I feel like this question gets posed a lot in different ways and was curious if it might be possible to formulate it narrowly enough to get answered here.

For the most part I think the answer is determined by the question -- in other words, you find someone who does understand and get them to explain it to you.

Of course even with a pair -- or ideally a mentor -- one still must tackle a text in isolation. The "someone who understands" is finally the author themselves.

How to prepare yourself to evaluate and interpret a philosophical text? I'm looking for a strategic vision here.

Beyond tactical things like reading secondary sources or finding a pair/mentor to study with; and even beyond spiritual qualities (a certain patience, caution, charity, &c). Although ideally strategies for evaluation/interpretation will have an impact on the tactics and spirit of a reading.

What long-term sort of critical practices can help support the structured, rigorous reading and evaluation of philosophical texts?

  • 4
    Purchase a good armchair, particularly of a rocking nature, and a good pipe. ;)
    – stoicfury
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 20:10
  • 1
    Stay away from alcoholic drinks to keep a sharp mind. Cut sugar and avoid too much meat in your diet.
    – infatuated
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 22:22
  • 1
    Try to imagine the inner voice of the author which was whispering author what to write and how, but itself did not get onto the paper... Inverse read.
    – Asphir Dom
    Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 1:37
  • Do you mean to evaluate based on the author's context, or a modern one?
    – Rex Kerr
    Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 10:33

1 Answer 1


I've found the best way to truly understand a work is to be a part of the ongoing discourse surrounding it -- i.e. try to find an opportunity to write about the work for an audience. Reading with the goal of communicating with others opens the opportunity for a much more rigorous approach.

This written dialectic is one of the fundamental activities of the philosophical community across history.

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