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Advice Request re Philosophy Reading

 
Jan_CAN
 
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Jan_CAN
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02 August 2018 18:05
 

I’ve read a lot of posts here that discuss philosophy and the ancient philosophers, which has piqued my interest to know more.  I’ve read a fair amount on certain topics of interest, but I wouldn’t know where to start with philosophy.

At this time I’d prefer to self-educate by reading rather than taking courses.  Is this a realistic option, or would someone with only a high school education need to take courses in order to properly interpret philosophy?  It seems that this might be the case, but don’t know.

I’m just looking to develop a general understanding and basic knowledge.  Where would I start?  Is there a certain order or sequence in which philosophers should be read?  Are there particular texts that outline or explain the basic principles?  (I tried searching online, but there are so many introductory philosophy books available that it’s difficult to know which would be best.)

Any guidance would be appreciated.  Thanks.

 
 
GAD
 
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GAD
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02 August 2018 20:51
 

Here is my philosophy.

Formal philosophy is your opinion of someone else’ opinion of someone else’ opinion on subjects that have no answers. I used to think philosophy was something worth pursuing until I realized it was exactly like religion and had no answers to anything and was nothing more then formalized opinions (holy books) and name dropping (prophets) self righteously raised to a status of importance to be able to sell it as something above opinions of opinions.

 
 
burt
 
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burt
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02 August 2018 22:37
 

Just a suggestion, but Plato’s Symposium might be a good start. Think of it as a play with various characters.

 
MARTIN_UK
 
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MARTIN_UK
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03 August 2018 00:23
 

I quite like asking questions, even those that leave the result open to the questioner.

 
Jan_CAN
 
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Jan_CAN
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03 August 2018 01:21
 
GAD - 02 August 2018 08:51 PM

Here is my philosophy.

Formal philosophy is your opinion of someone else’ opinion of someone else’ opinion on subjects that have no answers. I used to think philosophy was something worth pursuing until I realized it was exactly like religion and had no answers to anything and was nothing more then formalized opinions (holy books) and name dropping (prophets) self righteously raised to a status of importance to be able to sell it as something above opinions of opinions.

That’s very amusing, but you probably have the benefit of this education and knowledge in order to form that opinion, right?  Just want a bit of the same, and to understand ideas that have standed the test of time.  Don’t worry – I know that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing so won’t start name dropping and such like.

 
 
Jan_CAN
 
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Jan_CAN
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03 August 2018 01:22
 
burt - 02 August 2018 10:37 PM

Just a suggestion, but Plato’s Symposium might be a good start. Think of it as a play with various characters.

Thanks, Burt.  Just what I wanted – a place to start.

 
 
Jan_CAN
 
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Jan_CAN
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03 August 2018 01:23
 
MARTIN_UK - 03 August 2018 12:23 AM

I quite like asking questions, even those that leave the result open to the questioner.

Me too.

 
 
EN
 
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EN
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03 August 2018 02:08
 

Philosophy Made Simple - R. H. Popkin, A. Stroll

 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
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03 August 2018 03:09
 

Hi Jan_CAN

For both beginners and experts alike, I like the Oxford University Press A Very Short Introduction series, both for philosophy and for any topic.  There are books on individual philosophers (e.g. Hume: A Very Short Introduction), philosophical periods (e.g. Ancient Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction), and philosophical specialties (e.g. Philosophy of Science: A Very Short Introduction).  Any I have read are excellent both as introductions and as simplified, straightforward reviews.  I recommend picking an area or philosopher who piques your interest for any reason and starting there.

For more topical introductions, you can’t go wrong with Simon Blackburn’s Think, Being Good, and Truth.  They are intended for the curious lay audience, and they are excellent introductions to either broader questions (like Think) or a focused topic (like Truth).  His What Do We Really Know? is also a great place to start for a survey of formulations and ‘solutions’ to a number of philosophical topics (about 20).  If you want a really broad, non-technical introduction that includes a stance on the issues, that one might be the best place to start.

If you want to dive right into the deep end and start floundering philosophically (a process everyone goes though in the beginning anyway), I recommend trying something by James or Dewey, say James’ Pragmatism or Dewey’s Reconstruction in Philosophy.  Both works are lectures intended for lay audiences, and both were written by native English speakers, and written well.  Either one would be a good place to start if you really want to exercise and stretch you mind trying to understand a text—i.e. to mentally write, as it were, your own introduction to philosophy.  For some this is the most exciting way to be introduced to philosophy, but by no means is it the best.  If I had to judge, I’d say it’s more for those of philosophical inclination who plan on ‘doing philosophy,’ rather than for those curious as to what philosophy is about. 

In any case, these are my recommendations.  Wherever you end up starting, I am at your disposal to clarify, contextualize, of otherwise confuse. 

 
EN
 
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EN
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03 August 2018 08:22
 

Or you can just jump straight to Wittgenstein and realize that philosophy’s work is finished.  cheese

 
Jan_CAN
 
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Jan_CAN
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03 August 2018 08:38
 
EN - 03 August 2018 02:08 AM

Philosophy Made Simple - R. H. Popkin, A. Stroll

EN, thanks for the recommendation, which I’ll include on the list for my trip to the library.

 
 
Jan_CAN
 
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Jan_CAN
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03 August 2018 08:40
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 03 August 2018 03:09 AM

Hi Jan_CAN

For both beginners and experts alike, I like the Oxford University Press A Very Short Introduction series, both for philosophy and for any topic.  There are books on individual philosophers (e.g. Hume: A Very Short Introduction), philosophical periods (e.g. Ancient Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction), and philosophical specialties (e.g. Philosophy of Science: A Very Short Introduction).  Any I have read are excellent both as introductions and as simplified, straightforward reviews.  I recommend picking an area or philosopher who piques your interest for any reason and starting there.

For more topical introductions, you can’t go wrong with Simon Blackburn’s Think, Being Good, and Truth.  They are intended for the curious lay audience, and they are excellent introductions to either broader questions (like Think) or a focused topic (like Truth).  His What Do We Really Know? is also a great place to start for a survey of formulations and ‘solutions’ to a number of philosophical topics (about 20).  If you want a really broad, non-technical introduction that includes a stance on the issues, that one might be the best place to start.

If you want to dive right into the deep end and start floundering philosophically (a process everyone goes though in the beginning anyway), I recommend trying something by James or Dewey, say James’ Pragmatism or Dewey’s Reconstruction in Philosophy.  Both works are lectures intended for lay audiences, and both were written by native English speakers, and written well.  Either one would be a good place to start if you really want to exercise and stretch you mind trying to understand a text—i.e. to mentally write, as it were, your own introduction to philosophy.  For some this is the most exciting way to be introduced to philosophy, but by no means is it the best.  If I had to judge, I’d say it’s more for those of philosophical inclination who plan on ‘doing philosophy,’ rather than for those curious as to what philosophy is about. 

In any case, these are my recommendations.  Wherever you end up starting, I am at your disposal to clarify, contextualize, of otherwise confuse.

Hi TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher,

Thank you very much for the recommendations.

I realize my initial request was somewhat vague because I am not sure myself what I’m looking for.  I think I simply would like a general background of the classics, the philosophies that have stood the test of time so still have relevance.  Also, a general overview analyzing these so that they can be understood in a modern context.  I often have a ‘gut’ instinct when reading views of modern ‘thinkers’ that indicate when an argument seems flawed, but am unable to break it down as to exactly why this is.  I don’t expect that any reading I do will lead to any great philosophical thinking on my part, but it could help formulate ideas and avoid pitfalls; currently I try (not always easy) to avoid forming opinions prematurely.

I like your idea of “picking an area or philosopher who piques your interest for any reason and starting there”, so am thinking that Ancient Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction would be a particularly good choice.  Blackburn’s books also seem particularly suitable, as you say a “broad, non-technical introduction ... might be the best place to start”.

Not sure I’m ready to dive right into the deep end, am wary of floundering philosophically, and don’t think ‘doing philosophy’ is my thing; rather more curious as to what it’s all about.

Thank you also for your generous offer to clarify and contextualize (confusion I’m sure I can manage on my own, haha).  If I have questions after I’ve done some reading, perhaps I’ll start a thread that could also be useful for others.

 

 
 
Jan_CAN
 
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Jan_CAN
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03 August 2018 08:41
 
EN - 03 August 2018 08:22 AM

Or you can just jump straight to Wittgenstein and realize that philosophy’s work is finished.  :cheese:

Well, I didn’t even know that name so had to google him.  So perhaps he was saying ‘there’s nothing new under the sun’, that it’s all been done and thought before?  But we ‘moderns’ like to think we know more, don’t we?  ;-)

 
 
GAD
 
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03 August 2018 08:53
 
 
 
Jan_CAN
 
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Jan_CAN
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03 August 2018 08:59
 
GAD - 03 August 2018 08:53 AM

If you have a lot of time to kill

https://www.amazon.com/History-Western-Philosophy-Bertrand-Russell/dp/0671201581

Thanks, GAD.  Now that I’m retired, I don’t have any excuses regarding not enough time ...

 
 
EN
 
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EN
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03 August 2018 09:04
 
Jan_CAN - 03 August 2018 08:41 AM
EN - 03 August 2018 08:22 AM

Or you can just jump straight to Wittgenstein and realize that philosophy’s work is finished.  cheese

Well, I didn’t even know that name so had to google him.  So perhaps he was saying ‘there’s nothing new under the sun’, that it’s all been done and thought before?  But we ‘moderns’ like to think we know more, don’t we?  wink

He pretty much meant that there is nothing left to do - philosophy can make some statements about truth propositions as expressed in language, but that’s been done, and after that there is nothing more to say. If we can’t speak about something factually (aesthetics, ethics, metaphysics), then remain silent. He claimed to have ended philosophy’s work.

 
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