own right.