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MetroGnome217's avatar

How do I begin learning Philosophy?

Asked by MetroGnome217 (311 points ) April 21st, 2010

I feel as though I am being deprived of this subject that other students (from nonUS countries) learn in elementary schools.
How do I begin learning?

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23 Answers

Zen_Again's avatar

You read books on the subject.

CMaz's avatar

It starts with birth.

MetroGnome217's avatar

specefic books/websites???

Coloma's avatar

Plato, Socrates, Thoreau, Meister Eckhart, Nitchze, Ken Wilber, there are 100’s….

Sarcasm's avatar

That depends on your learning style.
Do you do well in an academic environment? Why not sign up for a philosophy course at a local community college?

If you want to hear lectures, but don’t want to get signed up for classes, you may want to look around at Opencourseware. Some big-name colleges (such as MIT) post up videos of their teachers giving lectures on subjects.

If you prefer books, as @Zen_Again suggested, for my introductory philosophy course at college, we’ve been assigned to read A history of Western Philosophy: The Classical Mind, Volume I, you may want to check that out.

Trillian's avatar

Start reading. Google it and pick a link. The fact that you don’t even want to pick your own links or websites does not bode well for your seriousness as a student of philosophy.

Seek's avatar

A personal favourite of mine is Kahlil Gibran.

Trillian's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr God yes. I link to him all the time here.

Disc2021's avatar

For starters: http://www.molloy.edu/sophia/sophia_texts.htm , http://www.btinternet.com/~glynhughes/squashed/ – Lots of complete (or edited) works of great philosophers. Those two websites actually served as the required texts for the first Philosophy class I took.

Other than that, go to a bookstore and pick up something from the philosophy section. Every now and then I go to Barnes and Noble and spend an hour or so paging through books.

janbb's avatar

I don’t think philosophy is something you learn; I think it’s something you study. There are survey books on the great philosophers, there are the texts written by the philosophers, there are criticisms of certain philosophical schools of thought. If I were you, I would first want to survey the field, either by reading an overview or attending an introductory course at a community college or college, then identify some philosophers or philosophies that you want to read in more depth. Good luck and enjoy yourself!

Seek's avatar

Let’s see if I can remember a little of senior year Humanities…

“Philosophy exists between religion and science, and deals with the unanswerable questions.” Any time you make an assertion that cannot be proven with empirical evidence, you’re probably in the realm of philosophy.

LostInParadise's avatar

Start with a book that gives a summary of the great philosophers. There are a number of good ones. This will give you a rough outline of philosophy. Read Plato, Aristotle and Descartes. Their work is pretty readable. You should read something from the empiricist school. David Hume would be a good choice. This will give you a fairly decent foundation. After that, philosophy goes off in different directions. It would be good to have some familiarity with Kant, Nietzsche, the pragmatists and existentialists. I don’t care much for the modern deconstructionists, but to be really with it, you should at least be familiar with what they say.

kittybee's avatar

Good choice! You should get an general introduction to philosophy book, but have a look inside before you buy it and see if it’s the type of philosophy you’re interested in, or you could read ‘Sophie’s World’ by Jostein Gaarder, or if you want to learn about a particular philosopher Descartes is a good one to start at.

YARNLADY's avatar

Start with the wikipedia article on Philosophy, and then branch out to the resources that are listed there.

JeffVader's avatar

I would avoid reading the classics such as Socrates, Plato etc, they’re really hard going. I would recommend starting with writers in the enlightenment. Descarte, Hobbes, Locke, even fictional books such as Robinson Crusoe as they illustrate many of the enlightenment ideas, such as, the state of nature, in a far more accessible way.

gorillapaws's avatar

@JeffVader I have to disagree a bit there. Descartes is one of the hardest philosophers to read (although the others you mention are much better). I was going to suggest reading some of the Socratic Dialogues so you can get a sense of the Socratic Method, which is a huge part of philosophy.

There are 2 components to philosophy, there’s the actual philosophical theories, but much more importantly, there’s a special way of thinking and solving problems that you learn. This second part is the real treasure that philosophy offers because it allows you to solve practical problems in your life, in business, even potentially in sports or art. With enough practice in philosophical thinking, you become a human bullshit-detector which can be very valuable/handy at times (if a bit annoying to bullshit-artists).

LostInParadise's avatar

I find Plato, Aristotle and Descartes all to be very readable. Note that Socrates made a point of never writing anything. All that we know of him is from the writings of others, most notably Plato. If you read nothing else by Plato, read his essay entitled Apology. It is beautifully written. While Aristotle is not hard to read, his writing is less dramatic than Plato, though this is no reflection on the importance of what he had to say. The whole train of thought that led to Descartes’ “I think therefore I am” is not at all hard to follow and is a good read.

I believe that cryptic philosophic writing started with Kant. Someone told me that German students try to get English translations of Kant, because they are supposedly easier to follow.

JeffVader's avatar

@gorillapaws Really…. I never had any problems with Descartes…. however even if he is a hard read Id recommend it for the ideas contained, also as it illustrates the way free thinkers were still having to be very careful with what they wrote for fear of the church.

gorillapaws's avatar

@JeffVader He’s not hard to read in the Kant sense, but teasing out his exact premises from his narrative is somewhat challenging, since he has to tiptoe around the church making it difficult to determine what his actual beliefs on the subject were.

I certainly agree that his thinking is brilliant and needs to be read.

JeffVader's avatar

@gorillapaws Ah, couldnt agree with you more, sorry for being dim witted earlier :)

gorillapaws's avatar

@JeffVader I wasn’t very clear, I’ll take the blame for that one.

LostInParadise's avatar

We will probably never know the specifics of Descartes’ religious beliefs. His writings are easy enough to understand if taken at face value. I think it is fair to conclude that he did believe in God. There is an interesting theory that Descartes died of arsenic poisoning by someone who feared that he would dissuade Queen Christina from becoming Catholic. Link

dreamwolf's avatar

Buy a Philosophy Logical studies book, then learn the teachings of philosophers.

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