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I read a lot of books and I started thinking how I can say that this book is a philosophy book and this one isn't.

I've read "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". Can this be considered a philosophy book?

And what about "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality"? Is there any formal (or informal) criteria for deciding which book can be named "philosophic"?

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closed as not constructive by stoicfury Dec 10 '12 at 1:15

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Philosophy texts are generally written by a philosopher (in the professional and academic sense, or the historical sense) and are subject to a certain kind of rigor.

So this means several things:

  • Books like the Bible are not generally considered to be philosophical texts. They are religious. Anything on Zen would be similarly characterized (Buddhism is a religion, after all).
  • Even though St. Augustine and many others have used the Bible as a blueprint for a certain kind of ontology, cosmology, and ethical theory, their texts stand alone - and often ideologically borrow from either Aristotle or Plato.
  • I recently had to read De rerum natura for a class - which I've hated. I wouldn't call Lucretius' text "philosophy" in the modern sense; but in the historical sense, it's very important to understand. It's also important because it's one of the few discussions of Epicureanism, but I digress.
  • Nowadays, for a text to be considered "philosophical" it needs to be peer reviewed and published. Jimbo writing on his blog doesn't really count.
  • To reiterate, philosophical texts are written by philosophers: Plato, Aristotle, G.E Moore, Church, Russell, and more recently, Searle, Kaplan. So this means that if you're not a philosopher (or at least a student of philosophy) you can't really write philosophical texts because you'll have no idea what you're talking about.
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Saying: "To reiterate, philosophical texts are written by philosophers" is kind of silly. Equally silly is the assumption that there is no philosophy outside academic philosophy. Scientists have lots of contributions to philosophy of science. Just get more reading. – user2811 Dec 10 '12 at 0:35
@Juan Ortin: Generally, if a scientist writes on philosophy, his/her work will be peer reviewed by other philosophers, not by other scientists (a science journal is very unlikely to publish philosophically-dense material just how a journal on life sciences is very unlikely to publish an article on applied mathematics). So, if the work is good enough to be published then they are "philosophers" per my 4th point. There are many academics that have segwayed from math, computer science, physics, or biology into the realm of philosophy. And that makes them philosophers in addition to scientists. – David Titarenco Dec 10 '12 at 2:03
This answer is not helpful. Much of it is circular ("philosophical texts are written by philosophers"), and what isn't circular is not specific to philosophy ("needs to be peer reviewed and published"). Nothing in the answer explains how or in what ways a philosophical text differs from a religious one, or a peer-reviewed, published article on physics. – Telemachus Dec 26 '15 at 1:01

This is purely a semantic discussion; whether you want to call it a "philosophy book" simply depends on what you define to be philosophy book. It is in the same boat as questions like:

Is everyone considered a philosopher?

How to earn the title of "Philosopher"

Can I introduce myself as a self taught philosopher?

You can argue all day and night about what percent a book has to contain "philosophy discussions" in order to be a philosophy book (is 30% philosophy 70% history discussion okay?), or how many peer reviews it has to have gone through (is 1 peer review the same as 5?), or the quality of those peer reviews (can some no-name philosophy magazine peer review or does it have to be the Philosophical Review?). These determinations are made on an institutional or personal basis and are essentially arbitrary.

Bottom line: It doesn't matter whether it's technically a philosophy book or not, what matters is what the book says...

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