Is everyone able to learn philosophy? If not, what kind of person is able to learn philosophy?

Does learning philosophy require a certain intelligence or talent? If I start at the age of 18, is it too late?

I am a student of vocational high school, majoring in informatics engineering. I rarely read books other than textbooks, and just recently read a non-textbook book titled Sophie's World. That is what led me to this question.


First, age 18 certainly is not too late to start philosophy. Most people do not start studying philosophy until college or later, and no less an authority than the ancient Greek philosopher Plato recommended that philosophy be reserved for adults (to avoid confusing children morally).

In my opinion, anyone can learn philosophy, but in my experience, most people do not enjoy it. You need a questioning mind, and a certain openness to strange and unfamiliar ideas. Many very smart people are not comfortable with this.

The original definition of the word "philosophy" is "love of wisdom," and I would argue that loving philosophy (not having a certain IQ or talent) is the main prerequisite for studying it successfully. Having an good grasp of logic definitely helps a lot, but that is a learnable skill.


It might be argued that everyone should be forced to study philosophy to a certain level but as to whether everyone can learn it this is another question. It is clear that the vast majority of professional are unable to do so.

What kind of person can learn it? I'd say one who is curious, at least averagely intelligent, scrupulously honest, loves reading and thinking, is a little arrogant, is an iconoclast, has the courage to follow the logic wherever it leads, is good at self-study, is too lazy to study theories that do not work and who is reluctant to go anywhere near a university philosophy course.

Age eighteen is not too late, nor is age seventy-eight. Philosophy is like a musical instrument, it's never too late to derive some benefit from studying it. if you mean study to become a professor then eighteen is probably just in time, but if you mean study so that you come to some understanding then the pressure is off and you can start anytime. The former task is enormous, the latter more manageable. For me it was age fifty, so plenty of time yet.


I suspect most people younger than eighteen would have a really hard time understanding philosophy. First, there are a number of prerequisites. You might have a hard time understanding philosophy if you haven't taken any science classes (including the social sciences), for example.

Second, I think life experience is VERY important.

I was forty years old before I opened my eyes to politics. I quickly became a student of political science and a political activist. But it was another two decades before I began studying philosophy.

Of course, I'm just an anecdotal example, but, based on my observations, I have a hard time understanding how anyone who hasn't graduated from school and explored "the real world" could understand politics. They might understand certain facets of politics, but I don't think many people are going to grasp the big picture without that vital experience as a worker, teacher or victim of the state.

Ditto for philosophy. On the other hand, if you have an interest in philosophy even before jumping into the real world, fantastic. You'll have a head start over many people.

Just remember to keep an open mind, because it's a roller coaster ride. I'm still revising my views on various issues.

Another interesting thought...

I still haven't read a great number of philosophical works, so I'm not sure how accurate this is, but it seems like most philosophical works are epic, anal retentive exercises in arrogance. One could easily get the impression that the authors DON'T WANT people to understand what they're talking about.

It would be SO helpful if the authors would include more subheadings, bulleted lists, tables and simple pictures that illustrate the main text. A nice summary at the end would be nice, too.

The same is true of political texts.

Keep in mind that we're living in an age of rampant propaganda, and many philosophical/political texts are likely confusing by design. In summary, it isn't enough to understand the book you're reading; you should do some research on the author and try to figure out if his or her book is even worth reading.

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