How to start
Bermbits, Philosophy is a pretty big field. There are probably going to be some parts of it that will appeal to you more than others.
When I went to school it was broken down in the following way:
Metaphysics or the question of the nature of matter.
Epistemology or the question of how we know.
Ethics the question of how to live the good life.
Logic how to structure arguments.
Politics or what is the nature of government.
I like Dolowin's suggestionof Russell's history. You would probably get a good overview that way, and Russell is in the mainstream of an important school of thought. When he wanted to, he wrote very lucidly for a popular audience.
Another writer that you might consider is Mortimer Adler. He was a great believer in philosophy for the regular person, and wrote a number of books that are enjoyable to read.
Should you decide to read politics, I'd start with John Lock's Second Treatise on Government. It's easy to understand and sets forth the underlying ideas upon which the western democricies are founded. On the subject of politics, I would not read anything much later than Isaiah Berlin. It all tends to be polarized and polarizing. Berlin is very good to read, but he's the master of the page long sentence.Try his Four Essays on Liberty. Another good overview is The Great Political Theories Edited by Michael Curtis. It covers about every political idea from the Greeks to Pluralism and you read real sources. This is all western philosophy.
The question of how we know is a fast moving subject these days. To be honest, I'm no longer really up on it.
Start simple, and only keep going as long as you are interested. Personally, I love Plato's "Symposium." Buncha drunk guys talking about love. I thought it was a great way to get into the subject, which I pursued briefly.
The last course I took was "Philosophy of Language." I wrote a paper which was evaluated thusly:
"His paper on Quine's
holism contained an extended exposition of the criticism of
atomism in theories of meaning and its consequences. It also
presented in more general terms certain aspects of Quine's
holistic proposal, and discussed belief change in this account.
He also remarked on difficulties of explaining linguistic
competence on the basis of theories like Quine's."
Do I remember who Quine is? No.
Do I remember what "atomism in theories of meaning and its consequences" means, anything about the holistic proposal, or belief change? Perhaps something about the last item, but the other two are impenetrable to me now.
And linguistic competence? I've barely even got that.
It just wasn't fun any more.
(The evaluation is at my fingertips because it was received in lieu of a grade and I am in the midst of preparing applications to get more lurned. I hope I be no weirdo here...)
Lurning is gude, Doggy. Trust me on this. I are an inetllekcthal.
ewe is? but, goldurnit, what's the point if yer jest gonna fergit it?
fergit? I never knowed it.
I know becuz.......becuz.....well I think I know that I never knowed.
...i know i know i never thunk. thinked. (sigh) well, you get it. sorry 'bout this, kids...
Philosophy, To reply or not to reply, that is the question
Wow bermbits, Do you ever have a wealth of information all yours for the taking, or WHAT! There is a whole world of magnificence out there & it's yours for the taking! By all means, begin at your public library, or take a quick course at a local community college, that will help greatly, giving you
a brief but broad background - a terrific starting place. So much to learn & so little time. Best wishes on your newly discovered interest in this old, continuously studied & grown through vehicle called philosophy. I had absolutely no idea there was a Philosophy For Dummies. Not being dumb - you would no doubt wish to start out another way. What a journey lies ahead of you. Enjoy
Additional comments in this thread were split off to another thread called "The unconcious, mind and brain"
per user request.
What is your opinion of hynosis and is it practical as a tool for digging into the sub-conscious?
why begin with western philosophy~
begin with whatever floats your boat~
within us each, I think we already know~
and recognize it the instant we see or hear it~
that which is true for us.
I know I knew, because my report card says I took the coarse, and got a "A."
Do I remember anything? Heck no. Wutcha expec after almost fifty years.....
ci do you mean that you took the course,
or that the course was coarse, or what, exactly
was coarse?How does one get an A in coarse.
no, never mind after all
babs, You are too astute! Yeah, actually it s/b "course."
Where to start?
bermbits; while I have not read all the posts, at the risk of being repetetive, I would strongly urge you to begin by thinking!
Without defining your own philosophy, it is dificult to appraise the subject.
BoGo, Actually, bermbits is just beginning to read about philosophy, and he's wondering if he's starting out right. When I started with Philosophy 101 (about six life times ago), I remember having to reread that sucker over and over before any sense started to take hold. Give the guy a break! It's a tough subject, and a beginner needs all the support they can muster.
I seem to have a communication disability; if my previous post sounded critical, such was in no way intended!
What I was saying is that to be able to assess philosophical concepts, with any success, it is necessary to develop a point of view first, from which to observe.
BoGo, But first of all, he needs to understand what a "philosophical concept" is!
Have you considered taking a Philosophy course at a local University?