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It is hard for me to read and understand philosophical texts or secondary literature - even with Wikipedia. I don't want to give up, I just need to start slowly and with very basic things.

How can I proceed? It's too large a challenge for me (regarding my handicap) to start with something like Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.

  • Coincidentally I just came across this categorized list of introductory philosophical works, written by a guy who makes a philosophical web comic for a living, and never formally studied philosophy. The list seems applicable because the creator is both self-taught and well-versed enough to make philosophical concepts accessible to a lay audience in a web comic format. As an aside: historically, the thought "I'm not intelligent" has often turned out, in the end, to be evidence of the opposite. – Dan Bron Feb 12 '15 at 12:52
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Wikipedia isn't necessarily an easy collection of texts. There is a version of wikipedia in simplified English available at simple.wikipedia.org, however, its contents are very limited. See for example its entry on Plato, compared to the normal English entry.

I have found the book Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder a great book for an introduction into philosophy. It walks through the history of philosophy from the presocrates till modern philosophy, in a mix between fiction and text book. By implementing an important philosophical question in particular in the fictional story, the author teaches the reader partially 'by doing'.

One day fourteen-year-old Sophie Amundsen comes home from school to find in her mailbox two notes, with one question on each: "Who are you?" and "Where does the world come from?" From that irresistible beginning, Sophie becomes obsessed with questions that take her far beyond what she knows of her Norwegian village. Through those letters, she enrolls in a kind of correspondence course, covering Socrates to Sartre, with a mysterious philosopher, while receiving letters addressed to another girl. Who is Hilde? And why does her mail keep turning up? To unravel this riddle, Sophie must use the philosophy she is learning--but the truth turns out to be far more complicated than she could have imagined.

If you live near a good book store, you could also go there and ask for a book on philosophy 'for the masses'.

  • My main critique of Sophie's World as an academic philosopher is the degree to which he gets Aristotle wrong in terms of substance. – virmaior Feb 11 '15 at 3:34
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What is the very-most basic way to study philosophy at the beginning of the twenty-first century? This assumes that you are on your own and not a high school or college student somewhere. Go to amazon.com and review the Introducing Series books, e.g.: Introducing Philosophy, plus many other titles in the series. These are quick-read cartoon books that will give you a college education in as little as a year. Also, an even better series is Beginners, e.g.: Philosophy for Beginners, Aristotle for Beginners, Plato for Beginners, etc. My favorite title is Structuralism for Beginners: a single page there will introduce you to continental philosophy and its opposition British empiricism. Keep purchasing new titles from both series. Read closely, carefully. Highlight sentences. Make notes in the margins: things that impress you, connections made. As I've said, after about a year (fifteen to twenty minutes a day) you will be amazed at how much you've learned. Get a good background in the basic introductory guides, Introducing Philosophy and Philosophy for Beginners. Then, definitely study Aristotle, Plato, Aquinas (the five proofs), Hobbes, Locke (the British empiricists), Nietzsche and the existentialists, Derrida and Foucult. From Comte learn that the general, historic move is toward atheism (for many, this may or may not be a good thing). Beyond any of this, a great introduction to philosophy is F.A. Schaeffer's trilogy: Escape from Reason (1968), The God who is There (1968), and He is there and He is not Silent (1972). Schaeffer traces analytically the problems of modern philosophy and something he calls "modern-modern science." The problems are huge and are left unaddressed. In his final book, How Should we then Live (1976), Schaeffer details the cultural problems society faces indicated by the inability of modern philosophy and science to provide adequate answers based out of the present strict presuppositional system. Schaeffer (p. 19) says:

People have presuppositions, and they will live more consistently on the basis of these presuppositions than even they themselves may realize. By presuppositions we mean the basic way an individual looks at life, his basic world view, the grid through which he sees the world. Presuppositions rest upon that which a person considers to be the truth of what exists. People's presuppositions lay a grid for all they bring forth into the external world. Their presuppositions also provide the basis for their values and therefore the basis for their decisions.

Finally, root yourself in the great books (The Encyclopaedia Britannica Great Books and Great Ideas series sets: go to your local library and look them over; become familiar with certain authors and titles in that very epic series). Most importantly read your New Testament (those who skip this, regardless their attitude toward eternal things, allow themselves only half an education, so proud, so pompous).

Good reading!

  • +1 for How Should We Then Live. It's one of the most underrated books on philosophy and history. – user18800 Mar 25 '17 at 22:14
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The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy are great, free resources that you may find helpful. They're clear and concise, and you can look at the sources listed for further reading if you've found something that interests you.

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Your IQ being below average is evidence that you're not good at IQ tests. There 's no particular reason to think it means anything else.

Kant is not a good philosopher to start with. Part of the reason is that his stuff is difficult to read. As a result, there's a lot of argument even about what he was saying. There are philosophers who wrote in plain English and have interesting stuff to say, such as William Godwin:

http://oll.libertyfund.org/people/william-godwin

Bastiat

http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/bastiat-the-law

http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/bastiat-economic-sophisms.

Karl Popper, Ayn Rand and David Deutsch all write stuff that is mostly plain English and has good content that you can look up on Amazon. See also

http://fallibleideas.com/.

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Personally, I think you're running yourself down a little. IQ tests don't mean very much. They were invented as a way of quickly and roughly trying to gauge someone's intelligence.

I would suggest Sophies World as a good overview; Alice in Wonderland as it's both a great story and an exploration of philosophical ideas in a narrative form.

I really wouldn't advise beginning with Kant!

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Two books that might help are:

  • "Philosophy Made Simple" by Richard H. Popkin and Avrum Stroll, which is an easy read, and would be the equivalent of a high school level text book.
  • "The philosophy book" by Will Buckingham, Douglas Burnham, Peter J. King, Clive Hill, which is a nice illustrated book where can go to an random page and start looking and still learn a great deal.
  • Also, if reading is a problem for you, the Teaching Company (TTC) has some great audio and video lectures on basic philosophy, philosophy of science, philosophy of religion, and all sorts of other topics.
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I'm not sure that philosophy has much to do with IQ --it's about the love of wisdom, and wisdom is not the same as intelligence.

As far as philosophy written in easy language, maybe try:

Plato and Descartes are not that hard, but it is tough to find translations in easy language. If I can be allowed, I will recommend my own rendition of

It has been put in modern language, but it is pretty close to what Plato originally wrote.

  • 1
    IQ is definitive. The poster is only trying to be humble. The poster's question is solid. I'm inspired! The Tao is interesting reading, but only after our own New Testament. Aristotle and Plato are good, but only after an effective grounding in Jeudeo-Christian principles. Reading the New Testament sheds great light on the ancient Greeks. The other way around is reading, but no improvement. It is only fashionable to deny our cultural history for that of the East (which has produced very little of reasonable, effective value). – Darcy Davis Feb 15 '15 at 21:14
  • Ecclesiastes is one hell of a depressive writing(for the most part) – RaGa__M Jan 13 at 17:13

protected by virmaior Feb 15 '15 at 5:58

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