Studying Philosophy Independently, where to start?

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damnam
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Hi philosophers, (skip to Q1 for my actual question)

I'm a sport and exercise student and I'm towards the end of my degree.

I have recently stumbled upon and have been enthralled by the study of philosophy (I'm 21) and after I graduate I want to dedicate a period of time to studying this as I have never had the opportunity to do so and feel like It is crucial for the mental health and wellbeing of my existence.

I have stumbled upon names like Albert Camus, Schopenhauer, Montaigne, Hegel, Nietzsche Socrates, Plato and many more... However so far i have only read the book by Alain de Botton: Consolations of philosophy, The Fall and I'm currently reading The Outsider by Albert Camus.

When I read the book by Alain De Botton or watch the philosophy videos about different philosophers like Schopenhauer on the youtube channel The School of Life I always feel like i want to read more and appreciate the depth of what these philosophers had to say about life and see how i can perhaps apply it in my own circumstances. However, I am always baffled by the sheer size and diversity of the original essais leaving me not knowing what I'm actually looking for in these books in the first place which reimburses me with great terror and i end up not knowing what to read.

Q1) I guess my question is very vague and broad however, if i want to study philosophy, where do i start? for example i wanted to read Schopenhauer but then i read somewhere that he just elaborates on the philosophy of Karl Marx (for example, I'm probably wrong saying that) but then I'm left thinking, well if i haven't read Marx then i probably should read him before? And before that problem even emerged, i was looking at what text to read by Schopenhauer first, and was perplexed too so i need help big time.
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valentine24332
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I believe you should begin with the Naturalist philosophers initially to understand how they first tackled the concepts of existence, change and the crux of being. Maybe, I would suggest reading "The History of Western Philosophy" by Bertrand Russell and focus on Pre-Socratic and Eastern philosophers at first. My opinion is that you should approach philosophy chronologically to understand how the thought evolved in relation to time.
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Retired_Messiah
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I usually go for the approach of stumbling on a particular concept or area that sounds relatively interesting then digging up all the dudes that had something to say about it
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willa17
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Perhaps you could try reading Nigel Warburton's 'Basics of Philosophy' to give you a key outline into the branches of philosophical enquiry. Based on what you find the most interesting you could read into that.

However, from the works you have listed and the description you have given it seems like you are interested in existential philosophy. This isn't really my forte but I guess you could start with the most popular works- Camus, Sartre etc and build up from there. Even if you don't read the ideas in order of writing or if like you say some works are repetitive of others then it doesn't really matter as long as you understand the theory.

My favourite branches of philosophy (in case you're interested and want to read into any of them): philosophy of mind, epistemology, ethics and political philosophy.
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username2108371
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It's really easily to become 'internalised' when studying philosophy. By this, I mean reading and reading, but not actually discussing! Focus on what enthralled you, and make a discussion about it. This could be on online forums such as this, at open lectures or with academic friends.

I'm a philosophy student at university and this is important to
a) expand your thinking
b) motivate you!

The way I do this is through uploading discussion/revision videos to youtube (https://youtu.be/uIzVhOC30uA) - just discuss.

personally, I love logic: I'd suggest looking at the logic of time or the logic of True Knowledge or Personal Identity. I can give you some good readings for these if any of it interests you!
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Quirky Object
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(Original post by damnam)
Hi philosophers, (skip to Q1 for my actual question)

I'm a sport and exercise student and I'm towards the end of my degree.

I have recently stumbled upon and have been enthralled by the study of philosophy (I'm 21) and after I graduate I want to dedicate a period of time to studying this as I have never had the opportunity to do so and feel like It is crucial for the mental health and wellbeing of my existence.

I have stumbled upon names like Albert Camus, Schopenhauer, Montaigne, Hegel, Nietzsche Socrates, Plato and many more... However so far i have only read the book by Alain de Botton: Consolations of philosophy, The Fall and I'm currently reading The Outsider by Albert Camus.

When I read the book by Alain De Botton or watch the philosophy videos about different philosophers like Schopenhauer on the youtube channel The School of Life I always feel like i want to read more and appreciate the depth of what these philosophers had to say about life and see how i can perhaps apply it in my own circumstances. However, I am always baffled by the sheer size and diversity of the original essais leaving me not knowing what I'm actually looking for in these books in the first place which reimburses me with great terror and i end up not knowing what to read.

Q1) I guess my question is very vague and broad however, if i want to study philosophy, where do i start? for example i wanted to read Schopenhauer but then i read somewhere that he just elaborates on the philosophy of Karl Marx (for example, I'm probably wrong saying that) but then I'm left thinking, well if i haven't read Marx then i probably should read him before? And before that problem even emerged, i was looking at what text to read by Schopenhauer first, and was perplexed too so i need help big time.
I totally understand how you feel. I would say start with Western philosophy (Eastern philosophy is very different and more challenging to understand without the cultural context) and begin with Plato and Aristotle, since they essentially formed the basis of all Western philosophy. It would probably be a good idea to get some sort of collected works anthology, such as the Corpus Aristotelicum in Aristotle's case, so that you get some well-rounded philosophy without being swamped. Meditations by Descartes is an absolute must, as is some Kant (his magnum opus was Critique of Pure Reason but the first work I read of his was Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals which I thought was a more comprehensible introduction to the whirlwind that is Kantianism). I would also recommend Bertrand Russell's introductory works; The History of Western Philosophy is very good, as is The Problems of Philosophy. After that, you might have an idea of which areas of philosophy (metaphysics, epistemology, political philosophy etc.) interest you more and you can adjust your reading accordingly.

For Schopenhauer, I would strongly suggest reading Kant first, and maybe Rousseau as well (one of my personal favourites). Marx isn't necessary, but he had some interesting stuff to say if you're into political philosophy. I think you might like Sartre as well, so do take a look at his work once you've read the introductory stuff I suggested.

Sorry for the essay; I hope this helped!
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miser
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I'd like to second the book recommendations for Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy and Nigel Warburton's Basics of Philosophy. I haven't read the latter one but I've been impressed by his podcast Philosophy Bites, which is a series of short conversations with philosophers who study different topics.

I've also heard good things about Simon Blackburn's Think, and some people like the fictionalised approach used in Sophie's World by Jostein Gaardner. I think if you read any of those books you'd be introduced to a lot of ideas, and you can continue to research the ideas that interest you.

Books like Camus' L'Étranger and dense works like Kant's Critique of Pure Reason are in my opinion probably too abstract to be of much use.
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Slipandsquirm
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For philosophy of mind I recommend Ed Feser's "Philosophy of Mind: A Beginner's Guide".

For the metaphysics of Science I recommend E.A Burtt's book which you can find for free online as the copyright has expired.

Coplestone's book A History of Philosophy is a classic

Gerson's books on Plato and Plotinus are probably the best books explaining Neo-Platonic thought.

For Scholastic philosophy, Feser's Scholastic Metaphysics: A Beginner's guide is unbeatable

For philosophy of maths, James Franklin's book on Aristotelian realist mathematics is great (it argues for an Aristotelian version of the existence of numbers, sets etc but it does go through Platonic and Nominalist versions so covers the debate well)


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artful_lounger
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As someone who did L'Etranger in IB English Lit, Camus is great, although L'Etranger is primarily a novel with underpinning existentialist themes rather than a philosophical treatise in itself. His "The Myth of Sisyphus" is, the latter (or so I understand) and so if you're interested in more fundamental aspects of philosophy, rather than "applied" aspects e.g. in literature, this may be of interest (if you're enjoying L'Etranger anyway).

As a non-philosopher I'm led to understand Kant is viewed as a little overrated in himself and his philosophy is considered more interesting as a starting point from which many others developed as a critique of it (ironically). So maybe work backwards towards Kant, rather than the other way, for more relevant and interesting things. Caveat emptor, I'm not a philosopher nor particularly inclined to become one so others may have more informed views on Kant!

Generally, have a look at some philosophy degree courses and look at the reading lists for the modules, or recommended prior reading before starting the course. For example, Cambridge suggests the following for potential undergraduate philosophy applicants who haven't studied the subject before:
  • S Blackburn, Think
  • R Descartes, Meditations
  • D Hume, Enquiries
  • J S Mill, Utilitarianism
  • B Russell, Problems of Philosophy

And the "Set Texts" paper from the first year of the same course focuses on:

• Plato, Meno
• Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy
• J. S. Mill, On Liberty and The Subjection of Women

However, as you can see from the reading list (here: http://www.phil.cam.ac.uk/curr-stude...per4-set-texts) there are a great many additional sources that are considered for each of those!
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Picnic1
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To start with:

Avoid all German philosophers apart from Nietzsche.
Avoid philosophy of langauge.
Avoid English philosophers unless they're John Stuart Mill or from the last 20 years or so writing for the casual reader.

As long as you do that, you shouldn't be put off philosophy for life by the complex insularity of the above.

If you're going in depth, perhaps start with the likes of Plato (who's essentially the same as his teacher Socrates as Socrates didn't write anything down) and Aristotle.

Then Descartes. Then either a utilitarian like John Stuart Mill or an individualist like Nietzsche.

But personally, to start with, I'd rather read a book that's been written for the modern general public that is written specifically to be entertaining. Something like
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Philosophy-B...rds=philosophy
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Absent Agent
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Just to suggest some more books in case anyone is interested, I would also say that you should approach the subject chronologically. However, there are far too much classic books to be read. As a result, it's vey wise to read books comprised of essays on different topics. Below are some suggestions:

Although I have not read Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy, I think that's a great book, considering it's breadth and size; but for something more detailed and informative, I would suggest reading A New History of Western Philosophy. The book is arranged chronologically, so you can just read from the beginning to the end.

If you want to have a systematic, yet independent, study of Philosophy, I would recommend reading the two-volume series to the subject: Philosophy 1: A Guide Through the Subject (Vol 1); Philosophy 2: Further Through the Subject: Further Through the Subject (Vol 2). The chapters within the books are not, however, arranged chronologically, so you should not feel compelled to read them in order. Here are the contents of the books:
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Here is my suggestion for the order of reading them for the Volume 1 :

Ancient Greek Philosophy I
Ancient Greek Philosophy II
Modern Philosophy I
Modern Philosophy II
Epistemology
Philosophical Logic
Methodology: the Elements of the philosophy of Science
Metaphysics
The Philosophy of Mind
Ethics
Aesthetics

For the volume two, the introduction has a guide for the order of reading the chapters.

All the best and good luck!
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gjd800
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(Original post by Alice Bowden)
Hi there, I can recommend a really good new series of books called 'Who the Hell is...?'. They cover key thinkers' most important ideas in a really accessible and easy-to-understand format, also covering the philosopher's life and influences. They published a book on Nietzsche earlier this year and if you look at their website you can see that there are a load more coming out in the new year - Aristotle, Plato, Hume etc. Maybe worth a try?!
How much are ye getting for advertising them?

EDIT—Aha, I see that you are the director of the publisher. Haha. Terrible form.
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