How to get started in philosophy
It is a common platitude that "everybody has a philosophy, though they might not all realize it or be able to defend it". Yet "philosophy" as it is frequently used by notable philosophers is nothing like what is meant by people who say "here's my philosophy of life..." The distinction between popular and academic opinion is a starting point for many.
If you're already interested in studying philosophy, your reason might be to improve the way you live or think somehow, or you simply wish to get acquainted with one of the most ancient areas of human thought. On the other hand, if you don't see what all the fuss is about, it might help to read the motivation to philosophize, which explains what motivates many people to "do philosophy," and get an introduction to philosophical method, which is important to understanding how philosophers think. It might also help to acquaint yourself with some considerations about just what philosophy is.
Those who are new to the study of philosophy are advised to look at the articles on logic, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, epistemology, philosophy of science, ethics, and political philosophy as the individual treatment of these subjects are commonly used as an introduction in Western academia. Alternately one may simply study the works of major philosophers from various periods and places with the help of several guides and discussion.
People who are inclined to study philosophy with others may wish to seek out organizations such as the non-profit Society for Philosophical Inquiry.
"Believe nothing, O monks, merely because you have been told it … or because it is traditional, or because you yourselves have imagined it. Do not believe what your teacher tells you merely out of respect for the teacher. But whatsoever, after due examination and analysis, you find to be conducive to the good, the benefit, the welfare of all beings—that doctrine believe and cling to, and take it as your guide. - Gautama Buddha (attributed)
"Science is what we know and philosophy is what we don't know." - Bertrand Russell
"What is your aim in philosophy? To show the fly the way out of the fly-bottle." - Ludwig Wittgenstein
"Philosophy is the peculiarly stubborn attempt to think clearly." - William James
"Philosophy, n. A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing." - Ambrose Bierce
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world in different ways; the point, however, is to change it." - Karl Marx
Books and journals suitable for beginners
- Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction by Edward Craig
- A Short History of Modern Philosophy by Roger Scruton
- Big Questions: A Short Introduction to Philosophy by Robert C. Solomon
- Philosophy Now magazine
- World Philosophies by Ninian Smart
- Indian Philosophy: a Very Short Introduction by Sue Hamilton
- A Brief Introduction to Islamic Philosophy by Oliver Leaman
- Eastern Philosophy For Beginners by Jim Powell, Joe Lee
- An Introduction to African Philosophy by Samuel Oluoch Imbo
- Philosophy in Russia: From Herzen to Lenin and Berdyaev by Frederick Copleston
- Continental Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction by Simon Critchley
Some of these websites contain links to online texts of philosophy, as do many related articles on Wikipedia.
- The Oxford Companion to Philosophy edited by Ted Honderich
- The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy by Robert Audi
- The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (10 vols.) edited by Edward Craig, Luciano Floridi (also available online by subscription); or
- The Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy edited by Edward Craig (an abridgement)
- Routledge History of Philosophy (10 vols.) edited by John Marenbon
- History of Philosophy (9 vols.) by Frederick Copleston
- Encyclopaedia of Indian Philosophies (8 vols.), edited by Karl H Potter et al (first 6 volumes out of print)
- Indian Philosophy (2 vols.) by Sarvapelli Radhakrishnan
- History of Chinese Philosophy (2 vols.) by Yu-lan Fung, Derk Bodde
- Encyclopedia of Chinese Philosophy edited by Antonio S. Cua
- Encyclopedia of Eastern Philosophy and Religion by Ingrid Fischer-Schreiber, Franz-Karl Ehrhard, Kurt Friedrichs
- Companion Encyclopedia of Asian Philosophy by Brian Carr, Indira Mahalingam
- A Concise Dictionary of Indian Philosophy: Sanskrit Terms Defined in English by John A. Grimes
- History of Islamic Philosophy edited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Oliver Leaman
- History of Jewish Philosophy edited by Daniel H. Frank, Oliver Leaman
- A History of Russian Philosophy: From the Tenth to the Twentieth Centuries by Valerii Aleksandrovich Kuvakin
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