A friend has asked that how to study philosophy. There are different articles on the internet about this topic but almost every article has some problem. The problem regarding the approach to philosophy. There are a few tips I want to share with you on this subject. Without wasting your time, lets start…
1. Never read philosophy according to your interest, just go academically.
A lot of people when start to read philosophy, they just read one or two authors. Without understanding philosophy, they start reading different philosophers. There are many friends who read Deepak Chopra, Osho, Robin Sharma, Khalil Gibran and Jiddu Krishnamurti etc. They think they are reading philosophy but it is just an illusion. In this way, you will read only what you want to read. You love to read Deepak Chopra because you think he suits you best. But this is just conforming… not learning.
Suppose, you are a Hindu and you read books only related to Hinduism. In this way your mind will become narrow. If you want to understand what Hinduism is or what religion is… you should read all popular religions and compare their ideas to each other. So you will able to understand the essence of it… and this essence will lead you further. The boundaries of your mind will be stretched in all directions and you will attain wisdom, not just knowledge.
If your approach to philosophy is academic then you have to read all philosophers. You will read according to the course… not according to your own taste. And believe me… this is really important for a strong base in philosophy. This is a difference between reading books… and reading philosophy.
2. Don’t become a philosopher without reading philosophy.
There are many articles on internet who says that join different discussion groups on internet or other places and discuss about the philosophy. Don’t do this mistake. Don’t become a philosopher without knowing anything about philosophy. A friend of mine who reads Osho a lot… always try to argue or discuss about the philosophical topics but I know what we really think about him. So just don’t waste your time in these groups, just read philosophy and build a strong base for the subject first.
3. The most basic problem… from where should I begin?
The answer is…. start from the beginning… from where the philosophy begins. For your knowledge… the philosophy in real sense begins in Greece with a thinker Thales. Thales was the person who discovered the world is made of water. Yes, I know this is not true but don’t judge his answer… but appreciate his efforts, endeavor and curiosity to find out something. This theory about world is a topic under Metaphysics (a branch of philosophy).
If you are not a student, then you can start reading the suggested books given in last of this article.
If you are a student, then start reading philosophy from “Western Philosophy” or “Greek Philosophy” or “Metaphysics”. It depends on your course books. Suppose you have four subjects as Indian Philosophy, Western Philosophy, Religions of World and Logic; then you should read in following order 1. Western Philosophy 2. Religions of World 3. Indian Philosophy and in last 4. Logic.
If your syllabus is divided in different parts then read in this order 1 Metaphysics 2 Epistemology 3 Logic 4 Ethics 5 Religion 6. Indian Philosophy and so on. If you want to read in pairs then 1(Metaphysics), 2(Epistemology+Logic), 3(Ethics+Religions) 4(Indian Philosophy+Tribal and Dalit Philosophy) and so on.
4. Read philosophy as a whole… not in parts.
If you really want to understand philosophy you have to read it as a whole… not in parts. For example read views of Plato, Socrates, Aristotle and Aquinas about “knowledge”….. and after reading in parts, compare them. Compare their ideas with each other on same topics. In this way you will able to get a complete picture of a particular topic.
Other example in Religion… read about religions of east as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism etc. and compare them with each other. Now read religions of west as Judaism, Islam, Christian etc. and compare them with each other. After reading in this manner…. compare religions of west with religions of east. Try to find similarities, differences and core ideas. This will give you a complete picture of what religion is.
5. Introductory philosophy books for beginners.
If you are a student then simply start reading your syllabus books or get free IGNOU philosophy study material books here. If you are not a student then you can start from following introductory books.
A Philosophy Book – A very easy and essential introduction to the history, concepts, and thinking behind philosophy that demystifies what can often be daunting subject matter, laid out in DK’s signature visual style. (Get this book here)
A Little History of Philosophy – This engaging book introduces the great thinkers in Western philosophy and explores their most compelling ideas about the world and how best to live in it. In forty brief chapters, Nigel Warburton takes us on a chronological tour of the major ideas in the history of philosophy. (Get this book here)
Looking at Philosophy – Distilled from Donald Palmer’s more than thirty years of teaching experience, this text exemplifies his very successful approach to teaching introductory philosophy. Through the use of humor and nearly 400 drawings, charts, and diagrams, serious philosophical topics come alive for the reader without compromising the importance of the subject matter. In the author’s words, “This book takes philosophy seriously, but not gravely.” (Get this book here)
Philosophy 101 – This book cuts out the boring details and exhausting philosophical methodology, and instead, gives you a lesson in philosophy that keeps you engaged as you explore the fascinating history of human thought and inquisition. From Aristotle and Heidegger to free will and metaphysics, Philosophy 101 is packed with hundreds of entertaining philosophical tidbits, illustrations, and thought puzzles that you won’t be able to find anywhere else. (Get this book here)
A Story of Philosophy – A brilliant and concise account of the lives and ideas of the great philosophers—Plato, Aristotle, Bacon, Spinoza, Voltaire, Kant, Schopenhauer, Spencer, Nietzsche, Bergson, Croce, Russell, Santayana, James, and Dewey—The Story of Philosophy is one of the great books of our time. Few write for the non-specialist as well as Will Durant, and this book is a splendid example of his eminently readable scholarship. Durant’s insight and wit never cease to dazzle; The Story of Philosophy is a key book for any reader who wishes to survey the history and development of philosophical ideas in the Western world. (Get this book here)
An Introduction to Indian Philosophy – termed by Srila Prabhupada as ‘very authoritative’, while introducing the reader to the spirit, vast ocean of knowledge and outlook of Indian philosophy, also helps him to grasp thoroughly the central ideas. An Introduction to Indian Philosophy is a seminal work covering topics as varied as the Carvaka, Jain, Vaisesika, Mimamsa, Buddha, Sankhya Systems, amongst others. (Get this book here)
A Concise Introduction to Logic – Unsurpassed for its clarity and comprehensiveness, Hurley’ s, ‘A Concise Introduction to Logic’ is the #1 introductory logic textbook in the market. In this eleventh edition, Hurley continues to build upon the tradition of a lucid, focused and accessible presentation of the basic subject matter of logic, both formal and informal. Hurley’ s extensive, carefully sequenced collection of exercises continue to guide students toward greater proficiency with the skills they are learning. (Get this book here)
6. Other useful tips for philosophy readers.
- You can join goodreads to find out what others are reading in philosophy. You can find list of most popular books in philosophy and read reviews and updates on different philosophy books.
- You can get thousands of philosophy books from amazon here.
- You can search youtube for “philosophy lectures” to watch thousands of lecture videos on philosophy topics.
- You can explore hundreds of online philosophy resources here.
All the best!!