New to Philosophy

Hey I am pretty much completely new to philosophy. I am a fan of Camus and Kafka but I don’t really think I have a very good understanding of them. I want to be able to have a solid understanding of philosophy as I am interested in possibly going to college for it in the coming year or two. I’d like to be able to read and understand guys like Nietzsche. It’s such a daunting subject to get into so I hope you can give me some ideas of where to start and what avenues I should consider going down.

Follow your fascination.

But… if you want Nietzsche, you won’t get him until you get Schopenhauer; and you won’t get him until you get Kant, and you won’t get Kant until you get Hume. And Plato is around there, too.

To prep for philosophy in college really read what fascinates you, look up all the strange terminology like ‘epistemology,’ ‘ontology’ etc., figure out syllogisms and basic logical principles, puzzles . . . and please stay away from Kafka. Okay, read Kafka, but then go beyond Kafka . . . Nietzsche too – else you have not really read Nietzsche. And remember he’s a romantic and there are a lot of great thinkers out there – he’s great – but don’t get hung up on one thinker.

You might consider looking on Amazon for an intro to philosophy anthology of famous essays by the major thinkers to get a good acquaintance for all the major problems and thought developments over the centuries.

Good luck.

Just read alot. Everything you can get your hands on.

So that one evening you will sit there and think to yourself, “what a waste of time this is” :laughing:
But seriously, why do you want to study philosophy? Why Nietzsche? What is to be gained?

I would say instead of reading philosophy, think your own philosophy. Do not rely upon other philosophers to guide you, guide yourself through your inner logic. Not only is it more rewarding that way, you will understand greater when the time comes.

The key is to think alot… about everything… anything… mundane things… exciting things. Unusual things and every day things.

I’d recommend From Socrates to Sartre: The Philosophic Quest by T.Z. Lavine.

Completely ignore people who say that you don’t have to read philosophy to do philosophy. This is just about the most incredible statement you will ever hear. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is better for stimulating your own thoughts than properly studying some of the classics. But you do need to use your own discretion, there is no need to read somebody like Kant just because he is a famous thinker. Basically, figure out what you’re interested in and read around that. Once you’ve done a bit of that you’ll find your own thoughts start to appear, and better still you’ll find yourself already aware of the limitations and problems with your fledgling philosophy, because chances are what you’ll produce is a development of something you’d read somewhere, and so you’ll know what objections to avoid.

To be honest, anyone trying to understand Nietzsche without knowing what the philosophers he spends all his time criticising believed in is going to get absolutely nowhere. Philosophy wise, it is hard to know where to start. I guess you need to know a bit of what Plato was all about. I’d never recommend reading Aristotle to anybody so I won’t. I guess, as has been mentioned, Russell’s History of Western Philosophy is pretty unbeatable as a starting point. Get that, then figure out where to go from there. Hume is always a good start because he’s such an intuitive thinker (to me, anyway).

Away from pure philosophy, I’d definitely recommend reading more of that kind of literature. Because, lets face it, you don’t always want something you have to struggle over. Have you read any Dostoyevsky yet? He’s good because he offers a rather different take on things. Its like he presents the strongest possible case for Existentialism, then spends most of his time trying to show that it is fundamentally mistaken. Massively confused man. Great to read though.

The comment about Dostoevsky being a “Massively confused man.” is really off. Dostoevsky, through his genius, offered some of the strongest arguments for positions that he did not agree with (e.g. The grand Inquisitor in The Brother’s Karamazov) and always sought to undermine those positions in his novels through all kinds of literary symbolism.

D was very much a Christian theistic thinker and always sought to show the problems with his “existential” characters. Kirilov, for example, commits suicide in The Possessed from shame rather than “without any necessity”, that is, freely; (Alexander Kojeve will offer criticism of Dostoevsky polemic against Hegel on this matter in his lectures from the 1950s). Ivan Karamazov will have a nervous breakdown. Raskolnikov regenerates at the end of Crime and Punishment through Sonya’s love (Sonya, a derivative of Sophia [= wisdom]) and, combined with the water symbolism throughout the novel D will show the inversion that occurs to Raskolnikov (the transformation) in the epilogue.

Take what you like from Dostoevsky’s characters, but never believe that they speak for Dostoevsky. It is common to think so as Dostoevsky does incorporate autobiographical elements into his novels (often he writes about poverty and execution . . . gambling, etc), but these characters do not speak for him. One look at Dostoevsky’s non-fiction writing (which was very prolific) is enough to settle this question.

There’s no reason to completely ignore anything. That’s just limiting yourself to possibilities.

Well, yeah, thats supposedly what he did. But I’d like to meet the man who finds the ending of C&P anything other than an artistic failure. Are we really supposed to believe that Raskolnikov makes this journey despite D spending such a small time chronicling it compared with the masses of pages detailing his descent into near insanity? What is without doubt is how brilliantly he shows the consequences of Raskolnikov’s views, but how is the problem posed by Raskolnikov solved by such a quickly affected turn towards Christianity? This is why I think C&P should never be regarded as one of his best works. I do think it is a great pity that he never fulfilled his plans for The Brothers K because you can feel him working towards an adequate rebuttal of all of these characters (Raskolnikov, Ivan Karamazov, etc) who, certainly not speaking for D, nonetheless put forward very strong intellectual cases for their positions.

Am I alone in feeling D struggling with himself in his books? It’s almost like he knows he isn’t quite getting to where he wants to be, he sees the great merit in the views espoused by his Underground Man, but feels the inherent pitiability of such a creation, reacts against it with everything that he has, but at the same time realises he hasn’t quite done enough.

Put it this way: ask yourself what exactly is D’s argument against the Grand Inquisitor, Raskolnikov’s delusion that he is a great man (more to the point - what if R had been a ‘great soul’?), all of these positions he outs forward as opposing views to his own. Then ask yourself how successful these counters are. To me, D asked himself the same question, and wasn’t too happy with the answer. As I said, I think if he’d realised his plans for the Brothers K he might have got somewhere. To me, thats about the only one of his books that you feel really gets somewhere with this.