I am applying for university at the moment and there is a list of Philosophy books that they suggest you read before applying - for exampleJohn Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism. However, I am an unsure how to read them in a way that I can make sure I absorb and understand the information - has anybody got any suggestions?
I was considering annotating it but I didn't know if there was a better way to read and process books.
You are Here: Home > Forums >< Study Help >< Arts and humanities academic help >< Philosophy, religious studies and theology study help
How to Read Scholars' Books? Watch
- Thread Starter
- 10-07-2014 18:21
- 11-07-2014 23:10
While you're waiting for an answer, did you know we have 300,000 study resources that could answer your question in TSR's Learn together section?
We have everything from Teacher Marked Essays to Mindmaps and Quizzes to help you with your work. Take a look around.
If you're stuck on how to get started, try creating some resources. It's free to do and can help breakdown tough topics into manageable chunks. Get creating now.
Not sure what all of this is about? Head here to find out more.
- 13-07-2014 13:14
The first thing is: don't worry too much about it. If it's been recommended that you read Mill, it's not because you're expected to learn what Mill argued, but in order for you to get an idea of what reading philosophy is like, and to think carefully about what you read. So don't think you've failed in any way if you get to the end and feel like you don't have a perfect recall of the arguments. Understanding is more important that absorbing.
Don't take notes in order to summarize or paraphrase arguments. That's a waste of time. If you write anything while you're reading it should be your own thoughts - e.g. 'doesn't Mill's argument here assume that xyz?' Annotating is a good idea if you've got your own copy of the book because you can underline passages that are confusing or unclear or particularly interesting and add your own comments and questions in the margin. It also means you can go back over what you've written later and re-examine your thoughts in the context in which you had them. It also means that you can cross-refer within the book - so if you write a question on one page, and then find your query answered five pages later, you can go back and note down where to find the answer.
Finally, remember when reading philosophy that your queries and objections might well be perfectly reasonable queries and objections rather than misunderstandings (though some of them might be misunderstandings!). Great philosophers sometimes make mistakes or produce unconvincing arguments, and you should get into the habit of spotting these right from the start. At the same time, bear in mind that it is conventional in philosophy to read philosophers in the most charitable way possible. So if something sounds implausible read one way, ask yourself whether there might be a different reasonable interpretation that makes the argument more convincing.
Mill is a great place to start; hope you enjoy it!