I'm not sure this question belongs here. It's clearly an open-ended question that probably does not have a canonical answer. I would like to ask you to help me restate this question in a better way if possible. I will understand if the question is closed or deleted, but I want to ask it because it has been bothering me for a very long time.

My knowledge of philosophy is probably only a bit greater than an average person's. I am a trained mathematician so I have the basic knowledge of mathematical logic. I know more or less what modal logic is, but I definitely don't know much about it. I find these interesting. I think I also understand what ethics, esthetics, epistemology and ontology are. I've read about most of the most important philosophers, but I've read little of them.

Now what I've read has put me off. A lot of it looked to me like statements made just because they'd appeared in the author's mind, and the author had found it necessary to spit them out without critical examination. It looked to me as if the philosophers I was reading had liked to state things without any attempt at proof and use words without any attempt at defintion. And often when there were attempts, they seemed to me to fail. I've seen the word "perfection" used in proofs of God's existence, and any child knows this word doesn't really mean much. It has meaning, but it is vague and clearly -- to me -- unfit for rigorous demonstration. And they would say things like "Existence is perfection." Why on Earth would they say that? What does it mean? How do you prove such a statement? Similar questions start filling my head whenever I read anything about ethics.

I've read a bit of medieval philosophers from France and England. It was some time ago, and I've lost the book since, so I can't recall the specifics, but I remember my impression. And it was disbelief mixed with horror. The arguments I saw there didn't make any sense to me at all.

As a mathematician, I understand and can appreciate axiomatic theories. I have no problem with someone making a statement without proof, as long as they don't assert that the statement is true. I can understand "Let's make a statement and see what follows from it, just for the hell of it."

So why should I be interested in reading more? Am I being too harsh or maybe completely wrong in my opinion about what I've read? If I am, what do I misunderstand? If I'm not, why is such silliness seriously considered and produced to this day?

Please understand that I don't mean to sound conceited. I know I know little about the matter, and I understand my opinions may be ill-informed. This is why I'm asking this question, not in order to give vent to my misguided anger.

Perhaps a better title for my question would be "How does a philosophical reasoning work?", but I know philosophy is too vast a subject for such a question to be answerable.

  • 2
    Deleuze and Guattari in What is Philosophy? do this beautiful reading of the language of philosophy: that this characteristic tampering with language, or philosophical "gobbledygook", is the means by which a philosopher becomes a "stranger" to her own languages, culture, nationality, and so on. – Joseph Weissman Dec 20 '12 at 1:04
  • One should not read philosophy, one should create it. You should do your own philosophy, constantly critiquing and improving your ideas. Only when you have done this and have mastered as much as you can on your own, should you delve into the opinions of others in philosophy. – Kenshin Dec 21 '12 at 9:08
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    I'm only commenting as I didn't see it mentioned, but if you're interested in modal logic, then go and read Kripke. If medieval philosophers don't interest you, then don't read them. You'll find much more use in subjects that actually interest you, and no one gives out awards for suffering through a close reading of Anselm when you can skip ahead to the people refuting him (it's often more fun, too). – Ryder Jan 6 '13 at 21:31
  • @RyderDain +1 I've seen a lot of people fall out with philosophy because they felt they should be reading something that they didn't get on with. – Lucas Apr 15 '14 at 8:33

My background is in Computer Science, so when I started reading philosophy seriously, I had a similar reaction.

A lot (maybe most) of what I've read (that is not that much, I admit) from the great philosophers usually ends up falling into one or more of those kind of problems, specially the ones regarding logical rigorousness. But some philosophers like Hegel, Wittgenstein, Russel, etc did know a lot about logic.

So let me say how I think this can be handled (although it's not completely solved to me):

  1. Assume they got something right. Even if it doesn't seem at first, the great philosophers are great for a reason. I'm not saying that you should value them just because they're called "great", but the fact that they are still read by very smart people is at least an indication that there is something of value in their writings. That also doesn't mean you need to read everything by everyone of them, but that you should strive to see what they got right (see below), because no single philosopher got everything right.

    1.1. When you read something that bothers you as nonsense, "note down mentally" the criticism, but leave open the possibility that the writer has a point that you simply didn't see. It's very hard to criticize the whole of an author's work without knowing exactly what one is trying to convey, and it's very hard to know what that is without reading a lot from and about the person. Of course, that doesn't mean we shouldn't criticize, simply that we should be careful.

  2. Keep in mind that knowledge (in the broad sense) is built on the shoulders of the previous thinkers. I'd take a risk and say that the smartest people today are probably smarter than the smartest people of before. But one of the reasons for that is the legacy the previous people left. So, at the very least their work should be valued for that. Then you have two options (not exclusive):

    a. If your aim is to understand the history of ideas (or some idea), then you'll probably have to read everything. Understanding completely the ideas of a philosopher is very hard without knowing his context, the ideas he was sunk into and the ideas he was trying to fight. And that branches out very quickly.

    b. If your aim is exposing yourself to new ideas, then you can be more selective. It is still very useful to know a philosopher's context and surrounding ideas, but you don't have to put up with every BS they sometimes say. No, you probably won't agree with Aristotle's view on "natural slaves", but you still can benefit from his ideas on ontology. In this case I see no problem in reading contemporary writings for the sake of quality density and efficiency.

I personally fit better in 2b. I'd love to read everything about every philosopher, but I have neither the motivation nor the time. So usually I prefer to read about previous philosophers by contemporary ones, and read from the originals when I think an idea is worth understanding better.

And remember, in philosophy even logic is open for debate, so you will find that sometimes what you have with some philosophers is a different set of premises, including the ones that do not value logic that much.


Half of philosophy is about working out what peoples assumptions are, and why they are wrong/right. The problem is that philosophy is about some of the most fundamental parts of life, and people (and therefore philosophers) tend to take their most basic assumptions about the world for granted - they just don't notice that things could be otherwise. Unfortunately this makes it very difficult for them to state their assumptions properly, as they don't themselves know what they are.

Note that medieval philosophy predates much of formal logic, and modern philosophical technique that is focused on clarity. Philosophers like Descartes, Spinoza, etc are generally read only because they had a few good ideas, not because anybody still thinks their conclusions are any good.

So, why read philosophy? One the main reasons is exactly because it is ambiguous. Being able to analyse people's arguments, and recognize their assumptions is a very useful skill. There are also good ideas to be found within philosophical texts, however a lot of these are in modern texts and journal articles.

If you are looking for texts that have still have relevance, than I would recommend "Utilitarianism" and "On Liberty" by J.S. Mill, and John Rawl's "A Theory of Justice". These are both fairly easy to follow.

  • 3
    This is not an impartial opinion on what still has relevance. – iphigenie Dec 1 '12 at 17:48
  • Oh, I'm not claiming that there are the only texts that still have relevance, merely that out of those that do, these are quite readable (and you surely can't deny that these books still have philosophical importance?) – Nico Burns Dec 19 '12 at 12:59
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    No, I surely can't. I think that Rawls is a very interesting and important source. I just find it very hard to pick out one or two thinkers/books out of context and to present them as "relevant". You need Kant and/or social contract theory for Rawls, and then there's the critics, that have a good point as well... I agree with you, though, and I voted this up. – iphigenie Dec 19 '12 at 13:09

Why philosophy is still relevant

First of all, let me say that I understand many of your frustrations. I don't just understand them, I share them. Yet I would argue this shouldn't deter you from reading philosophy.

It looked to me as if the philosophers I was reading had liked to state things without any attempt at proof and use words without any attempt at defintion. And often when there were attempts, they seemed to me to fail. I've seen the word "perfection" used in proofs of God's existence, and any child knows this word doesn't really mean much. It has meaning, but it is vague and clearly -- to me -- unfit for rigorous demonstration. And they would say things like "Existence is perfection."

I would argue that the above isn't so much a problem of philosophy in general, but a problem of in certain philosophies. The logical positivists, for instance Ayer (there's a book by him in the recommended reading list I provided that deals with this topic) rejects this kind of reasoning as complete non-sense. So do I, by the way, yet I do like philosophy. I just don't like all philosophies.

Philosophy is considered by many to be irrelevant and obsolete in this era. Science has taken over the place of philosophy; science is is much more effective, they argue. Whilst it is of course true that science is very effective, it does have its limits. Philosophy begins where science ends, I would say. This is not to say that philosophy is superior to science (nor the other way round); they are complementary. If you take the set of all possible questions, then some can be answered through the scientific method, some cannot. Those that cannot be answered through science alone, are philosophical questions. Philosophy deals with the questions science can't answer yet and might never be able to answer conclusively. Contrary to popular belief, this does not imply that it necessarily has to be just some mumbo jumbo with no foundation whatsoever.

There are many questions that can't be answered solely by the scientific method, including "life's great questions", but also much more specific questions. Examples of these questions include:

  • How should I live my live? How do I give sense to my life?
  • Does God exist? Can we determine a conclusive answer to this? If he does, what does this imply? If he doesn't, can my life still have any meaning?
  • How do I determine right from wrong?
  • Is capital punishment ethical?
  • When is euthanasia and abortion justified?
  • Is an evolution towards transhumanism good or to be avoided for the individual?
  • How do we organise society?
  • Do we have free will? If not, do we have moral responsibility? Does a psychopath bear individual responsibility for any wrongdoings?
  • Why does someone who does illegal things (say, kill someone) because of a brain tumour, often gets a reduction in punishment? After all, everybody does things because of the processes and structures that happen in their brain.
  • Can "non-falsifiable science" be considered science (e.g. psycho-analysis)? If not, does it still have any value or should we treat it as complete non-sense?

These questions cannot be answered by using the scientific method alone. I consider that to be the beauty of philosophy; there is no definitive answer. The beauty and intellectual stimulation is not in finding an exact answer, but in their ambiguity. Of course, science can definitely help. For instance, there have been many scientific inquiries into what makes people happy. However, these scientific findings alone don't tell how to live your life; they only say certain things can improve happiness. A philosopher can then incorporate them into their works to create a work on how to live your life and give meaning to it.

I will expand on the issue of free will to illustrate the concepts I talked about. Since you seem to prefer more analytic philosophy to speculative philosophy, I'd suggest you look into this issue. I think you may find this very interesting. Science has got quite a few things to say on free will. Neurology can tell us about the Libet experiment. Psychology can tell us people in general really don't like the idea of not having free will. Physics can tell us about whether the world is deterministic or not (the Newtonian clockwork worldview vs. the modern, quantum mechanics and chaos theory world view). Philosophers can use all of this information to form a theory as to whether we have free will or not. They can also state whether we have moral responsibility, which is a question science can't answer. The question of moral responsibility in turn has its implications on politics and more specifically on our justice system and raises the question, among many others, of how, and even if, we should punish people.

I also want to say that philosophy itself can, again contrary to popular belief, become really complex at times. I attended a duo-lecture by philosopher Michael Epperson and mathematical physicist Elias Zafiris on Alfred North Whitehead's relational realism and the use of Grothendieck topology to construct a category-sheaf theoretic interpretation of quantum mechanics. I won't go into the actual details here - that would be a topic in itself - but I just want to use this example to illustrate that philosophy does deal with complex problems that do matter. While this lecture of course had a strong scientific basis, relational realism itself is not science, but philosophy. Which again illustrates my point that philosophy is still relevant and even necessary, even in a scientific world.

Perhaps I should add one more thing. As you may I have noticed, I talked mostly about modern philosophy. Some ancient and medieval philosophy is indeed, in my opinion at least, obsolete, since science has provided us with better answers. That being said, I still think it's worth reading about, since it can show the evolution from very speculative answers to a rigorous inquiries and the development of the scientific method.

Why read philosophy

  • Because it is still relevant, as I argued above
  • Because of its historical value; as intellectual history
  • Because of its intellectual stimulation; it challenges your very basic views of the world
  • Because it stimulates critical thinking
  • Because of its beauty

Recommended books

I have taken into account your concern on some philosophy not having enough foundation. I will therefore recommend books that, in my opinion, do justify the propositions and views mentioned in the books.

  • The Problems of Philosophy by Bertrand Russel
  • Religion and Science by Bertrand Russell
  • A contemporary introduction to Free Will by Robert Kane
  • Four views on Free Will by John Martin Fisher
  • The foundations of arithmetic by Gottlob Frege
  • Language, truth and logic by Alfred J. Ayer
  • Wittgenstein, Finitism, and the Foundations of Mathematics (Oxford Philosophical Monographs) by Mathieu Marion
  • Tractatus logico-philosophicus by Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • On certainty by Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • Philosophical investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein

I would also look into this list of unsolved problems in philosophy. It may be a great source of inspiration.

  • 1
    Science is based on philosophy. – Ben Jan 4 '16 at 5:49

My training is as a mathematician and a physicist. When I first began out I was also very definitely interested in philosophy/religion, but aside from encyclopedia entries on philosophy I had little material at hand.

In fact as I was raised as an orthodox muslim one of my interests in science was the attempt to find out what the true was. There was little theological debate (to be fair there was no-one around that I could debate with) and just a commitment to assertion to things that appeared at first obvious (well I was a child then) and then doubtful. Science offered an agreeable contrast: it started with things that one could see. It had a method.

As an A-level student, I came across maximal principles in physics, which appeared to me analogous to Liebniz 'best of all possible worlds'. When I came across feynmans (nobel in physics) approach to QFT, the sum over all possible paths a particle could take (in a popularisation), it seemed even truer. It made me want to take philosophy more seriously.

I read somewhere a zen koan 'what is the sound of one hand clapping', this doesn't appear to have any mathematical/physical questions, but it raised questions about the truth of statements, I couldn't dismiss it as being simply untruthful, for what is meant by the cretan liar paradox, that godel took seriously and which resulted in his incompleteness theorems and got everybody excited, although I was to learn (much) later that godel remained anxious that all that there was in his theorem was all that there was in that cretan statement. This also made me want to take philosophy seriously.

I also read, most probably in an Asimov book (a sci-fi author) that the ancient greeks had discovered the notion of the atom. This was incredibly startling and made me incredibly angry that there was no discussion of this within the college syllabus. Feynman himself said, that if he were to pass on one scientific statement to a future generation, that it would be that everything was made of atoms, which leads me to suspect that he hadn't known that this had been philosophised about over two and a half millenia ago. And of course this also wanted me to take philosophy seriously.

Much later when I got around to reading the relevant portion of lucretious 'de rereum natura', I was surprised by how much of nineteenth century physics they had accurately (qualitatively) predicted. It wasn't just the notion of atoms, but also that they cohere, that they collide, that they move in straight lines, that they move incredibly quickly microscopically, but slowly to the eye. Incredibly they also posited a 'swerve', a random motion, to account for free-will, which is startling when you're being brought up on a diet of deterministic Newtonian physics. Einstein said that god didn't play dice, due to the prestige of newtonian physics, but did he know that a few ancient Greeks said he most certainly did?

And of course the copernican revolution revolved around a heliocentric universe, but again the ancient greeks got there first. They didn't do it by the scientific method, but by observation & disputation. They were philosophers of nature. So what was the importance of the copernican revolution? But a new emphasis on questioning received wisdom, and that this also meant kicking back on the catholic chuch. Its importance is social.

Then there is the current obsession of grand unification in physics, is this the same as the parmenidian one, or brahman? Sure we will know more details, but skip the details, my life is short, there is so much else to do. May be those religious thinkers got there first too.

As I skipped through school, the carefully constructed syllabus led you to only one conclusion, that scientists were getting it right, and getting it righter. That the final goal was not much further away. That this material universe was all that there is, though this is never stated explicitly, but imbibed gradually.

Eventually I had a crisis of faith and jumped ship, to a foundation I thought much firmer, more solid, the logic and evidence unassailable. I was committed to the scientific view, but this lasted only a month or so, until I realised that the thisness of experience was simply not explainable by science. I'd been torn between between being an artist and a scientist. So the colours of things, the sensual world mattered, and when I reached the cusp of adulthood, it mattered much more, the vividness of crimson, the scent of a rose, the figure and face of a woman. None of this experience was amenable to science. Sure you could state that the wavelength of red is such and such a number, and relate it to maxwell laws. But this didn't explain what I felt and what I saw. Hence Heideggers 'thrown into the world' and the sensuality and thisness of things.

So I had another crisis of faith, this time in science, in its ability to find the final truth. Ones spirit is forever reaching out for that holy grail. And I mean it as a crisis of religous faith. One could trace back the notion of the universe being Number to the pythagorean cult, which I'm sure wouldn't hesitate to call it in those terms, and the primary difference between ancient greek science and science since Galileo is Galileos emphasis on measurement. On giving reality to Pythagorases dictum.

David Wallace, a novelist, said one doesn't get to not what worship, one will, one must. You have only the freedom to choose what we worship. As I've grown older, I've seen so much of what humans do as based on ritual. We've never given them up, just added to them, changed them. It seemed to me that the religous perspective mattered as much, if not more than the scientific one. The word Islam means submission (to the will/law) of Allah. Why the passion/love of finding out all those laws, the fine detail, when we know all things worship. The electron as much the human, or as Yeats put it: She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree; But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree.

Perhaps an anthropological viewpoint was of importance, in why ritual mattered. A lot of performance art was tied around ritual acts, but I didn't understand that. A lot of 'primitive' societies indulge in ancestor worship. But we being more sophisticated do not do that, or do we? Isn't their the ritual nod towards Newton, and Darwin, and Einstein in scholarly papers and conferences, the respectful listing of past masters in the bibliography? The ancestral worship continues in changed form. This is explicitly acknowledged in a project on the web that traces the genealogy of master-student (that is parent-child) relationships in doctoral dissertations. Oh and 'primitive' societies don the garb or use the shield or the spear of a respected enemy, is this the same relationship when we pick up a hermes bag, or don that saville row suit, or wave that tome by Yeats about? Culturally are 'primitive' societies really that far apart from the 'advanced' western ones. Gaugain famously sailed to the polynesian islands, and a picture he painted there bore the title: Where have we come from, What are we, Where are we going?

One is seduced by mathematics, by logic, that sensual music of signs, the movement of forms around. One is aware of just how many good mathematicians have stated that the beautiful is true, which indicates that the role of the sensual is not just through our outer senses but also our inner intellectual ones. That perhaps aesthetics is more important. We love the beautiful, and the good too. And after Baudelaire, the ugly, the sinful and dangerous (but then he's only expanding aesthetic categories).

It seems to me that there is a kind of hostility in science towards philosophy, religion and the arts too. Hawking said Philosophy is dead. Feynman pours scorn on an artist he befriends. Dawkins is an arch athiest. The scorn it appears is returned. But these are really tribal distinctions, and sibling rivalry. They are all in fact intertwined delicately and are a whole. At one point in ones life one strand appears more important than another, and at another time a different strand.

When the new testment starts with, in the beginning there was the word, (and the word was with God). Is that really so different from saying that the universe is information?

When the prophets & poets claim they are divinely inspired, is that so different from the illumination I get when I finally understood calculus. When the light finally breaks. Is it me, or have I been divinely illuminated? Islam talks about the Noor (Light) of Allah, its a certain position in islamic theology called, illuminatism.

When Empedocles held everything is love & strife. Is this not so? We call the law of 'attraction' of gravity. Attraction or 'love' of matter for matter. And strife, do not the atoms hit each other, and push each other around. And on the ethical/human life, is not love and strife all around us? Intellectual, political and personal loves and hatreds?

As to why so much philosophical/artistic/literary & religious nonsense is produced. Who knows. One cannot know the individual intellectual history of each and every scholar. One cannot know what is nonsense today, may make sense today. Physicists were grumbling about 'gruppenpest' and mathematicians about 'abstract nonsense', both of which make very good sense today. Kelvin invented a vortex model of atoms, which inspired Tait to treat knots mathematically, both of which dropped out of sight until the late 20C and is now of huge importance. And VI Arnold bemoans the neglect of classical physics for more abstract terain, Atiyah acknowledges many instances of the 'axiomatic system at its worst'. John Baez complains about centipede mathematics when one axiom is stripped off after another. Theres plenty of silliness in mathematical & physical circles. We're all at it. Eventually a few gems will be dug up amongst the tsunami of mud.

To become a trained mathematician/physicist takes a long time. To become good at anything takes labour. And that is as true of philosophy, theology and the arts too. To remain good takes even more labour, its an ardous process and prone to corruption. We are in the end only human.

Theres plenty of magical thinking and superstition in mathematics & physics, as there is in all parts of our lives.

Anyway this entry is way too long, but hopefully illuminating. I'm trying to show how for myself various ideas from all sorts of terrain formed my intellectual development. A sort of intellectuall bildungsroman.

Shantih. Shantih. Shantih.

  • Have you read anything by David Lewis? – Ryder Dec 2 '12 at 21:37
  • No. I like his idea of modal realism, surely influenced by Liebniz? Why do you suggest him? – Mozibur Ullah Dec 2 '12 at 22:32
  • I can't answer to his thoughts on Liebniz, but his paper on "Counterfactual Dependence and Time's Arrow" was my own introduction to metaphysics- which it looks to me like you have a keen interest in. – Ryder Dec 2 '12 at 22:50
  • It's a bit selfish, I suppose, but I'm rather curious to know what you would make of it, what with your background. – Ryder Dec 2 '12 at 22:52
  • @Dain: It looks heavy going :), I might give it a go sometime. Thanks for the reference. – Mozibur Ullah Dec 2 '12 at 23:23

There is the philosophy of mathematics

What is the relation between logic and mathematics? What is the role of hermeneutics in mathematics? What kinds of inquiry play a role in mathematics? What are the objectives of mathematical inquiry? What is mathematical beauty? What is the source and nature of mathematical truth? What is the relationship between the abstract world of mathematics and the material universe?

If you like formalized systems in an exact and rigorous form there is leibniz and spinoza


The primary purpose of an exercise in philosophy is to reevaluate or to validate one's assumptions about the world; to know where they stand strong and weak; to know what arguments they are susceptible to and to what extent they can be defended rationally.

First I argue: Reading classics should be avoided by the beginners who have no formal exposure to a subject.

The trouble of a modern reader delving into the classics of any subject is that the classics were written by people who didn't have access to modern knowledge of the subject and in case of Philosophy in particular - modern assumptions. In short, the classics are never up-to-date. Make an analogy with something from another field, say Calculus. Not many would recommend learning calculus from the original books by Newton, even though the Principia Mathematica are classics - it is not the easiest way to learn calculus today.

Secondly: By whom classics of Philosophy should be read?

Only those who have sufficient exposure to philosophy to be able to evaluate author's assumptions and to give merit to the author especially when the reader disagrees with the author must read the old masters' works. The reader must be able to identify both: his own ideas as well as the authors' ideas. He should be able to know and articulate in his own words the particular assumptions of the author he disagrees with.

Thirdly, Now where should one start studying?

From a current text written in language with which the reader is at home.

  • That leaves one with the question: How do I get enough exposure if not by reading the classics. Are you seriously saying that one should always start with overviews? – iphigenie Dec 19 '12 at 9:03
  • @iphigenie From a current and understandable text of course. I just edited the original answer to emphasize this point. – Madhur Dec 19 '12 at 9:42
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    I have to disagree completely with your premises and most of your analysis. I happend to attend a college that taught only the western classics, in roughly chronological order. I read the Principia; though, in all honestly, after having gone through Euclid, Apollonius, Ptolemy, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and some other, lesser-known thinkers, it was much easier. But that is the point. It is difficult to start with, say, Nietzsche without knowing what he is doing in the context of Western Phil.. From my experience, you couldn't be more wrong. – Jon Dec 20 '12 at 0:19
  • @Jon Interesting! Two questions: How much time, and how many books from Principia, did you take to actually 'get started' with understanding and using limits, Differential and Integral Calculus? And secondly, in your opinion, how much time and and how many books does an average maths student devote to get to the same level of proficiency in Calculus that you have now? – Madhur Dec 20 '12 at 17:53
  • Madhur, there is no calculus in Principia Mathematica. – ymar Dec 20 '12 at 20:20

ymar raises warranted objections regarding the ambiguity of this question.

Yet, if we take the topic “metaphilosophy” as a clue, then I would recommend starting with Peirce, who characterized metaphysics as both a “science of unclear thinking” but also as “- the ontology of the soul” (cf., Writings of Charles S. Peirce, Vol. 2, pg. 192).

Peirce’s philosophy can be boiled down to the syllogism (Aristotle) and analogy with the tripartite soul (Plato), but an advantage is that it offers a simple heuristic that serves as immediate prescription. That is, the concrete relatedness of the elements, firstness secondness thirdness; “the whole logical form of thought is so given in its elements”.

There is too much to be said here for why this demonstrates philosophical reasoning but if you’d like to explore your practical identity as a mathematician using the philosophical method, look toward the icon/index/symbol (semiosis) literature.

Or start from where you are using CP 5.189; C A B; first second third.




Philosophy is just wordplay, misunderstandings, abuse of logic and concepts.
But I read it, and you should if you live near any human being, for a lot of reasons. Philosophists can summarize the way of thinking of an entire nation, they are able to use big words, big concepts, and often think something you didn't thought of. What more can philosophy do for you? You can learn the history of thinking, you can understand (in part) how people work, how people reason. I'm talking about fallacies, but not only that. Just seeing the possibilities, the ways of thinking, helps in understanding ourselves and in being aware of our little shortcircuits we lock into when we 'think'.
Maybe you don't need to read many of them (that in the end depends if you like or not), but you need to read them well (and understand the differences: differences are information).

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  • 5
    "Philosophy is just wordplay, misunderstandings, abuse of logic and concepts." Is that so? It'd be nice to see this claim backed up by evidence, otherwise, your claim itself is just wordplay and misunderstanding, I would say. – Ben Jan 5 '13 at 0:18
  • Haha I got -3! Anyway... It would not be wordplay because those words have a defined meaning. Could it be misunderstanding? It depends. It's not so hard to show that, at least in part, philosophy is just arguing in case of lack of knowledge: think about philosophy when it touches life, gods, or other equally void of definition concepts (because life in biology has some definitions (tentatives), but they're not many the times philosophy starts from there). Keep in mind I'm talking about pre-1900 philosophy. Anyway, I didn't say I don't like it or that it's useless. But in those times... – lunadir Jan 5 '13 at 17:18

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