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Thread: Philosophy books?

  1. #1
    neurotic subjectivist B-side's Avatar
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    Philosophy books?

    I got over halfway through Beyond Good and Evil before it had to go back. I'm going to be buying Thus Spoke Zarathustra. So, basically, I've got Nietzsche covered. What books do you suggest as good for introductions to other philosophers? Sartre? Kierkegaard? Marx? Zizek? Various others?
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  2. #2
    Super Moderator dreamdead's Avatar
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    Definitely check out Marx
    Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison
    Søren Kierkegaard's Works of Love

    and to challenge some of those notions explored there...
    Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics: The Doctrine of the Word of God
    Ant-Man and the Wasp - 5
    Hereditary - 7
    Won't You Be My Neighbor? - 7.5
    The Tale - 8

  3. #3
    Not a praying man Melville's Avatar
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    Plato - pretty much every philosopher since Plato has been influenced by him, so it's important to be at least moderately familiar with his ideas, particularly the idea of a Platonic Form. All the things I read by him kind of melted together in my mind, so I can't recommend anything in particular. He's very readable. Wikipedia can probably tell you which of his dialogues to start with.

    Kant - Kant was probably the most influential philosopher after Plato, so you should be familiar with some of his basic ideas in order to understand later philosophers. His fundamental view of human existence (transcendental idealism) is introduced in The Critique of Pure Reason. The book is long and dense, but I think reading just the first few sections would suffice. His basic idea in ethics (the categorical imperative) is covered in Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, which is pretty short.

    Nietzsche - I recommend finishing Beyond Good and Evil, or reading Genealogy of Morals, before reading Thus Spake Zarathustra. Zarathustra makes a lot more sense once you understand the underlying ideas.

    Sartre - I'd go straight to Being and Nothingness. It's very long, so you might want to pick out just a few parts to read. But definitely read the section "Concrete relations with others", which contains a brilliant existential description of human relationships. The lecture Existentialism is a Humanism is often used as an introduction, but I've heard that its simplifications are somewhat misleading, and Sartre himself renounced it. (I haven't read it.) You could also start with his novel Nausea, which is terrific. But its meanings can easily be misconstrued if you haven't read Being and Nothingness. If you do read Nausea, then skip the introduction by Hayden Carruth, which is very misleading.

    Kierkegaard - The Sickness Unto Death is a terrific analysis of despair, though with a Christian slant. Fear and Trembling is a good introduction to Kierkegaard's thoughts on faith.
    Either/Or is a good introduction to his thoughts on romantic love (and irony, aestheticism, morality, and other stuff), though it's long.

    Marx - the first 70 or so pages of The German Ideology contain a great overview of Marx's metaphysics—dialectical materialism—and how it relates to his political and economic philosophy. The Communist Manifesto is readable and brief, but I don't recall it containing much philosophy.

    Heidegger - Being and Time: the best philosophy book I've read; a sprawling, brilliant analysis of what it means to exist as a human being. But it's very long and dense. Introduction to Metaphysics is a good intro to some of Heidegger's ideas, with some really good stuff about language, and it covers a lot of ground in its analysis of Greek philosophy. But you might want to first read some of the Greek stuff that he's commenting on.

    Dostoevsky - not a straight-up philosopher, but his books are as profound as they come. Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment, and especially The Brothers Karamazov are painfully insightful descriptions of human existence. Notes form Underground is really short, and the first half is almost all philosophizing (though the second half brilliantly shows the failings of the ideas presented in the first half).

    Buddhism - I remember you mentioning that you're Buddhist. I don't know how much you've read, but I recommend The Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha for an overview of both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism. Buddhist Wisdom, which contains the Diamond and Heart sutras along with commentary, is a good exposition of Mayahana Buddhism. The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way is a great explication of the underlying metaphysics of Mayahana Buddhism, but you definitely need to read it with some commentary, because it's extremely abstruse.


    The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (http://plato.stanford.edu/) has good overviews of various philosophers. Since each philosopher typically builds off of earlier ideas, you might want to refer to a resource like that to understand what Nietzsche, say, is criticizing.
    I am impatient of all misery in others that is not mad. Thou should'st go mad, blacksmith; say, why dost thou not go mad? How can'st thou endure without being mad? Do the heavens yet hate thee, that thou can'st not go mad?

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    neurotic subjectivist B-side's Avatar
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    Wow. Thank you very much, Melville. I really appreciate it.

    You as well, dreamdead.
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  5. #5
    neurotic subjectivist B-side's Avatar
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    I decided to hold off on Thus Spoke Zarathustra based on your recommendation, Melville, and instead nabbed The Antichrist. Seemed fairly self-explanatory.
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  6. #6
    dissolved into molecules lovejuice's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Melville (view post)
    Plato...
    Kant...
    Nietzsche...
    Sartre...
    Kierkegaard...
    Marx...
    Heidegger...
    Dostoevsky...
    Buddhism...
    did you intentionally leave out Hegel? :P
    and i will add Freud. It's good (and fun) to familiarize yourself with different minor branches of philosophy like psychoanalysis, structuralism, semiotics. to see which "tick" you most.
    "Over analysis is like the oil of the Match-Cut machine." KK2.0

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    Not a praying man Melville's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Brightside (view post)
    I decided to hold off on Thus Spoke Zarathustra based on your recommendation, Melville, and instead nabbed The Antichrist. Seemed fairly self-explanatory.
    I don't remember much about The Antichrist, but most of Nietzsche's late-period books largely reiterate the same ideas in different ways, so it should serve well enough to solidify whatever you got from Beyond Good and Evil. The edition I read came with Twilight of the Idols as well, which contains the best description of Nietzsche's philosophy: "philosophizing with a hammer." Does your edition have both books?

    Quote Quoting lovejuice (view post)
    did you intentionally leave out Hegel? :P
    Yeah, I haven't finished a single book by Hegel, so I'm not qualified to recommend a good introductory one.


    As an alternative to dreamdead's recommendation for an intro to Foucault, I'll recommend the short essay "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History," which can be downloaded here. In the essay, Foucault basically outlines his approach to history; understanding that overarching approach clarifies what he was trying to accomplish in his books (which are mostly analyses of historical trends in things like sexuality, punishment, and "mental health").
    I am impatient of all misery in others that is not mad. Thou should'st go mad, blacksmith; say, why dost thou not go mad? How can'st thou endure without being mad? Do the heavens yet hate thee, that thou can'st not go mad?

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    Editor Spaceman Spiff's Avatar
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    Cool thread.

    I've been meaning to read more philosohpy, but I must say that I'm a tad philosophically challenged, and try as I might I find the few texts I have read difficult.

    Melville, you seem to know your philo onions. Recommend me a great low-intensity text.

  9. #9
    Not a praying man Melville's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Spaceman Spiff (view post)
    Melville, you seem to know your philo onions. Recommend me a great low-intensity text.
    What kind of philosophy are you interested in?

    Plato is very readable, high-quality, covers a lot of topics, and introduces many of the issues that reappear throughout the history of philosophy. But I can't recommend a particular text.

    A book I recently read, Bergson's Time and Free Will, has some good stuff to say about human experience of time (though it has a lot of silly stuff to say too), and it's an easy read.

    Nietzsche is very readable and a great writer, though I don't agree with much of what he says. I'd recommend Beyond Good and Evil to start.

    A lot of the 20th century analytic philosophers use purposely simple language, since they are reacting against the obscurantism of people like Hegel. For analytic philosophy, you could try Ayer's Language, Truth, and Logic, or Wittgenstein's On Certainty, which are both good. But analytic philosophers focus a lot on the details of systems of language and logic, so they can be somewhat dry.

    A lot of Eastern philosophy is also very readable. The book of Chuang Tzu (a Taoist book) is both funny and interesting.
    I am impatient of all misery in others that is not mad. Thou should'st go mad, blacksmith; say, why dost thou not go mad? How can'st thou endure without being mad? Do the heavens yet hate thee, that thou can'st not go mad?

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    Editor Spaceman Spiff's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Melville (view post)
    What kind of philosophy are you interested in?

    Plato is very readable, high-quality, covers a lot of topics, and introduces many of the issues that reappear throughout the history of philosophy. But I can't recommend a particular text.

    A book I recently read, Bergson's Time and Free Will, has some good stuff to say about human experience of time (though it has a lot of silly stuff to say too), and it's an easy read.

    Nietzsche is very readable and a great writer, though I don't agree with much of what he says. I'd recommend Beyond Good and Evil to start.

    A lot of the 20th century analytic philosophers use purposely simple language, since they are reacting against the obscurantism of people like Hegel. For analytic philosophy, you could try Ayer's Language, Truth, and Logic, or Wittgenstein's On Certainty, which are both good. But analytic philosophers focus a lot on the details of systems of language and logic, so they can be somewhat dry.

    A lot of Eastern philosophy is also very readable. The book of Chuang Tzu (a Taoist book) is both funny and interesting.
    1: Mostly Western in fairness, but that's because I have a rough idea about some of it.
    2: I have Nietzsche's book lying around somewhere, I think.
    3: Thanks, that's kind of what I wanted to know. Agreed that 'logic' systems is quite boring.

  11. #11
    Editor Spaceman Spiff's Avatar
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    I also like all the fire and brimstone stuff. Angry armchair philosophers who are telling me how it is with passion and fervor rather than wistful and contemplative pontification.

  12. #12
    Not a praying man Melville's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Spaceman Spiff (view post)
    I also like all the fire and brimstone stuff. Angry armchair philosophers who are telling me how it is with passion and fervor rather than wistful and contemplative pontification.
    Nietzsche is definitely your man. Thus Spoke Zarathustra is his most fiery, and you can read and enjoy its soaring, raving prose without having read anything else by him. But if you haven't read anything else by him, then the ideas don't really come through the raving. So I recommend Beyond Good and Evil followed by Zarathustra.

    Emerson is also great for bombastic philosophy. You can get a collection of his essays.

    If you haven't read it yet, definitely read Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground.

    Kierkegaard is also good for that kind of stuff, though his writing can be a bit more difficult.
    I am impatient of all misery in others that is not mad. Thou should'st go mad, blacksmith; say, why dost thou not go mad? How can'st thou endure without being mad? Do the heavens yet hate thee, that thou can'st not go mad?

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  13. #13
    Editor Spaceman Spiff's Avatar
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    Love Dostoevsky and Notes From Underground. I've also read some of Fear and Trembling, and it was quite good but definitely something I have to play real close attention to.

  14. #14
    neurotic subjectivist B-side's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Melville (view post)
    I don't remember much about The Antichrist, but most of Nietzsche's late-period books largely reiterate the same ideas in different ways, so it should serve well enough to solidify whatever you got from Beyond Good and Evil. The edition I read came with Twilight of the Idols as well, which contains the best description of Nietzsche's philosophy: "philosophizing with a hammer." Does your edition have both books?
    It doesn't. But it's a rather personal subject for me, and since you recommended I become a bit more familiar with Nietzsche before diving into Zarathustra, I figured I'd grab it. I guess I'm like Spiff in the sense that I have little to no real experience with philosophy texts. I found Beyond Good and Evil to be a bit opaque. I get a general impression of a deconstruction of morality, but he also spent quite a bit of time critiquing philosophers I knew nothing about, so I felt lost there.
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  15. #15
    Not a praying man Melville's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Brightside (view post)
    It doesn't. But it's a rather personal subject for me, and since you recommended I become a bit more familiar with Nietzsche before diving into Zarathustra, I figured I'd grab it. I guess I'm like Spiff in the sense that I have little to no real experience with philosophy texts. I found Beyond Good and Evil to be a bit opaque. I get a general impression of a deconstruction of morality, but he also spent quite a bit of time critiquing philosophers I knew nothing about, so I felt lost there.
    Hm.. If you found Beyond Good and Evil a bit opaque, you'll probably have a lot of trouble with most of the books I recommended. To get the gist of what Nietzsche was criticizing, just reading an encyclopedia article on him would probably suffice. (You also don't need to understand every reference, as long as you're following the basic ideas: a physiologically-centered metaphysic, life as the will to power, saying Yes to life, saying No to idols and ideals.) But if you're really keen on getting a lot out of the philosophy you read, it would probably be fruitful to start with some of the more foundational/basic stuff before proceeding to the more difficult texts. Read some Plato for sure. Maybe get a book that includes a number of selections from different authors (for example, Classics of Western Philosophy, edited by Stephen M. Kahn).

    A very readable philosophy book that I forgot to mention is Camus' Myth of Sisyphus, which I didn't much care for, but which is a pretty famous take on humanity creating its own values, and making life worth living, through an absurd struggle.
    I am impatient of all misery in others that is not mad. Thou should'st go mad, blacksmith; say, why dost thou not go mad? How can'st thou endure without being mad? Do the heavens yet hate thee, that thou can'st not go mad?

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  16. #16
    neurotic subjectivist B-side's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Melville (view post)
    Hm.. If you found Beyond Good and Evil a bit opaque, you'll probably have a lot of trouble with most of the books I recommended. To get the gist of what Nietzsche was criticizing, just reading an encyclopedia article on him would probably suffice. (You also don't need to understand every reference, as long as you're following the basic ideas: a physiologically-centered metaphysic, life as the will to power, saying Yes to life, saying No to idols and ideals.) But if you're really keen on getting a lot out of the philosophy you read, it would probably be fruitful to start with some of the more foundational/basic stuff before proceeding to the more difficult texts. Read some Plato for sure. Maybe get a book that includes a number of selections from different authors (for example, Classics of Western Philosophy, edited by Stephen M. Kahn).

    A very readable philosophy book that I forgot to mention is Camus' Myth of Sisyphus, which I didn't much care for, but which is a pretty famous take on humanity creating its own values, and making life worth living, through an absurd struggle.
    Thanks for the help. I'll see how I feel after reading The Antichrist.
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  17. #17
    The Pan Qrazy's Avatar
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    Just to fill out some of Melville's suggestions:

    Plato... Meno, Phaedo are fairly standard intro. dialogues. Hit up The Republic at a later date.

    These guys have been covered well enough (Kant, Nietzsche, Sartre, Kierkegaard, Marx, Heidegger)

    ---

    Aristotle
    : Nicomachean Ethics - Aristotle and Plato are the two-edged sword of early philosophy.

    Presocratic Philosophers: Thales, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Zeno - It's fun to read the fragments left behind from the guys that came before Plato et al. It gives you a sense of the history of philosophy. There are a few others but I'd say these are the four to start with)


    Epicurus - Assorted Fragments

    Spinoza: The Ethics - The most insightful rationalist for my money. Leave Leibniz alone for a while.

    Descartes
    - Discourse on the Method, Meditations on First Philosophy - Assumptive and problematic? Perhaps. Historically essential? Yes. Read before Kant.

    Hume: An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding - Hume isn't quite a skeptic but he's an absolutely essential voice of criticism in the midst of a lot of assumptive philosophy.

    Machiavelli - The Prince. Short. Easy to read.

    General reading, no particular recs (only read excerpts):

    Husserl (read before Sartre and Heidegger)

    Hobbes
    Rousseau
    Locke
    John Stuart Mill
    Bentham


    Just understand utilitarianism and later on consequentialism, don't need to read Mill and Bentham in depth unless it really interests you. Ditto Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau. Just understand where they fit in.

    Frege
    Karl Popper
    Fichte


    These guys are interesting, but I don't know enough about them.

    Ayer and Wittgenstein are the extremist analytic philosophers. They represent an interesting voice but I find it difficult to take them seriously.

    For something a bit less intense:

    W. D. Ross
    G. E. Moore
    W. V. O. Quine
    (read after Kant... important for epistemology)
    Russell
    Kripke
    Carnap


    I'd actually suggest reading Sartre's A Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions before diving into Being and Nothingness. I don't think you'll make it very far in the latter without a broader philosophical background first.

    If I were you I would read Plato, Descartes and Hume to give yourself a baseline first.

    Meno
    Discourse on the Method
    Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding

    They're all short and this gives you Greek, Rationalist and Empiricist. I think you'll find yourself lost in the heavier stuff without this background. You can do Nietzsche and some analytic philosophy but it will give you a much better foundation for most continental philosophy.
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  18. #18
    The Pan Qrazy's Avatar
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    For a basic ethical background you'll need:

    Kant (Deontology)
    Mill (Utilitarianism)

    Then it would be good to know:

    Rawls
    Aristotle
    Spinoza

    Before moving on to the rest.
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  19. #19
    Not a praying man Melville's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Qrazy (view post)
    Descartes - Read before Kant.

    Husserl (read before Sartre and Heidegger)
    I don't know about that. Kant introduces his ideas well enough on his own, I think, and you can get the gist of Descartes' ideas just by reading an encyclopedia summary. Of course, Descartes is up there with Plato and Kant in terms of influence, but I found that reading his books didn't illuminate much except the lameness of his arguments. Sartre and Heidegger are at least as readable as Husserl, and they re-introduce and review phenomenology in their big books.

    Here's a good intro to Husserl and Heidegger. (But ignore what the guy says about Sartre.)
    I am impatient of all misery in others that is not mad. Thou should'st go mad, blacksmith; say, why dost thou not go mad? How can'st thou endure without being mad? Do the heavens yet hate thee, that thou can'st not go mad?

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  20. #20
    The Pan Qrazy's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Melville (view post)
    I don't know about that. Kant introduces his ideas well enough on his own, I think, and you can get the gist of Descartes' ideas just by reading an encyclopedia summary. Of course, Descartes is up there with Plato and Kant in terms of influence, but I found that reading his books didn't illuminate much except the lameness of his arguments. Sartre and Heidegger are at least as readable as Husserl, and they re-introduce and review phenomenology in their big books.

    Here's a good intro to Husserl and Heidegger. (But ignore what the guy says about Sartre.)
    The cogito itself isn't lame and it's majorly important for nearly all the continental philosophy after him. It may be open to quite a bit of criticism but even the philosopher's who reject it have to address it. It's his extrapolations to God after the cogito which are the lame part. Discourse on the Method is very short and even for the lame arguments it's usually better to read the original. Even the least compelling famous philosophers have much to say.

    My post is more about history of philosophy while I think yours is more about preferred philosophers. Although we both do touch upon each trajectory. As such I think Husserl is important prior reading before jumping into existentialism.

    I'd also say both Husserl and Sartre are much more readable than Heidegger (for a novice). Don't get me wrong, I like him, but he's not easy sailing for beginners.
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  21. #21
    Not a praying man Melville's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Qrazy (view post)
    The cogito itself isn't lame and it's majorly important for nearly all the continental philosophy after him. It may be open to quite a bit of criticism but even the philosopher's who reject it have to address it. It's his extrapolations to God after the cogito which are the lame part. Discourse on the Method is very short and even for the lame arguments it's usually better to read the original. Even the least compelling famous philosophers have much to say.
    His ideas aren't lame; it's his arguments in favor of them that are (mostly the argument for god's existence, and all the stuff that he then derives from that—but even "I am thinking, therefore I exist" is problematic). And certainly in order to read Kant and most other later philosophers, one needs to understand Descartes' basic description of human existence in terms of the cogito and the internal/external divide. And if someone is really interested in his ideas, or in the history of philosophy, then of course it's better to read his books than a secondary source. But one doesn't need to read his books in order to be sufficiently familiar with his ideas to understand Kant.

    My post is more about history of philosophy while I think yours is more about preferred philosophers. Although we both do touch upon each trajectory. As such I think Husserl is important prior reading before jumping into existentialism.
    Yeah, same situation here as with Descartes: if you're really interested in Husserl's phenomenology or the history of philosophy, then you should read him. But I didn't read one of his books until several years after reading Sartre and Heidegger, and I don't think that cost me any understanding of those authors' ideas. (Actually, an author who might be worth reading before Sartre and Heidegger is Bergson. I'm not sure if his ideas about time and free will directly influenced those later authors, but his ideas definitely seem like a precursor to theirs, and he's very readable.)


    I guess all I'm saying is that while you definitely need to have some understanding of the foundational issues and seminal authors of philosophy in order to understand more advanced texts, you shouldn't feel obligated to read all the major authors in chronological order if they don't interest you. Often times, reading a summary of their ideas will suffice.
    I am impatient of all misery in others that is not mad. Thou should'st go mad, blacksmith; say, why dost thou not go mad? How can'st thou endure without being mad? Do the heavens yet hate thee, that thou can'st not go mad?

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  22. #22
    The Pan Qrazy's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Melville (view post)
    I guess all I'm saying is that while you definitely need to have some understanding of the foundational issues and seminal authors of philosophy in order to understand more advanced texts, you shouldn't feel obligated to read all the major authors in chronological order if they don't interest you. Often times, reading a summary of their ideas will suffice.
    Sure, but I think Descartes and Husserl are important enough to be read prior, if only their shorter works. I agree with you on the point in general. I don't think one has to read Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Bentham etc in depth even though they too are precursors to a lot of later stuff.
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  23. #23
    Not a praying man Melville's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Qrazy (view post)
    Sure, but I think Descartes and Husserl are important enough to be read prior, if only their shorter works. I agree with you on the point in general. I don't think one has to read Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Bentham etc in depth even though they too are precursors to a lot of later stuff.
    Okay.

    Maybe listing the important concepts would be more effective than listing the important authors. I'd say that in order to understand most authors of the last couple hundred years (and in particular, the authors that Brightside expressed an interest in), you'd need to be somewhat familiar with the following:

    Plato: Platonic forms
    Descartes: Cartesian dualism and the "cogito, ergo sum" argument
    Hume: Empiricism
    Various people: Idealism and Realism
    Kant: Transcendental Idealism and the categorical imperative; Nietzsche is also big on criticizing Kant's idea of synthetic apriori knowledge
    Hegel: Hegel's dialectic (Kierkegaard, Marx, and Nietzsche were all reacting against Hegel in their writing)
    Husserl and Heidegger: Phenomenology
    Mill and Bentham: utilitarianism/consequentialist ethics
    Buddhism: the (non-)existence of the self
    Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky: the absurd, faith, angst

    I'm probably missing a bunch of things.
    I am impatient of all misery in others that is not mad. Thou should'st go mad, blacksmith; say, why dost thou not go mad? How can'st thou endure without being mad? Do the heavens yet hate thee, that thou can'st not go mad?

    lists and reviews

  24. #24
    Quote Quoting Qrazy (view post)
    ..

    Husserl (read before Sartre and Heidegger)

    ....
    Don't. Actually skip Husserl and avoid Heidegger by all means.

    Marx translated Hegel well enough.

  25. #25
    The Pan Qrazy's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting kuehnepips (view post)
    Don't. Actually skip Husserl and avoid Heidegger by all means.

    Marx translated Hegel well enough.
    Ah. Care to qualify your opinions?
    The Princess and the Pilot - B-
    Playtime (rewatch) - A
    The Hobbit - C-
    The Comedy - D+
    Kings of the Road - C+
    The Odd Couple - B
    Red Rock West - C-
    The Hunger Games - D-
    Prometheus - C
    Tangled - C+

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