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I have a background in STEM. Specially, I started as an engineering student but quickly my interests escalated to core sciences then mathematics. I would now like to explore the domains of Philosophy. As is aptly said, "Philosophy is the mother of all sciences"; I am interested in enquiring "how?" or rather "why?".

What are some of the books that complement hard sciences well? I want some well-acclaimed publications relating to knowledge, mind and logic. I am currently reading - "Epistemology" by Robert Audi. I have found it to be thought-provoking. Contemporary philosophers are highly appreciated.

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    A broad spectrum well written book like Will Durants Story of philosophy is a good starting point. After that you'll know more clearly what specifically calls you
    – Rushi
    Jan 20 at 6:40
  • @Rushi I hate to digress but I checked your site. the-magus.in/Publications/chor.pdf This is so hilarious! Also, such a unique take on the language. I was, for most my undergrad, smitten by C. I used to banter a lot with my friends, 'why it is closer to god's own'. I have become indifferent to it like most subject matter now. I love to see a reflection of my own past in this account. Thanks. (Also, in hindi "chor" means "thief". intended?) Jan 20 at 8:56
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    Gödel Escher Bach, by Douglas Hofstadter?
    – Stef
    Jan 20 at 15:18
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    Hehe! Funny that a paper from 35 years back finds agreement in such a fast moving field. Here is a retrospective I wrote on it 25 years after that in which I rethink some of those '91 thoughts. And here is something more recent, more mathematical, more philosophical. Mentioning here since youre looking for philosophy ←→ STEM linkages.
    – Rushi
    Jan 20 at 16:58
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    Chor = C Horrors; but Hindi chor is fine if it tickles your cockles 😂. Also to maintain the decorum of the place (here) we should continue in chat if further of these questions and avenues engage you
    – Rushi
    Jan 20 at 17:01

4 Answers 4

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If you are looking for a general grounding in Western philosophy, look up the books in a university philosophy curriculum. If you are looking for books that are likely to interest someone with your background, I have some suggestions. You probably want to focus on analytic philosophy, mostly from the English-speaking world and, at least initially, avoid classical philosophy from Greece, and continental philosophy from France and Germany (with a few exceptions such as Frege, Descartes, Kant, and Duhem).

I'd start with

which is often viewed as a foundational work on analytic philosophy. Other great works on the foundations of mathematics include

On metaphysics and epistemology, I'd recommend

Kant is by far the most difficult of the metaphysics books I'm recommending, and it would be worth your while to read some commentaries as well. There is lots of great material on-line.

On the philosophy of science, I'd recommend Hume's Enquiry as a critical text, before reading anything that follows it historically, and the following:

You'll notice almost all of my recommendations are from before 1950, but I think these authors are necessary for a strong grounding in understanding what more recent philosophy is about. Read some of the books I recommend, decide which ones interest you the most, and then look for discussions and commentary on those, which will direct you to more modern work.

A few comments on what I've left out: a lot of people think a grounding in classical philosophy is important, but Galileo, Descartes, Newton, and Locke pretty much put an end to classical philosophy, and I don't see it's influence much in anything that comes after those authors. Francis Drake gets a lot of attention as the "first modern empiricist", but I found his work unimpressive. Wittgenstein was very influential, but more in the sense of scattered ideas than in any systematic sense, and I don't know that he's really worth reading unless you are curious about it. If you think Kant is impressive, you might think that it would be interesting to read the German idealists who followed Kant, but you would be mistaken. Most of them are typical continental philosophers, meaning that they are quite opaque to most English speakers who think analytically.

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    Thanks for this recommendation list, I'm saving it for my own use!
    – g s
    Jan 20 at 7:18
  • This answer is so much complete. I appreciate the exposition it provides, I read it with enthusiasm. Thanks for the prudence of keeping it analytic. I would still request you to mention some notable contemporary philosopher's publications. Why? to me, all philosophy is subjective nonetheless. Moreover, like knowledge, philosophy too, is bound to the zeitgeist of its time. I want to be able to relate (?) to the author somehow, understand them better. plato.stanford.edu is a great resource to refer to. I'll start with the recommendations of Locke, Hume and Frege. Thanks again. Jan 20 at 9:19
  • Sounds great. I should add that Hume and Frege are both very readable. Locke is a bit more tedious. Jan 20 at 11:59
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    There are some continental philosophers which aren't so obscure (i.e. Foucault is remarkably clear in some of his writings, i.e. Discipline and Punish). It makes no sense to say Continental = Obscure, if the paradigm of continental philosophy is Heidegger, Derrida, Deleuze etc. If anything, these thinkers are quite anti-Hegelian (and Hegel is definitely obscure).
    – user71009
    Jan 20 at 14:56
  • As regards classical philosophy, I agree that it's not especially useful as philosophy qua philosophy, and doesn't fit the kind of resource requested by the OP. But I'd class it (along with major religious texts) as indispensable data for understanding historical literature, history in general, and the modern language and culture of affected regions.
    – g s
    Jan 20 at 17:27
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I recommend Experimentation by D.C. Baird. Quoting page 1, it is about "...the whole process of identifying a portion of the world around us, obtaining information from it, and interpreting that information. [...] This book is intended to meet the needs of all who are either engaged themselves in any kind of study of the world around us, or who must form a judgment on scientific statements made by others."

To get full value out of the book, the intended reader should have learned basic multivariable calculus and introductory statistics and have a good conceptual grasp of introductory physics.

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  1. Kant

If you're coming from a STEM background and know some programming (especially functional-style, i.e. Haskell etc.) you might be interested in what Kant had to say about mathematics, because he was an early proponent of mathematical intuitionism/constructivism (proofs in intuitionistic logic are isomorphic to computer programs and lambda-calculus is basically a natural deduction system for intuitionistic logic). I reccommend reading Intuitionism: An Introduction by Heyting if you're not sufficiently familiar with the topic. It's worth keeping in mind when you're reading Kant's Critique.

It's also worth (independently of your background) to have a good understanding of what Kant is aiming at (if you're interested in reading him) - and where he fails (if he fails). I reccommend John Haugeland's notes regarding the B-Deduction which can be found in Giving a Damn: Essays in Dialogue with John Haugeland and Jim Conant's Why Kant was Not a Kantian. Longuenesse's Kant and the Capacity to Judge is also valuable as a reference (although quite lengthty).

  1. Others

It's hard to reccomend contemporary works without providing a context regarding their origin. But I think the key to understanding contemporary analytic philosophy is Willard Quine's Two Dogmas of Empiricism, so it's definitely worth reading regardless of everything else.

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The best book that come to mind is The Matter with Things by Iain McGilchrist (2021).

Kind regards,

DB

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