I read this question (this is the most relevant I found) with the answers however I still don't have the answers to my questions. I started reading the first lines of some philosophy books, I especially liked those of Kant, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche so I wanted to start with these ones (in the order given) but someone told me that I should learn logic first (I've seen several times this recommendation) as it'll be complicated to me to understand them very well without a good solid "logic background" (not only Aristotelian logic but recent logic too).

So :

  1. Should I really start with learning logic ?
  2. On which books should I focus on to start learning philosophy ?
  • 1
    You shouldn't stop reading philosophy, waiting to start again after you have completely learned logic. Continue to read/study philosophy, but one of your studies should include basic logic. And/or/for all/there exists/implications/logical proofs.
    – Mitch
    Commented Feb 10, 2015 at 13:14
  • I would suggest leave logic for later. Philosophy needs freedom of thought while logic as is taught seems like a somewhat cramped lockup.
    – John Am
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 8:11
  • The real answer is NO. Sure you will be required to learn it if you pursue a degree but you won't find much philosophy written in Mathematical logic format or in an Aristotelian logic format. What you will find is closer to English literature study or history study.
    – Logikal
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 18:53

4 Answers 4


Should I really start with learning logic ?

Every course of philosophical studies I know includes introductory classes to basic formal logic (syntax and semantics of propositional and predicate first-order logic, some metatheory of propositional calculi).

It is not necessary to learn formal logic before delving into Kant, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, but it is certainly necessary to learn some logic if you want to achieve a somewhat comprehensive philosophical education and gain access to a good chunk of contemporary philosophy.

Two very basic examples:

One can surely acquire these notions as one gets along, but a basic course in the beginning obviates to repeated cognitive nuisances.

Having said that, the self-study of formal logic may be tedious if you are not particularly drawn to mathematical thinking on your own: repeatedly solving exercises is the only way to go. (That is why it is good thing to be compelled to go through such a training: to learn a different way of thinking and reasoning!)

The easier route is to familiarize yourself with the toolset taught in critical thinking. This is not a replacement for a basic training in formal logic, but it may help you if you only want to read some classics. You can follow up the bibliography about informal logic/reasoning.

On which books should I focus on to start learning philosophy ?

Check out What are some good introductions to philosophy? for some good answers.

I wish you a rewarding philosophical journey!

  • "self-study of formal logic may be tedious" – totally agree with this. Learning deductive logic straight off is akin to learning a new language by memorising hundreds of common nouns – you'll give up before you are even half way.
    – advert665
    Commented Feb 10, 2015 at 1:11
  • I learned logic on my own. My experience was different...I loved it and managed to complete the book. You do have to put in a lot of work though.
    – Casey
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 0:56

Studying logic helps you understand the underlying structure of arguments. I don't personally see it as a prerequisite to reading philosophy, but it can definitely be helpful. However, if you do start with logic, I would stick to the modern logic, rather than the Aristotelian, which is of more historical than practical utility at this point in time.

As far as your second question --everyone will have a different answer. I would argue in favor of starting with Plato and Descartes, in terms of those being two of the figures most universally responded to by subsequent philosophers. (For example, much of Nietzsche is proposed in reaction against Plato, and Kant is widely viewed as a synthesis of Descartes and Hume.) Even if you aren't a fan of those philosophers yourself, reading them will still give you a context to start from --and both have some relatively short, accessible, but central works to start with (Meno, Apology, Symposium for Plato --or even The Republic which is a little longer, but is probably the most famous work of philosophy in the western world; Meditations for Descartes, which arguably comes in second).


Short Answer: It Depends.

Long Answer:

Philosophy is a very broad subject, so what you need to learn depends on what parts of it you wish to focus on. Are you interested in the structure of arguments? Are you interested in specific philosophies, such as ontology, epistemology, phenomenology, etc...? Eastern philosophy? Practical philosophy (philosophy of life)? Philosophy of mind?

If you're interested in the structure of arguments, or in a critical reading of various authors, then you should study logic first.

If you're interested in a specific philosophy, then logic is not necessary, but it can help you decide if a particular view passes the sniff test.

As for who to start with, that too depends, but I think Plato is excellent. It's not so much that Plato's views are or are not tenable, as it is that he anticipated a ton of subjects that are still discussed today. In fact, a common quote is that the history of philosophy is a footnote to Plato. Whether true or not, it gives you an idea of his influence.

Where to go from there depends on your interests. There's a ton of key figures, and even a brief overview would greatly increase the length of this response. One thing that helps if you are reading on a particular topic is to read the key figures in order, as they often build upon or respond to one another. For instance, much of Kant can be read as a response to Hume, Berkeley's views make most sense when seen as a response to "substance theory", and even Existentialism's motto of "Existence Precedes Essence" can be seen as a response to Plato.


Logic is just a branch of philosophy. It's the fundamental branch of philosophy so out of all of the branches you should study logic first.

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