I want to get into philosophy, where do I start?

A rewrite of something I wrote earlier. This time in standard English as to make it easier to get people to read.

Q: I want to get into philosophy, where do I start?


There are generally 4 approaches to getting into philosophy. They overlap somewhat.

1) Historical approach. Start with the oldest and read on. One can also read secondary literature e.g. Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy, or some more impartial one like The Great Conversation by Norman Melchert.

2) Topical approach. Read about stuff that interests you. A good idea is using Wikipedia, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP), Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP), and various papers on the subject, or lastly, entire books.

3) Textbook approach. Find a general introduction to philosophy textbook. E.g. Quine et al’s The Web of Belief, Russell’s Problems of Philosophy, Edward Craig’s Philosophy: A very short introduction, or Blackburn’s Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy. Can also try an online course, like Coursera’s Introduction to Philosophy.

4) Book/philosopher approach. Start with some large book written by a particular philosopher that the person recommending likes.

I think the first approach is immensely boring and tend to just make people quit. Unfortunately, many people here recommend it with the predictable results. This is the approach I used back when I started.

The second approach that people generally recommend is the 4th which is by far the worst idea. No one should ever start philosophy with reading e.g. Kant’s Critique of whatever. Pretty much no one should ever read Hegel or the likes. It also has the same results as the 1st approach because the recommender typically picks some book that is very badly written and long.

As for the 2nd and 3rd approaches. I don’t know what is the best. They both have some advantages and disadvantages. One problem with the topical approach is that one might focus on the wrong things and thus miss things one should have learned about, e.g. critical thinking and logic, or language philosophy. However, one risks boring the reader as they might not care about some of the things in the book. The topical approach has the advantage of being about things that the reader cares about.

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