I'm a software engineer, have a passion for philosophy. But I have no background in human science, but I guess I'm good at logic. Can you provide a profound study path to philosophy? What are the best authentic, accurate and comprehensive resources?

I need resources that are written in a not convoluted but interesting style to keep me moving.

  • @Greek-Area51Proposal Thanks, the question is related but not identical, I'm seeking for a study path, not just an introduction. Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 2:57
  • @PHPst Ah sorry. I retracted it.
    – user8572
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 3:10
  • @PHPst Off the top of my head, I'd suggest beginning with Ayn Rand since (a) it'll either piss you off enough to start encountering texts actively or confirm that coding has given you some libertarian biases that further study will help you erode a bit (either is good) and (b) it's clear enough English but philosophically all uphill from there.
    – lly
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 9:23
  • On reflection though, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance or almost anything by Hermann Hesse has beautiful prose and is an excellent way to dip your toe into the waters of Continental philosophy before trying to deal with what the analytics have done to the place.
    – lly
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 9:26
  • This inexpensive book can serve as a quick history/introduction to the subject. Julian Marias, History of Philosophy amazon.com/History-Philosophy-Historia-Filosofia-Julian/dp/… And Marc H. has already mentioned Anthony Kenny as another author to check. Good luck!
    – Gordon
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 14:08

11 Answers 11


Depends on your interests, on what you are already familiar with, and what style you like to read.

I would say that unless you have a specific interest or know basics then starting with a general introduction is just fine. There are multiple. Some examples are:

  • Blackburn's Think
  • Russell's The Problems of Philosophy
  • Nagel's What does it all mean?

The latter two (Russell & Nagel) only give an overview of what the authors are interested in. However, Blackburn tries a bit more to look at many fields. Williamson fairly recently also tried his hand at an introduction, in dialogue form, with Tetralogue.

You could also start with an extensive history of philosophy. If so, then do not take Russell's because it has bad interpretations of philosophers he doesn't like. Instead, take something like Kenny's A New History of Western Philosophy (beware: this one is like 1000 pages. But you could skim it and get the primary text when something is interesting).

Starting with primary texts can also be fine. Some require massive background. But other texts can be read without any background. Some examples that pretty much all philosophy students read are the start of Descartes' Meditations and Gettier's short paper. You could also start with one of the easier dialogues of Plato (Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo). Something not that useful but short and nice to read would be Nagel's The Absurd.

As for resources on the internet, do not use wikipedia. Some articles are fine, but for philosophy in general it's sketchy. There are two encyclopaediae you can use instead: IEP and SEP. The latter is something that philosophers quote. It can get quite dense and hard to read at times (compared to, say, an introduction). The former is usually easier to read but not as good.

  • Wikipedia has solid articles overall, but I agree that its philosophy articles are subpar.
    – Charles
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 15:08
  • 2
    With regard to Wikipedia - is it bad enough that if I'm interested in a philosophical idea, I should avoid it completely? Or are the general explanations okay, it's the details/specifics that I should be wary of?
    – BruceWayne
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 17:06
  • 1
    @BruceWayne depends on the idea, but quite often yes -- avoiding it will save you time and grief. On several of the topics I've looked it, it can't even manage to write multiple paragraphs or sections that don't contradict each other or bungle diverging interpretations into one.
    – virmaior
    Commented Jun 6, 2018 at 1:40

Will Durant's "The Story of Philosophy" paves a great historical path through philosophy and does a very nice job of entertaining various concepts and then criticizing those same concepts in the later part of each chapter.

One thing I loved about the book is that once I had a nice understanding of the course of philosophical history, I could then "zoom in" further towards each person of interest. The book is nearly a century old now, but very engaging, witty, and—in the footnotes—it even recommends further reading for each philosopher that allow you to get to know their ideas without diving head first into an abyss of, say, Kant's work.

Durant has quite a large vocabulary, so I would read carefully and take the time to look up terms and concepts you don't understand, assuming he hasn't put the term in his included glossary (another plus.)

I am also a software engineer and I consider philosophy very similar to writing code in that it helps you think about thinking in a constructive way. Good luck!


Philosophize This! podcast is a great introduction to the subject. Plus, you can listen to it while you are driving, working out, or doing any other monotonous task. Find a friend to listen to it with you and you could discuss the episodes! He has over 100 half n hour episodes, geared toward a beginner(without all the jargon and nuance) but definitively leaves a lot to ponder.

  • 1
    I'd add "The History Of Philosophy (Without Any Gaps)" podcast as well to this if one wants to go chronologically. The guy that runs it also has other podcasts that, so far, have focused on Indian philosophy and Africana philosophy, and he plans to continue going through other traditions as well.
    – LSM07
    Commented Jun 6, 2018 at 3:13

Perhaps start with context you can relate to? If you've not read Cosmos by Carl Sagan I'd read that... then Plato's Allegory of the Cave.

That should give you a really direct contextual point of origin vis à vis what we can know and what we think we can know and the scope for grey area those notions entail.

From there I'd just move chronologically through the movements that conceptually take your fancy and be sure to read them in the context of their time. Take a look at the social, spiritual, and political climate in which many of the great works were published and be critical.

Treating any one concept, theory, or philosopher as the 'single source of truth' is the anathema of philosophical query. Build context and from there ask yourself questions... if someone else has an answer already it doesn't make yours wrong.

  • Do you have any references that provide an approach to start reading philosophy? This would allow the reader additional information and strengthen the answer. Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 2:33

As a fellow software engineer with a passion for philosophy, my favourites personally are:

  • Early Plato (anything with Socrates). My personal favourite is the Apology, but if you're going to read Apology you should probably start with Euthyphro, as Euthyphro is the first of a 4-part series including Apology (I believe Apology was the 3rd installment, the other 2 being Crito (2nd) and Phaedo (4th)). I would suggest reading a couple other Socratic Dialogues before Euthyphro, as there is some backstory you need to know that you can get from reading some of the other dialogues first.

  • Allegory of the Cave (also Plato, but it's mid-Plato, technically part of the Republic, although most of the Republic is incredibly hard to digest and I wouldn't recommend any of it except for the Allegory)

  • St. Augustine's Confessions. I haven't read the whole Confessions, but the bits I did read were very entertaining and thought-provoking.

  • Do you have a reference to a general site or book one could go to that would provide someone with an introduction to philosophy more generally than Plato and Augustine? The OP is also looking for a way to "keep me moving". The OP may get stuck with these specific references. Welcome to this SE! Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 17:16
  • Personally I just studied Philosophy by taking courses at University. These were the pieces we read in class that I found interesting and engaging (we also read some Aristotle that I found way too dense, and I think a couple others as well, but I always liked these the best).
    – Ertai87
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 17:19
  • As for an "introduction to Philosophy", there really is no greater introduction than the Allegory.
    – Ertai87
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 17:19

How about Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder. In it, you follow the main character Sophie, an adolescent who discovers philosophy through (paper) mails from a mysterious stranger.

It is readable as an adult (i.e., not adolescency-cringey) and gives a good feeling for what the different ages were thinking. Also, entertaining enough to read.

Afterwards, you can still look at the more dry, scientific, analytical books, or hone in to a specific philosopher.

One hint from myself, as a fellow IT guy and dabbler in philosophy: a lot of it is primarily opinion-based (hinted at by the fact that for many well-known philosophers, there are anti-philosophers who said the opposite, or sometimes where bitter foes), and there are very little hard facts. Philosophies that seem sensible/logical to one person may seem utterly ridiculous to others. Almost all of the philosophical streams seem interesting to me, but one can take none as gospel or at face value. Having a broad overview first is hence invaluable, before entering the details.

  • I read this book in highschool. Its a good primer on general philosophy
    – amflare
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 20:10
  • It does have a few problems as far as its reading of philosophers goes (the section on Aristotle uses the wrong word to speak about substances if I'm remembering correctly) but that being said, it's interesting.
    – virmaior
    Commented Jun 6, 2018 at 1:41

The best way to start learning philosophy is to actively participate in this Philosophy Stack Exchange (PSE)

The following list contains some ways to actively participate at PSE:

  • Look at the popular tags. Which tags are you most interested in from this list? Hover over that tag and toggle it as “favorite”.
  • Click on a tag to get a list of questions. Read some of the questions and answers that catch your interest. Your goal should be to find interesting references that you can go to for more information and to get a feel for the writing style of people who engage in philosophy. Some of these people are only amateurs. It doesn't matter. Your critical reading of what anyone here writes is a way to practice doing philosophy.
  • Read or skim references found in the questions or answers with the intent of formulating a question and even making a better answer than those already provided.
  • Vote on questions and answers. Mark as favorite those questions you want to come back to.
  • Keep moving by playing the game these stack exchanges offer through accumulating reputation and privileges.
  • Take advantage of the privileges you are granted. For example, once you reach the privilege level to see the review queues icon at the top banner click on it to see if there is anything available for you to review.
  • Keep questions specific and answers relevant to the question with pertinent and interesting references.
  • Check Philosophy Meta for discussions about how the site works.
  • Check Help Center to get quick answers to questions you might have about how the site works.

A complementary way to using PSE is to go to your library or bookstore and browse. Pick up a title that appeals to you. Read some of it. Come up with a question. See if the question has been asked on PSE. If not formulate a specific question that can give you a quick answer to your question and continue reading.


As others have said, it depends what you're interested in, and bear in mind that, unlike science, most major works of philosophy don't build on what has gone before but instead aim to replace it all with a grand new theory of everything.

This means there's a lot of choice of "study path", and most primary sources at least pretend they're starting from scratch so you can do worse than just pick one up and see what you make of it.

Besides the other good suggestions here I would give the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by Wittgenstein a go as I think it's an extremely precise and concise statement of a lot of central ideas you will find much more obscurely and verbosely expressed elsewhere.

  • Do you have any references that someone might use to go for more information about how to start reading philosophy? This would make your answer more than a personal opinion and give the reader some place to go for further information. Welcome to this SE. Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 12:31
  • Philosophy is really just personal opinions is the thing, and I was trying to make the point that you can basically start where you like. I did give a reference which was to the Tractatus. I do think that's a great place to start. Of course you have to read the Philosophical Investigations later as well... Maybe that's the best place to end!
    – user68014
    Commented Jun 6, 2018 at 15:33

Everyone has their own list of foundational works of philosophy, because philosophy is an ongoing debate, and philosophers, almost by definition, don't agree with each other. Therefore there's no neutral nor uncontroversial syllabus. With that said, this is what I would argue for, and why:

  • Plato - The Republic and The Symposium. It has been said that all Western philosophy is a history of different disagreements with Plato. Even if you can't stand Plato, his influence and ubiquity is undeniable. These are two of his most comprehensive, most readable, most entertaining, most relevant, and most famous works.

  • Descartes - Meditations. Like Plato, Descartes influenced everyone after him --all Western philosophy post-Descartes responds to him in some way. Also, the Meditations are some of the most readable and accessible of all philosophical works.

  • Lao Tzu - Tao Te Ching. As seminal in the East, as Plato was in the West, this is another relatively brief and readable work that offers an entry into an entire world of philosophical inquiry.

  • Ecclesiastes - This proto-existentialist work hidden in the center of the Bible is another quick and entertaining read that nevertheless offers a lifetime's worth of concepts to wrestle with.

I've focused on things that are both seminal AND readable. You could cover all of these within a month AND have a basic understanding of them, even without deeper study. At that point, you would have an entry point into designing your own curriculum, and engaging with nearly any philosopher, of any culture, from any era.


First you should know what the purpose of studying philosophy is:

Cicero [Roman politician] says "That to study philosophy is nothing but to prepare one's self to die". (Michel de Montaigne, Essays)

Then you should know what philosophical problem comes first in priority:

There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest —whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories—comes afterwards. (Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus)

Then you need to prove your existence to yourself:

I think, therefore I am. (Descrates, Discourse on the Method)

But since:

Existence precedes essence (Sartre, "Existentialism is a Humanism")

This means that nothing is for sure other than your existence.

This leaves you with Existentialism (the philosophy concerned with human existence) as the only authentic philosophy.

But of course if you want to study philosophy for academic, entertaining, or showing-off reasons, you are free to study any unauthentic philosophy.

  • 7
    This answer is too biased...
    – Kyoma
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 3:08
  • Sorry i can't stand the contradiction: The trivial and the fundamental are both called philosophy Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 3:26
  • I think this is a good answer. I came to philosophy after making an earthly question, which is economics, also which impacts my living. There I met Marx.
    – user13955
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 4:22
  • 1
    I also think this is a good answer. Its hoary misuse of wooly terms and appeals to authority point towards most of the problems of the philosophers mentioned and make Wittgenstein & Co. look better by contrast. Most 'philosophical problems' have been problems with language; the rest are usually resolved by science; the tiny core of logic and morality left are the weighty problems of philosophy and the human condition.
    – lly
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 9:33

I would suggest to start watching TED.com and all the presentations there. There are plenty of very interesting topics from tech topics to life that could lighten your spirit and maybe you will got the spark.

  • 4
    There are thousands now. This isn't terribly helpful without a list of several highlights dealing particularly with philosophy or philosophical problems.
    – lly
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 9:45
  • 1
    I agree with @lly about TED talks. There are too many of them. Perhaps you have a reference offering a reading list for those starting out in philosophy? That would help the OP and other readers who want to know how to start. Also the OP wants to know the "best" way to start. Welcome to the SE. Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 12:54

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