another new guy

Yo, I’ve been lurkin’ around these forums for a little less than a year now and I probly won’t be doing any posting any time soon, but you see I’ve read a few introductory books, “Think” being my favorite, and I was wondering if I was to start reading the big dudes themselves, since I was tired of reading some other guy’s interpretation of them, then who should I start with? I mean I think I heard somewhere that some of Kant’s sentences were more than a page long (huh?) so if you could give me the guys in all time periods who’re the easiest to start with and then tell me which time period to start with, or the other way 'round, I’d be grateful. Yes, grateful… GRATEFUL.

Well, Nietzsche got me interested in philosophy but - believe me - he isn’t the easiest one to start with. I recently started reading books on the history of philosophy - much like your introductory books, I think - and it’s been a real eye opener. Maybe you can get a book from the philosopher that intrigued you the most? If the actual works are too hard to start with, get a book that summarizes the main concepts - there’s no shame in that.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Plato’s Apology - This concerns Socrates and his trial, etc.

  2. Bertrand Russell’s “History of Western Philosophy” - OK, it’s a history and not a primary work but it’s a history by an excellent writer and significant philosopher of the 20th Century.

  3. Bertrand Russell’s “Human Society in Ethics and Politics” - if you can find it - maybe as part of a collection.

  4. Thomas Hobbes - “Leviathan” - another, earlier view of society and politics,

  5. John Stuart Mill - “On Liberty” - wonderful description of the advantages of Liberty and Freedom!

  6. and if you want to check out Kant, try finding the essay " A Prolegamena to Any Future Metaphysic" - My spelling may be wrong but this is an introductory essay that explains the principle differences between Pure and Practical reasoning - all of the rest of his work makes sense if you understand this much smaller work.

  7. Finally, Adam Smith’s work “The Wealth of Nations” - often quoted by Conservatives who have never read him! Surprisingly good and not what you’d expect from someone normally championed by Republicans.

I realize these are more oriented towards political philosophy - I didn’t intend that, but if you are interested in other areas, shout out and I can supply some more thoughts.

Whaddup homedawg, lol. Welcome aboard. Uhm, yo. lol

Y’know, this is a very interesting subject for me to happen upon because I haven’t read a single
dedicated book on philosophy.
But it doesn’t stop me from finding ILP of great interest and even participating in discussions across a wide spectrum of its forums.

Anyways - you gave me an idea for my next new topic.


Thanks for the help peeps, and yeah, prolificationizianilismisty, I may try postin’ a few times, we’ll see


general philosophy please

OK, General Philosophy - I went through my book shelves and I found a couple that may be good because they have a little of this and that and are more oriented to a general description of the field.

“The European Philosophers from Descartes to Neitzsche” edited by M. Beardsley - I checked, it’s still in print - Modern Library series (Random House) - Hardcover is $26, paperback is $16. This has got all of the big names from the last 400 years up to the 20th century - core works from most of them. No commentaries - this is all primary material from the philosophers.

“The Oxford Companion to Philosophy” - Edited by T. Honderich - Kind of a reference work but it has great explanations of a lot of important subjects. It’s a bit pricey ($60) as it is hardcover only, I think. It covers everything including the 20th Century.

That one I mentioned in an earlier post, Russell’s “History of Western Philosophy” is a good general work - especially good stuff on the ancient Greek philosophers. I’ve seen that one in used book stores - the whole ballgame up to the 20th century.

Get copies of the collected works of Plato and Aristotle - you can find cheap versions (hardback and paperback) that have everything that still exist of their work. These guys are still the foundation for most everything that came after them. Try finding one piece from each of them and go over it intensely - read one page a day and spend the rest of the day thinking about what they said. I’d probably start with Plato’s Apology since that one is critical AND accessible.

One other option would be to go to the Gutenberg site (Project Gutenberg) and download some of this stuff - like the works of Plato and Aristotle - since this stuff is public domain there is no cost. The down side is that the translations are old so they come off sounding like the King’s English and may be harder to figure out than reading them in Greek!

I believe Russell’s “History…” has been reprinted fairly recently. I picked up a brand spanking new copy at a bookstore just a few weeks ago. It shouldn’t be hard to find. I thought it was pretty good, but be advised some of his arguments seemed biased for some reason.

Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, is preachy, and his Metaphysics of Quality gets mocked by some philosophers, but part of the book does discuss Philosophers from the Socrates/Plato/Aristotle era up to Hume and Kant and presents some of their ideas.

This might be on the heavy side, but you can’t appreciate the beauty of many philosophical arguments (or prove them to be invalid in some cases :slight_smile: ) without some knowledge of Logic.

Elementary Logic by Willard Van Orman Quine is pretty basic ( up until the latter part of the book when he starts on Predicate Logic) And it is only about 120 pages or so.

The Philosopher’s Handbook (edited by Stanley Rosen) offers a breakdown of various ideas as presented by improtant Philosophers in fields as diverse as Religion, History, Epistemology to well, all the major fields in Philosophy.

do not do what logos, and everyone else has recommended… that is a terrible selection of books for a first introduction to original texts.

philosophy is not like science, it doesn’t shed its past, the latest theory hasn’t replaced all the theories before it… therefore, in philosophy you need to start at the beginning.

at running the risk of being a hypocrit, here is my list:

start at descartes’ meditations (father of modern philosophy)
then locke’s essay
then voltaire
and after voltaire you have successfully completed the road to Kant!
(avoid social/political crap, it comes after you’ve got the metaphysics)

Get something like “The beginners guide to philosophy” - then you can read one or two pages on each philosopher and see how it fits in with the history, science, art and culture of that time. Then you’ll have a understanding on who and what started of philosophical movements; such as Locke - empiricalism, Descartes - Rationalism and modern philosophy, Kierkegaard - existentialism and so on. You’ll know who influenced who, what was going on at that time, and what direction philosophy has been heading. You’ll be able to pick whatever you fancy, without anyone else telling whats hot and what not.

Logos wrote:

Oh, that reminds me, Logos, I wanted to mention somewhere how impressed I’ve been by The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, edited by Robert Kane. Given that it’s also expensive, I borrowed mine from the library. I’m not suggesting it as a primer, but Kane’s “Introduction” is the best introduction to the free will debate that I’ve seen to-date. I’ve been checking the Internet used book sites for a decent used copy.

Four cheers for the Oxford University Press!


Yo dawg, here’s the lowdown. Do what Kesh said, and if you still can’t pick out something that interests you (interest is important, love is the other half of understanding) then find a book that gives short collections of what the greek writers themselves said. It’s always good to start ab ovo (literally from the egg, from the beginning) and pretty soon you’ll find that ole philosopher dawg you can hang with, the one that seems to echo thoughts of your own.

Word. :sunglasses:

Thanks for the recommendation. Unfortunately, I’ve got this rare disease that forces me to buy books anytime I go to the Oxford Press website so I had to remove their link from my Bookmarks! They have this History of Economics that runs about 600 bucks and I’m afraid if I go there I may not be able to stop myself. Thanks for feeding my addiction (just kidding, I can quit any time … really).

In return, in a similar vein, I’m reading “The Illusion of Conscious Will” (Wegner - MIT Press). I’ll let you know if it’s worth the effort.

Now onto ‘Monooq’ -

I don’t dispute the choices mentioned. They are good ones - that’s why the first one mentioned (Descartes’ “Meditations”) is in one of the collected works I recommended. The other two are fine as well. However, if you want to work up to Kant, the works of David Hume would be a better choice since it is Hume’s analysis of analytic and synthetic judgements that influenced Kant to write the Critiques (Kant mentions this in the essay I recommended in my first post in this area).

Next, the argument that Philosophy isn’t like Science and that modern Philosophy encompasses all that has come before, then concluding that one should “start at the beginning”, is a poor argument. This is actually an argument for starting with the more modern writers, as their work will encompass these other, earlier traditions.

Then the works mentioned are not from the “beginning”, they’re all from the 17th Century. Philosophy started, most will agree, with Thales and the Greeks (approx. 500 BCE) - that would be the beginning.

A bigger problem with this assertion is that it suggests that current work in Philosophy owes it’s existence to the older traditions in a way that is different from Science. The writer also mentions Metaphysics. No offense but Metaphysics died about 80 years ago (see L. Wittgenstein). This isn’t always evident to those who are studying the subject. And while I love the old works, aside from the occasional quote, I can’t imagine using them in any current project in any context.

However, the old works are thought provoking and reading them will tell you as lot about why people believe what they believe.

The reason why you start with Socrates is this: Socrates was reported to be the wisest man in the world, as revealed by the oracle at Delphi. When he was asked what made him the wisest man in the world, his conclusion was, basically, that he didn’t possess any great knowledge but he KNEW he didn’t know anything - everyone else is walking around operating under the illusion that they know a lot of things when, in fact, they know very little. Socrates was wise because he understood the limitations of his own knowledge.

OK, I suppose that part hasn’t changed … .

Bottom line - it’s all good, jump in somewhere!!!

That’s a coincidence. I finished Wegner’s book about six weeks ago. If you like where Wegner’s going, check out Free Will and Illusion, by Saul Smilansky (Oxford, again). He’s even more radical. In fact, his position is almost as radical as mine. :wink:

Here’s a short outline of Smilansky’s proposal:


Geez. I never knew how much I didn’t know (about everything) until I came here and registered. And the paradox is the more I pick up and learn, the more authors and fields I see I don’t know about.

Why, just the other day I was finally irritated enough (because I kept seeing his name all over the place on here) to look up Nietzsche, and one THE first things I discovered was that the often misused quote, “God is dead,” is actually spoken through a character in a story, and it means that modern man has done away with, or “killed” the notion, idea, or need for a God.

I’ve been hearing that damned thing all my life and simply assumed it was uttered by some eccentric weirdo who thought that God had died. LOL

Another example is I was forced to go look up who said cogito ergo sum. Now I know it was Descartes, AND I have this short but famous Latin phrase correctly memorized.

And finally, now I know it was Socrates who is responsible for what I thought was just a generic old saying, “Wisdom is not knowing”:

Thanks, Logos!


From Plato’s “Apology”:

“The wisest of you men is he who has realized, like Socrates, that in respect to wisdom he is really worthless.” (Translated by H. Tredennick)

Read What interests you. Figure out those Problems in the World that vex/interest/tickle you the Most and read according to them. You don’t have to read according to some damned chronologic. Now, If what interests you is the discipline of reading according to the line, then you have to start out with the greeks - the tragedies and the Homeric works (Illiad, Odyssey, the Hymns). Philosophy is born from myth and violence. Starting out with that hypocritical son-of-bitch, Plato, without having passed through the blood and dirt of the previous works, will only lead to an understanding of Plato that mirrors all the rest of the damned Western pedestalizing of that broad shouldered fucker. Start with myth. That’s how you become hardcore. HROTHGAR!!!

First, I’m shocked that anyone has a reading list that parallels my own. Secondly, your recommendations now make it official - logging in and posting to this web site has now been personally beneficial. Thanks Michael!

“Hermes …” wrote:

Excellent point!

There is one thing we’ve all been leaving out of our recommendations: don’t think that just because we’ve recommended a particular work that we agree with it’s author. Hermes is correct to point out that Plato was a jerk. However, it’s a good idea to find out why he’s a jerk and why his ideas can be dangerous and misleading.

Since there are a number of people in Washington, the so-called NEOCONS, who are followers of one Levi-Strauss, a neo-Platonist of sorts (he certainly admired Plato’s political philosophy), it’s enlightening, and maybe even frightening, to examine the foundation of their beliefs.

Also, don’t confuse Socrates and Plato - Socrates is used by Plato as a mouthpiece for his own views (especially in the Republic) but he was also a real person who had his own views, etc. In the passages where he is ripping arguments to shreds, that is what a lot of us think as being the Socratic part. When he starts expounding a particular set of beliefs, that usually is ascribed to Plato.