• dani
    31
    Hi :)

    What's your ideal trajectory for learning about philosophy?

    I'm a beginner here, and with philosophy too. I'm a few lectures into this series:
    And I'm also reading Sophie's World (by Jostein Gaarder), even though it's for tweens, because didactic is didactic is didactic!

    I'm looking for maybe your opinion on this, or extra suggestions, what to do next, etc :)

  • javi2541997
    5.2k
    What's your ideal trajectory for learning about philosophy?dani

    Hello Dani, welcome to TPF. Nice to meet you.

    It is important to read books and essays, but even more to share your thoughts and doubts with us on the forum. I think the best way to keep learning is when you exchange your views with others. Philosophy is a vast and complex field, and it is very difficult to learn by ourselves.

    Enjoy your stay around here! :up:
  • dani
    31
    @javi2541997
    The forum is definitely a lil intimidating, but you're absolutely right and I do feel like I wanna join in
    Thank you for the encouragement! :D
  • unenlightened
    8.9k
    Not so much a Holy Grail, more a big box of snakes, all entangled with each other, most of them poisonous and slippery. Reach in at your peril and try to pull out one snake to examine it, and be-it the snake 'ontology', or the snake 'freewill', or the snake 'ethics', or whatever, you will find it so entangled with all the other snakes that it is impossible to get a clear view of it, and difficult enough not to get bitten.
  • dani
    31

    I appreciate the metaphor and I think it's very accurate! I read The Hedgehog and The Fox, by Isiah Berlin, and it was very much that. It also made me way more eager to learn more about everything.

    But do you have any suggestions for resources to give me a good overview of philosophy?
    I believe it's easier to start that way so I can then place whatever else I read in a clear timeline, and make connections more easily too.
  • unenlightened
    8.9k
    It's hard to be specific. A history of philosophy is usually recommended, and some sort of dictionary is a great crib-sheet. Philosophers are all great name-droppers and jargon users, and something like this is really useful. http://www.philosophypages.com/dy/ Sort the Neoplatonism from the neologism fast.

    Then Stanford (SEP) will give depth on anything that grabs you. Beyond that, it all depends on what has bitten you whether one might prescribe a dose of Rorty, or Nietzsche. or Ryle, or another. You're going to have to deal with Plato sooner or later, and my personal favourite starting point is The Trial and Death of Socrates -straight into the individual in relation to society and meaning worth dying for.
  • javi2541997
    5.2k
    The forum is definitely a lil intimidatingdani

    Understandable. There are some folks who are always interested in metaphysics and others - like me - who shares food and trivialities at The Shoutbox. If I were you, I would feel intimidated too.

    And @Vaskane who is an obsessed and compulsive lover of Nietzsche.
  • flannel jesus
    1.6k
    Good on all you posters for not just giving him a reading list of "books to read to agree with me".
  • Jamal
    9.2k
    Then Stanford (SEP) will give depth on anything that grabs you.unenlightened



    The SEP is excellent. Another good one, which is more approachable than the SEP, is the IEP: http://www.iep.utm.edu/

    Otherwise, I enjoyed Russell's History of Western Philosophy, even though he is very much not to be trusted concerning Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche.

    Apart from that, I find I learn the most when I'm especially intrested in a particular issue, a particular idea, or in a particular philosopher.

    Welcome to the forum :smile:
  • mcdoodle
    1.1k
    Nigel Warburton is a good populariser of philosophy. He has a couple of introductory books with up-to-date editions, and there is a stash of old podcasts under the name 'philosophy bites' with David Edmunds.
  • javi2541997
    5.2k
    As a metaphysician you should be careful of your tables of opposite values, they prime within you responses that trigger without thinkingVaskane

    I wish I were a real metaphysician, mate. But I don't even understand most of the concepts and definitions. Rather than being a philosopher myself, I am just an observer of all the prism of philosophy.
  • javi2541997
    5.2k
    as a successful nihilist in search for something more, to overcome, to become, to learn to guarantee myself as a future.Vaskane

    Do you consider yourself a nihilist then? I have always wondered how a nihilist can wake up and get out of bed every morning. When I embraced nihilism for the first time, I remember that I was living in a critical period of my life. Well, at least that's how I experienced it, and nihilism is something to be understood individually.

    Problem Solving. I'm interested in deep diving into problems and help overcome them.Vaskane

    Good luck. There are many problems which can't be solved, so don't get frustrated with this.
  • Fooloso4
    5.7k
    ...learning about philosophydani

    I make a distinction between learning about philosophy and doing philosophy. The former is a view from outside, being given someone's views on what philosophers have thought and said. The latter develops your own thinking through engagement with the writings of philosophers, working to understand them rather than relying on how someone else understands them. In my opinion, the major philosophers do not simply tell us what they think but teach us how to think, that is, a way of thinking.

    Some of Plato's shorter dialogues is a good place to start. Socrates is responsive to what his interlocutors say. He calls himself a "midwife", helping others to birth their ideas, beliefs, and opinions. By imagining what we would say in response to him Plato helps us to develop and give birth to our own ideas. And in the process allow us to alter or abandon those that we no longer wish to call our own.

    This last point can be both the greatest strength and the greatest weakness of philosophy.

    Enjoy the journey.
  • Count Timothy von IcarusAccepted Answer
    2.1k


    In my experience, historical surveys have only limited value. They are good for understanding intellectual history, less so for understanding philosophy. The problem is that you might get one dose of philosophy of mind on page 120, then not see the area again for 100 pages. To be comprehensive, surveys must be quite shallow, and they normally describe thinkers in terms of their historical relevance instead of how they tie in to contemporary problems.

    Kenney's "A New History of Western Philosophy," is my favorite survey because it includes topical coverage, but it still suffers from the same shortfalls. Durant has great prose and I love "The Story of Civilization," as a history, but his "Story of Philosophy," leaves a lot to be desired.

    I found it much more fruitful to dig into specific area surveys and then go from there.

    Not knowing what will interest you, I will just throw out my favorite (more) accessible works (some topics are less accessible by nature). My personal advice: read or listen to "Complexity: a Guided Tour," and "The Ascent of Information," if you're at all into metaphysics and science -- i.e., "what the world is like." They cover the most fascinating areas of the sciences IMO and give a very different view of the world than the classical "balls of stuff bouncing around."

    Three resources are worth mentioning in general:

    - The "Oxford Very Short Introductions to..." series. They get quite good people to write these and they cover a host of topics that it is quite hard to find introductions on. They are 80-120 pages, short.

    The one on Objectivity is excellent, and it covers an area where thinking is often very confused. The one on Mathematics is also quite good, as are the ones on Continental Philosophy and Analytic Philosophy. Unfortunately, despite Floridi being an author I really like, I found the one on Information fairly lacking. These are the only short introductions to the philosophy of physics and the philosophy of biology I am aware of (both are good).

    - The Routledge Contemporary Introductions to... covers most core areas in philosophy, giving you a good lay of the land and coverage of dominant theories and problems. I can speak to the metaphysics one (quite good), the one on Free Will (good), and one on Time (good but there are better resources), the Philosophy of Language one (good), and the one on Phenomenology (also pretty good). Jarwoski's "Philosophy of Mind," and "Problems of Knowledge" (epistemology) are better intros than the Routledge ones for those areas though.

    Oxford has a similar series called "X: The Basics." I've only read the semiotics one, but that is quite good. Eco's "Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language," while less introductory, is more interesting though.

    The Great Courses does lectures on a wide array of topics. It's like sitting through a college course, and they tend to get award winning lecturers. Don't buy them direct, as they are horribly expensive. Audible lets you get many free for a $15 a month subscription (and you get a book per month with that). Wonderium gives you all the videos and you get two years of access for like $40 if you do a trial and then cancel. Only problem is it does not have audio files so it drains your phone battery quicker if you just listen in the car or while doing chores.

    These have more science content, which is good to pair with the philosophy content. So the one on the neuroscience of language would go well with the Routledge guide on philosophy of language (which is very light on science). Of these, the "Mind Body Philosophy," one is excellent, as is "The Science of Information," and "The Philosophy of Science." The classes on Complexity and Chaos Theory are good too. "Descartes to Derrida," is a quite good survey of modern philosophy, as far as surveys go. The free will one and the "search for value" is also good. The only one I really thought was lacking was the one on metaphysics.

    Then, for general reference, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is quite good, if sometimes too technical. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy is also peer reviewed, and tends to be less technical but has less specialized content.

    Springer Frontiers tends to have a lot of really good cutting-edge philosophy of the sciences stuff. "The Reality of Becoming: Time Flow in Modern Physics," is my favorite on philosophy of time. "Asymmetry: The Foundations of Information," also has the best intro on information theory and entropy I have found, even if the proof parts at the end are quite technical. "Particle Metaphysics," is a good one too.

    For mysticism, I particularly like Harmless "Mystics." His "Saint Augustine in His Own Words," is the best survey of Augustine as well.

    For free will and ethics, I like Wallace's "Philosophical Mysticism in Plato and Hegel." It's a great intro to a powerful but often misunderstood tradition in these topics. The title is misleading, it's more a conventional ethics/free will text than about mysticism.

    For an intro to the philosophy of history, M.C. Lemon's intro is my favorite. Routledge and Oxford don't do this topic.

    For Hegel, Pinkhartd's "Hegel's Naturalism," is a short, accessible account of Hegel, if a bit "deflationary." Dorrien's "Kantian Reason and Hegelian Spirit," while focused on theology later in the book, is the best intro on German idealism I have found. Houlgate's commentary on the Greater Logic and Harris' "Hegel's Ladder" for the Phenomenology are both great. Bernstientapes.com has full graduate seminars recorded on Kant and the Phenomenology as well (free).

    For complexity and information theory, "Complexity a Guided Tour" is a fantastic introduction to all sorts of interesting stuff in the sciences related to information theory, chaos, and complexity. The North Holland Handbook of the Philosophy of Science volume on complexity is great too, but impossible to even find outside LibGen and fairly technical. "The Ascent of Information" is also a really interesting book on these topics that has big ideas while being accessible.

    For quantum mechanics, "What is Real?" is a very nice intro. Tegmark's "Our Mathematical Universe," is fun too, as is Vedral's "Decoding the Universe" (an information theory-centric account). "Information and the Nature of Reality" is a neat one too, but more general physics and includes articles by biologists on information theory.

    For Logic, "For All X" is open source and what is used by a great deal of programs now. Routledge has intros for more advanced logic. These are a slog if you aren't in a class though. "Meaning and Argument" is apparently an intro to logic that pulls in content from the philosophy of language; that might be more interesting.

    For computability there is:

    The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Information: for after the Great Courses course or the Ascent of Information. It's more technical, but filled with interesting articles.

    Bernhardt - Logic and computability: Turing's Vision: The Birth of Computer Science - solid intro to Turing Machines and the mathematical problems that defined the early 20th century.

    Hofstadter - Gödel, Escher, Bach (if you really care about formal systems, otherwise Complexity: A Guided Tour is better)

    Math - More Precisely: The Math You Need to Do Philosophy. Solid introduction to sets, machines, probability, and information theory. Still dull, more something you read to understand other things lol.

    Then, for any particular area you want to go deep in, look for the Routledge, Blackwell, and Oxford "handbooks to." Again, Libgen might be a go to here because these are atrociously overpriced. These give you good, curated articles on specific topics (e.g. emergence, biology, etc.) Princeton does the best philosophy of physics series though.
  • 180 Proof
    14.5k
    I feel similiar. I'd never think of myself as a 'philosopher'; rather, at most, just a lifelong freethinker. :death: :flower:
  • javi2541997
    5.2k
    I feel similiar. I'd never think of myself as a 'philosopher'; rather, at most, a lifelong freethinker.180 Proof

    Exactly. I usually feel shy to dive in on some threads, but then I say to myself: Hey, why don't be a wannabe thinker for an hour? :smirk:
  • BC
    13.3k
    Welcome.

    What's your ideal trajectory for learning about philosophy?dani

    A very slow arc, I'd say. Just my personal opinion, but formal, academic philosophy is about as tedious a subject as there can be. Consider that philosophy is a 2500 year-old project. It ran out of new ideas pretty quickly, Around 50 BC a Roman said, "There is nothing so absurd that some philosopher has not already said it." That was Marcus Tullius Cicero. That's even more true today, 2000 years after Cicero. Now,don't rush off to read Cicero.

    Thinking is a friendly activity, generally; a lot of very useful thinking goes on in many fields: Literature, Biology, Sociology, Geology, Religion, History, Art, and so on. You are young; do your school work; read widely; talk with people; engage with the world; enjoy life.

    If you insist on messing with this field, my advice is read ABOUT philosophy first. Those snakes in the box? That can of worms? Approach it gradually--say, over the next 10 years. Read a book about philosophy. If it doesn't seem all that interesting, that's OK. Try a different one. If none of them seem all that interesting, that's OK too. Think about something else.
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    And I'm also reading Sophie's World (by Jostein Gaarder), even though it's for tweens, because didactic is didactic is didactic!dani

    I liked that book at the time I read it. I still reckon Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy’s a good standby. It has many flaws as have been amply detailed in the years since but Russell’s style is approachable for non-specialists, and the historical approach - framing ideas in terms of how they developed over history - is invaluable, in my opinion.
  • dani
    31
    @javi2541997 @unenlightened @Vaskane @Jamal @mcdoodle @180 Proof @Fooloso4 @Count Timothy von Icarus @BC @Wayfarer

    Guys! Thank you so much for your suggestions and comments.
    Especially to @Count Timothy von Icarus. What a comprehensive answer -- my jaw dropped! Did you read all those books?

    I compiled all the suggestions into this list:
    1. Exchange your views with others
    2. Have a go-to dictionary
    3. Philosophical Dictionary: http://www.philosophypages.com/dy/
    4. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: https://plato.stanford.edu/
    (”will give depth on anything that grabs you”)
    5. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://www.iep.utm.edu/
    (”more approachable than the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy”)
    6. “Mind Your Logic,” by Donald Gregory
    (”great book for learning Aristotelian Logic”)
    7. “History of Western Philosophy,” by Bertrand Russell
    (”though he is very much not to be trusted concerning Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche”)
    8. Nigel Warburton’s books
    9. “Philosophy Bites” podcast with David Edmunds
    10. Plato's shorter dialogues
    11. “A New History of Western Philosophy,” by Anthony Kenny
    12. Starting with specific area surveys:
    ”Complexity: A Guided Tour,” by Melanie Mitchell
    ”The Ascent of Information,” by Caleb Scharf
    13. The "Oxford Very Short Introductions to..." series
    Particularly Objectivity, Mathematics, Continental Philosophy, Analytic Philosophy
    14. The Routledge “Contemporary Introductions to…”
    Particularly Metaphysics, Free Will, Time, Philosophy of Language, Phenomenology
    15. "Philosophy of Mind," and "Problems of Knowledge," by William Jarwoski
    Better introductions to those areas than the Routledge introductions
    16. "X: The Basics.” Oxford series
    17. The Great Courses: lectures on a wide array of topics
    (Recommended to get it through Audible or Wonderium)
    Particularly "Mind Body Philosophy,” "The Science of Information,” "The Philosophy of Science,” classes on Complexity, Chaos Theory, and Free Will, "Descartes to Derrida,” "Search for Value.”
    18. Springer Frontiers: really good cutting-edge philosophy of the sciences
    Particularly "The Reality of Becoming: Time Flow in Modern Physics,” "Asymmetry: The Foundations of Information,” "Particle Metaphysics.”
    19. “Mystics,” by William Harmless
    Introduction to Mysticism
    20. "Saint Augustine in His Own Words,” by William Harmless
    Introduction to Augustine
    21. "Philosophical Mysticism in Plato and Hegel, and The Present” by Robert M. Wallace
    Introduction to free will and ethics
    22. “Philosophy of History," by M.C. Lemon
    23. "Hegel's Naturalism,” by Terry Pinkard
    Introduction to Hegel
    24. "Kantian Reason and Hegelian Spirit,” by Gary Dorrien
    Intro to German Idealism
    25. “The Opening of Hegel's Logic: From Being to Infinity,” by Stephen Houlgate
    Introduction to Phenomenology
    26. “Hegel’s Ladder,” by Henry S. Harris
    Introduction to Phenomenology
    27. Graduate seminars on Kant and the Phenomenology: [www.bernsteintapes.com](http://www.bernsteintapes.com/)
    28. The North Holland Handbook of the Philosophy of Science: Volume I - Complexity
    (”Fairly technical”)
    29. “What Is Real?: The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics,” by Adam Becker
    Introduction to Quantum Mechanics
    30. “In Our Mathematical Universe,” by Max Tegmark
    Introduction to Quantum Mechanics
    31. “Decoding the Universe,” by Vlatko Vedral
    Introduction to Quantum Mechanics (”information theory-centric account”)
    32. “Information and the Nature of Reality: From Physics to Metaphysics,” by Paul C.W. Davies (Editor), Niels Henrik Gregersen (Editor)
    Introduction to Quantum Mechanics (”more general physics”)
    33. "For All X,” by P.D. Magnus
    Introduction to Logic (textbook)
    34. “Meaning and Argument: An Introduction to Logic Through Language, Revised Second Edition,” by Ernest Lepore
    Introduction to Logic (”pulls in content from the philosophy of language”)
    35. The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Information
    Introduction to Computability (”for after the Great Courses course or the Ascent of Information”)
    36. “Turing's Vision: The Birth of Computer Science,” by Chris Bernhardt
    Intro to Computability (”Turing Machines and the mathematical problems that defined the early 20th century”)
    37. “Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid,” by Douglas Hofstadter
    Intro to Computability (”if you really care about formal systems, otherwise Complexity: A Guided Tour is better”)
    38. "More Precisely: The Math You Need to Do Philosophy," by Eric Steinhart
    Intro to Maths (”Solid introduction to sets, machines, probability, and information theory.” “something you read to understand other things”)
    39. Routledge, Blackwell, Princeton, and Oxford "handbooks to.”
    For any particular area you want to go deep in.
    40. The Philosopher's Toolkit: A Compendium of Philosophical Concepts and Methods (3rd Ed), Peter S. Fosl and Julian Baggini
    41. Peter Adamson's podcast & book series A History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps
    42. “The Great Philosophers: An Introduction to Western Philosophy,” Bryan Magee
    43. “An Outline of Philosophy,” by Bertrand Russell
    44. “The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Genealogy of Pragmatism,” by Cornel West
    45. “The Meaning of Life,” by Terry Eagleton
    46. “**The Book of Dead Philosophers,” by Simon Critchley**
    47. W. T. Jones’ Introduction to Philosophy (5 volumes)
    48. “An Essay on Metaphysics,” by R. G. Collingwood
    49. “What Does it All Mean?: A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy,” by Thomas Nagel
    50. “The Story of Philosophy: A Concise Introduction to the World's Greatest Thinkers and Their Ideas,” by Bryan McGee
    51. “Confessions of a Philosopher,” by Bryan McGee
    52. “The Republic,” by Plato
    53. “Looking at Philosophy: The Unbearable Heaviness of Philosophy Made Lighter,” by Donald D. Palmer
    54. "The Story of Philosophy," by Will Durant
    55. “A Concise Introduction to Philosophy,” by William Halverson (textbook)
    56. “The Penguin History of Western Philosophy,” by D.W. Hamlyn
    57. “The Unity of Philosophical Experience,” by Etienne Gilson
    58. “An Essay on Metaphysics,” by R. G. Collingwood
    59. "The Pattern Paradigm: The Science of Philosophy,” by Bruce S.C. Robertson

    I think, after this Arthur Holme's lecture series and Sophie's World, I'm gonna take a look at Russell's History of Western Philosophy. It seems to be the most frequently mentioned book in this topic. But who knows! There are so many resources to choose from -- I'm excited!
  • Wayfarer
    21.1k
    Especially to Count Timothy von Icarus. What a comprehensive answer -- my jaw dropped! Did you read all those books?dani

    Based on the quality of his entries here, the answer is most likely 'yes'. :wink:
  • javi2541997
    5.2k
    I just recalled another website that I suggest you whole-heartily. The Proceedings of the Friesian School

    The owner and administrator of this website is Kelley Ross. He is a PhD in philosophy, and his page is so vast regarding philosophical content and reviews. I have been visiting this site for years and I haven't finished yet! I think it will help you as well. Furthermore, Kelley Ross is a good folk. If you write him an email with questions, he replies.
  • dani
    31
    wow thank you for adding this one! It seems like it'll be the perfect litmus test to really get to the bottom of certain ideas, since I tend to agree with his worldview and values.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.1k


    Thanks! I have read all of those enough to recommend them. I haven't finished all of them cover to cover. I have a long reading list and get distracted easily, although the ones that made it in the list are generally all ones I've read all or most of.

    I'm most likely to stop reading science books because they tend to make their case early on and then just keep hammering home evidence, and they can get a bit repetitive. This is risky though. I recall talking to Wayfarer about Donald Hoffman's "The Case Against Reality," a scientific argument for idealism (roughly, the belief that the idea of a distinctly "physical" universe doesn't make sense) and not buying that Hoffman was advocating idealism. Well, it turns out I was wrong! Hoffman just waits until the last chapter to make this argument.

    That and in introductory texts I sometimes skip the chapters on ideas I'm fairly familiar with. That said, I do find I get more out of surveys going back to them later. You can see how everything fits together with more in depth knowledge about everything being referenced.

    Books lead to books. I wanted to read Pope John Paul II because a blend of Thomism and phenomenology sounded interesting, but then I ended up going to the Routledge intro on phenomenology because I realized I didn't really understand it. But then I realized I didn't really understand Thomism that much either lol, so my one book has become three.
  • dani
    31
    Just added "The Case Against Reality" to my goodreads heh. Thanks for the tip about going back to introductions to consolidate your knowledge, I'd never thought of that! :ok:
  • Double H
    4
    Good question by the OP, I'm in a similar situation.

    The podcast 'philosophize this' by Stephen West is very interesting.
    He explains in a clear, understandable way and makes you think about the topic of his episodes.

    I also believe the University of Edinburgh offers a free introductory course on philosophy, but you'd have to check their website.
  • javi2541997
    5.2k
    The podcast 'philosophize this' by Stephen West is very interesting.Double H

    Yeah, good stuff.

    I also enjoyed this one: History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps.
  • AmadeusD
    2k
    What I did, which has been a really helpful path (given i'm only a fledgling academic philosopher and am purposefully leapfrogging the academic pathway in terms purely of duration...) was to read A.C Grayling's "The History Of Philosophy" and then choose (at a time) six books to attack, going from earliest, to later philosophies/philosophers which his account/s made me want to follow up on.

    Initially, I went with some bigger names (Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant, Parfit, Chalmers) and a then added a couple of lesser known (North-Whitehead, Benatar, etc..). Since then, I just pick up what takes my fancy when im at the book store or on Amazon haha.

    Has been very helpful to figure out what i'm interested in, and what I might think about those things without being beholden to views of those presenting the sources to me. I assume, when i hit the relevant courses, this will allow me a bit more room than out-of-highschool students too.
  • Antony Nickles
    1.1k


    Ditch Sophie’s World. It makes the error of requiring a certain answer which twists the “inquiry” into the issues. I would also skip summaries and histories as you’ll think you know something when you shouldn’t. You are much better off going to the library and pulling original philosophy texts and reading a bit to see if you can make sense of it and are interested in the subject. You want something readable and relatable. And focus on your thoughts and questions while reading it—don’t automatically assume they are right. You don’t have to start at the beginning but some writing is responding to earlier texts (avoid Kant, Wittgenstein, Descartes, Nietszche, early Heidegger, and Hegel for now). I find Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Dewey, J.L. Austin easier. You could also avoid the technical stuff and stick with more social reflection like Hannah Arendt, Foucallt, etc. Good luck.
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