get started with philosophy

How to get started with philosophy and which books to begin with?

To understand philosophy one needs to read a few books, but I would like to suggest some guidelines that might suit the vast majority.

Be a Hedonist

Before delving into the study of philosophy, you need first adopt a hedonistic attitude toward it. Let’s say you started studying philosophy with the intention of becoming educated or for the purpose of telling a story at a cocktail party. In this case, you won’t learn anything because you won’t ever find it interesting and rewarding, and it will eventually cause you to quit before you even begin your journey. It is quite doubtful that you will appreciate Aristotle, Hume, Descartes, Heidegger, Hegel, or Sartre to the fullest extent possible. Your trip should begin with nothing but love and desire.

Find out which best describes you from below

1) “I want to learn more about the history of human thought on the most comprehensive level. I don’t care if the Greeks I read about have been improved upon, I want to know what Aristotle spoke and how later philosophers answered. I get why people warn me off, but I’m still driven toward an immense historical knowledge and I never get bogged down in technical reading.”

Read: A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell

2) “I’m interested in a philosophy that describes things clearly and builds technically upon those clear definitions. I’m interested in free will and careful investigation into what can be recognized for sure and how it can be known.”

Read: Bertrand Russell’s The Problems of Philosophy

Also: Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (online: here )

3) “While a glance shows the most interesting philosophy will be found in metaphysics and epistemology, I know from human nature that studies of ethics can be enthralling. I don’t weigh the search for meaning a ‘soft’ topic.”

Read: Simone de Beauvoir’s The Ethics of Ambiguity

Also: Check out Nietzsche’s Twilight of the Idols (online: TI)

4) “All I know is that the dog-eat-dog world is not satisfactory. I’m looking for something deeper, but typical religion doesn’t appeal to me. I’m interested in the philosophy of mindset, but I don’t know where to begin.”

Read: The Way of Zen by Alan Watts


If you chose 3 or 4, you can skip this. It’s a warning about options 1 and 2. And note that my bias away from 1 and 2 is acknowledged.

If you chose 1 or 2 (the “Anglophone” philosophy options), beware of a common pattern of distress in would-be philosophers. Douglas Hofstadter once wrote about a youthful vision that symbolic logic would unlock the secrets of the universe. It doesn’t. Words have limits, so be careful how much you invest in them. Nowhere is this concept better explained than in the following, highly recommended post by Paul Graham.

The vast majority of philosophical discussions are not only plagued by but also motivated by misunderstandings of various terms. Do we have a choice in what we do? It is dependent on your definition of “free.” Do abstract concepts really exist? It depends on your definition of the word “exist.”

Therefore, if you do not want to learn how to think independently of yourself. Instead of philosophy, you should spend as much time as you can studying the many sacred writings of other religions. If you want to learn how to think for yourself, you should begin by learning how to think, and once you’ve accomplished that, you might decide to get around to studying what some other people have resolved, with the intention of challenging them, as well as yourself, to think better thoughts and come up with better beliefs and ideas. If you want to learn how to consider for yourself, start by learning how to think, and after you’ve accomplished that, you might choose to get around to studying what some other people have

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