Philosophy Books for Beginners

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Reply Sun 4 Oct, 2009 06:01 pm
Just started to hear about philosophy and wanted to get some books that aren't to harsh but that would get me an idea in what im getting into thanks a lot


(Moderator edit: this thread seems as interesting as it is useful to Members relatively new to formal philosophy, so with thanks to all who have participated, I am pinning this at the top of the forum. John)
 
Leonard
 
Reply Sun 4 Oct, 2009 06:19 pm
@Fernando phil,
One book I would certainly recommend if you are a fan of early philosophy is Symposium by Plato. Another book I know of is Selected Dialogues of Plato, which is a collection of Ion, Protagoras, and a few others. I don't know of many modern philosophical texts that are easy reads, I can never get interested in those.
 
prothero
 
Reply Sun 4 Oct, 2009 06:55 pm
@Fernando phil,
Confessions of a Philosopher: A Personal Journey Through Western Philosophy from Plato to Popper (Modern Library Paperbacks) by Bryan Magee (Paperback - May 18, 1999)
(44)

Talking Philosophy: Dialogues with Fifteen Leading Philosophers by Bryan Magee (Paperback - Oct 18, 2001)
(5)

The Story of Philosophy by Bryan Magee (Paperback - Jul 5, 2001)
(36)

The Great Philosophers: An Introduction to Western Philosophy by Bryan Magee (Paperback - Jan 18, 2001)
(18)
 
Emil
 
Reply Mon 5 Oct, 2009 12:20 am
@Fernando phil,
If you don't like oldies, then read The Web of Belief. It's short and relatively new.

It's available on the internet, here (PDF).
 
rhinogrey
 
Reply Mon 5 Oct, 2009 01:58 am
@Fernando phil,
Sein und Zeit - Martin Heidegger
 
richrf
 
Reply Mon 5 Oct, 2009 08:05 am
@rhinogrey,
My favorite introductory book is Philosophy 100 Essential Thinkers, by Philip Stokes. He does a great job of highlighting the major ideas of the 100 most influential philosophers. And what I really like about him, is that he is one of the very few Western trained philosophers that actually treats Eastern philosophies as philosophies (as opposed to religions) and right away pounces on the similarities of Heraclitus and Daoism. A breath of fresh air.

In any case, if you want fairly substantial but easy and straight-forward reading of major philosophical ideas, I would highly recommend this book.

Rich
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 5 Oct, 2009 08:11 am
@richrf,
richrf;95162 wrote:
My favorite introductory book is Philosophy 100 Essential Thinkers, by Philip Stokes. He does a great job of highlighting the major ideas of the 100 most influential philosophers. And what I really like about him, is that he is one of the very few Western trained philosophers that actually treats Eastern philosophies as philosophies (as opposed to religions) and right away pounces on the similarities of Heraclitus and Daoism. A breath of fresh air.

In any case, if you want fairly substantial but easy and straight-forward reading of major philosophical ideas, I would highly recommend this book.

Rich


Everything is similar to everything else-in some ways. And different, too. In some ways. You can always find similarities (and differences) between any two things. Of course, with Heraclitus, we have so little of what he is (alleged) to have written, and we can make anything we like out of him. And usually do.

---------- Post added 10-05-2009 at 10:13 AM ----------

rhinogrey;95127 wrote:
Sein und Zeit - Martin Heidegger


For beginners? Why not Kant's, Critique of Pure Reason, for a little light reading?
 
Emil
 
Reply Mon 5 Oct, 2009 09:47 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;95164 wrote:
Everything is similar to everything else-in some ways. And different, too. In some ways. You can always find similarities (and differences) between any two things. Of course, with Heraclitus, we have so little of what he is (alleged) to have written, and we can make anything we like out of him. And usually do.

---------- Post added 10-05-2009 at 10:13 AM ----------



For beginners? Why not Kant's, Critique of Pure Reason, for a little light reading?


Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is probably a better idea. It may be just as incomprehensible, but at least it is fairly short.

(Yes, I am joking. No beginner should read any of three books.)
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Mon 5 Oct, 2009 10:41 am
@Emil,
The Problems of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell is a sort of classic place to begin. I strongly recommend the book.

Otherwise, hit the classics. The Republic by Plato, Utilitarianism by JS Mill, Meditations by Descartes, and so forth - the best thing to do is pick these up with commentary to help you understand the works and their implications.

Also, looking around for a used Philosophy 101 text book would be a good idea.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Mon 5 Oct, 2009 11:02 am
@Fernando phil,
Philosophy began with Sokrates, and some would say has not progressed all that much since; Plato's account of his trial and death therefore remains central to an understanding of philosophy, especially the dialogue, The Apology of Sockrates.

In addition to the works recommended by DT immediately above, the Enchiridion (Handbook) by Epictetus is a fine introduction to Stoic Ethics, and J-J Rousseau's Social Contract to political philosophy.
 
Emil
 
Reply Mon 5 Oct, 2009 11:06 am
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas;95180 wrote:
The Problems of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell is a sort of classic place to begin. I strongly recommend the book.

Otherwise, hit the classics. The Republic by Plato, Utilitarianism by JS Mill, Meditations by Descartes, and so forth - the best thing to do is pick these up with commentary to help you understand the works and their implications.

Also, looking around for a used Philosophy 101 text book would be a good idea.


I read that Russell book and thought it was rubbish. Why do you prefer it over, say, The Web of Belief? The Web of Belief is much newer and it is generally clearer.

And why do people insist that beginners should read the classics? What is this seeming obsession with the history of philosophy? No one recommends beginners of biology to start off by reading Darwin and (Well, maybe some do but that would be stupid.) Mendel. Or Einstein and Bohr in physics etc.

---------- Post added 10-05-2009 at 07:09 PM ----------

jgweed;95186 wrote:
Philosophy began with Sokrates, and some would say has not progressed all that much since; Plato's account of his trial and death therefore remains central to an understanding of philosophy, especially the dialogue, The Apology of Sockrates.

In addition to the works recommended by DT immediately above, the Enchiridion (Handbook) by Epictetus is a fine introduction to Stoic Ethics, and J-J Rousseau's Social Contract to political philosophy.


Why would anyone say that philosophy has not progressed much since? They must be blind. Modern logic, hello? I'd say that modern logic is a pretty huge revolution. By modern logic I mean both predicate logic but also other still non-standard logics such as inductive, abductive (Bayes' theorem), modal logics such as alethic, temporal, deontic, epistemic.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Mon 5 Oct, 2009 11:22 am
@Emil,
Emil;95187 wrote:
I read that Russell book and thought it was rubbish. Why do you prefer it over, say, The Web of Belief? The Web of Belief is much newer and it is generally clearer.


I have not read The Web of Belief, so I cannot recommend it. If you thought Russell's book was rubbish, then I suggest giving it another read.

Emil;95187 wrote:
And why do people insist that beginners should read the classics? What is this seeming obsession with the history of philosophy? No one recommends beginners of biology to start off by reading Darwin and (Well, maybe some do but that would be stupid.) Mendel. Or Einstein and Bohr in physics etc.


Because Classics are Classic for a reason. They are not randomly selected. In philosophy, if you enter into higher education, you will read the classics. They are foundational and remain more than relevant - they remain the core of education in philosophy.

[/COLOR]The question you ask is like asking "Why read Don Quixote when studying literature?"
 
Emil
 
Reply Mon 5 Oct, 2009 11:40 am
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas;95196 wrote:
I have not read The Web of Belief, so I cannot recommend it. If you thought Russell's book was rubbish, then I suggest giving it another read.


I suggest you give The Web of Belief a read. I have read both books and you have read only one. That adds some credit to my judgment and not to yours. Both are available online too. Even on the same page, mine.

Quote:
Because Classics are Classic for a reason. They are not randomly selected. In philosophy, if you enter into higher education, you will read the classics. They are foundational and remain more than relevant - they remain the core of education in philosophy.

The question you ask is like asking "Why read Don Quixote when studying literature?"


They could be classics for bad reasons. Why are they classics? Because they are read a lot? That would not be a useful criteria in judging what is worth reading. (Circular even, in a sense.) I never wrote or implied they were randomly selected.

I'm aware that people will read the classics in a higher philosophy education. That does not imply that they are worth reading/should be preferred over other books.

What do you think it means to say that some book(s) is "foundational"?
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Mon 5 Oct, 2009 11:59 am
@Emil,
Emil;95200 wrote:
I suggest you give The Web of Belief a read. I have read both books and you have read only one. That adds some credit to my judgment and not to yours. Both are available online too. Even on the same page, mine.


That I have not read some particular text in no way diminishes my ability or credibility when recommending Russell's text.

Emil;95200 wrote:
They could be classics for bad reasons. Why are they classics? Because they are read a lot? That would not be a useful criteria in judging what is worth reading. (Circular even, in a sense.) I never wrote or implied they were randomly selected.


First, being widely read would be a useful criteria - being popular, you are likely to encounter either the book or the ideas contained within, so being familiar with the book and ideas would be useful.

You ask why "they" are classics - which one?

Most are classics because they introduce novel and stimulating ideas. and because they have an enormous impact upon the study of philosophy.

Emil;95200 wrote:
I'm aware that people will read the classics in a higher philosophy education. That does not imply that they are worth reading/should be preferred over other books.

What do you think it means to say that some book(s) is "foundational"?


That the text is and has been extremely influential upon the study of philosophy and neglecting the text would result in some degree of ignorance regarding some question in philosophy.

Like ignoring the Nicomachean Ethics when studying ethics - that would be ignoring perhaps the most influential discourse on virtue ethics ever written. Ignoring that text is doing a disservice to one's self and one's education.
 
Emil
 
Reply Mon 5 Oct, 2009 12:37 pm
@Fernando phil,
I don't think I need to say more.
 
Leonard
 
Reply Mon 5 Oct, 2009 03:27 pm
@Fernando phil,
Here's an interesting one: Seinfeld: A Book about Everything and Nothing
I can recommend this because it isn't the regular textbook-philosophy style that lacks flavour. This book isn't a difficult read, and I found it entertaining.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 5 Oct, 2009 03:51 pm
@Emil,
Emil;95187 wrote:
I read that Russell book and thought it was rubbish. Why do you prefer it over, say, The Web of Belief? The Web of Belief is much newer and it is generally clearer.



Don't you think that calling Russell's book "rubbish" is a little over the top? His chapter on induction could not be bettered as an introduction to the issue, for instance. Anyway, it isn't as if Quine and Russell were rivals. They are in the same ballpark and could be read together with profit. Russell as a foundationalist approach to epistemology, and Quine as a coherence approach to epistemology. Remember, to paraphrase Newton, if you have seen further than Russell, it is because you stand on the shoulders of giants. And one of those giants was-Russell.
 
Emil
 
Reply Mon 5 Oct, 2009 04:02 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;95267 wrote:
Don't you think that calling Russell's book "rubbish" is a little over the top? His chapter on induction could not be bettered as an introduction to the issue, for instance. Anyway, it isn't as if Quine and Russell were rivals. They are in the same ballpark and could be read together with profit. Russell as a foundationalist approach to epistemology, and Quine as a coherence approach to epistemology. Remember, to paraphrase Newton, if you have seen further than Russell, it is because you stand on the shoulders of giants. And one of those giants was-Russell.


Perhaps, but that book of his is rubbish, and I mean rubbish as in comparison with other philosophy books. He probably did write other good books. I don't know. I have only read that book of his.
 
rhinogrey
 
Reply Mon 5 Oct, 2009 04:04 pm
@Fernando phil,
Russell is a charlatan in general I would never recommend that a beginner read his works.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Mon 5 Oct, 2009 04:07 pm
@rhinogrey,
Emil;95270 wrote:
Perhaps, but that book of his is rubbish, and I mean rubbish as in comparison with other philosophy books. He probably did write other good books. I don't know. I have only read that book of his.


How so? By what standard is his book "rubbish"?

rhinogrey;95272 wrote:
Russell is a charlatan in general I would never recommend that a beginner read his works.


As with Emil's extreme claim, I'd like to hear some support. Especially when the extreme accusation comes in the form of a personal attack against such a well respected scholar.

He only won a Nobel Prize for Literature....:rolleyes:
 
 

 
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