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    I've become quite interested in Philosophy since reading 'Being Good' by Blackburn and 'Meditations' by Descartes. The latter was quite a tough one to understand, but I got through it. I'm only 16, taking GCSEs this summer, predicted 9 A*s (only able to take 9 courses at my school) and looking to do English Lit, French and Philosophy as A Levels.

    I'd like to know if Philosophy at somewhere like Cambridge (if I get the grades... and luck) is as heavy as some of the books can be, and how much of it requires a 100% comprehension of what is read in texts. It seems quite a dry subject, so if anyone has an idea of a better course after seeing what my A Levels are above, let me know!
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    (Original post by Archie Taylor)
    I've become quite interested in Philosophy since reading 'Being Good' by Blackburn and 'Meditations' by Descartes. The latter was quite a tough one to understand, but I got through it. I'm only 16, taking GCSEs this summer, predicted 9 A*s (only able to take 9 courses at my school) and looking to do English Lit, French and Philosophy as A Levels.

    I'd like to know if Philosophy at somewhere like Cambridge (if I get the grades... and luck) is as heavy as some of the books can be, and how much of it requires a 100% comprehension of what is read in texts. It seems quite a dry subject, so if anyone has an idea of a better course after seeing what my A Levels are above, let me know!
    Philosophy at somewhere like Cambridge is not easy, and you will probably find some of the reading heavy going to start with. But you should not let that put you off, either now, or when you start your degree (should you choose to study it) because you will learn how to read, understand and respond to philosophical texts as you go on. I read Descartes at a similar age to you and enjoyed it, and went on to study philosophy at Oxford. I found some of the reading I did over the holiday before starting the degree (including the secondary reading about Descartes, whose Meditations were one of the set texts in the first year) difficult, but once I got into the degree I didn't struggle.

    And not only do you not need to understand 100% of what you read, nor should you expect to do so. I remember reading a Thomas Nagel paper where he says about Donald Davidson's theory, 'I don't understand the argument against psychophysical laws.' I was reassured to find that even philosophers found each other's work difficult at times. Of course years later I realize that this is the case all the time.

    Is it a dry subject? Well, it really depends on your perspective. If you found Being Good and the Meditations compelling then you probably have an adequate interest in the kind of subject matter you'll encounter. Contemporary philosophy can be a bit technical at times, which some may find a bit of a chore, but you can also see understanding and reproducing the necessary precision of expression as a challenge, and if you're interested enough in the subject that should sustain you through the occasional tedious paper.
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    (Original post by Estreth)
    Philosophy at somewhere like Cambridge is not easy, and you will probably find some of the reading heavy going to start with. But you should not let that put you off, either now, or when you start your degree (should you choose to study it) because you will learn how to read, understand and respond to philosophical texts as you go on. I read Descartes at a similar age to you and enjoyed it, and went on to study philosophy at Oxford. I found some of the reading I did over the holiday before starting the degree (including the secondary reading about Descartes, whose Meditations were one of the set texts in the first year) difficult, but once I got into the degree I didn't struggle.

    And not only do you not need to understand 100% of what you read, nor should you expect to do so. I remember reading a Thomas Nagel paper where he says about Donald Davidson's theory, 'I don't understand the argument against psychophysical laws.' I was reassured to find that even philosophers found each other's work difficult at times. Of course years later I realize that this is the case all the time.

    Is it a dry subject? Well, it really depends on your perspective. If you found Being Good and the Meditations compelling then you probably have an adequate interest in the kind of subject matter you'll encounter. Contemporary philosophy can be a bit technical at times, which some may find a bit of a chore, but you can also see understanding and reproducing the necessary precision of expression as a challenge, and if you're interested enough in the subject that should sustain you through the occasional tedious paper.
    Thanks so much for all that info, I'll definitely keep at reading these sorts of texts, maybe have a look at the more contemporary side of things too. Really encouraging to know that even Philosophers themselves find other people's works tough and that understanding everything fully isn't the be-all and end-all. Thanks!
 
 
 
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