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How's it going guys, I hope you're all having a great time!

Greetings, to all the great minds here!

I would really appreciate your help with my entrance to the infinite world of philosophy.

First, I will give you the background. And second, I will ask you my questions at the end of the post.

FIRST PART: Background

My Goal: I'm really eager to learn about what some of the greatest minds of the past and today have thought about the meaning of life, to move further in my journey of self-realization with meaning and purpose. In other words, I want to know what others have thought about the meaning of life so that I can develop and improve my philosophy on it. Basically, I'm a man searching for meaning.

Why? I have deeply motivational reasons, which makes me a passionate student (who self-studies).

With some research and the help of ChatGPT, I figured that the main branch of philosophy that deals with meaning is Existentialism. Then I kept researching the syllabi of various universities, such as Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, METU, etc., to learn how a structured philosophy education is provided. I read entries on Reddit and Quora about people's ideas and experiences on how to start learning philosophy.

With all the information I gathered, I created a learning plan (I know I'm a little overboard with the planning, but please don't give it too much attention, lol):

My Learning Plan

The first page of my plan, titled "Plan", is my guide on how I'm going to go about learning mainly Existentialism. Numbers are indicating the priority (I am going to go step by step, starting from the number 1: "Read Introductory books"). However, I do not have to read or do every item precisely. For example, I don't have to read every introductory book on the first step, to go further to step two. Yet I'll try to digest as much material as possible.

The second page of the plan, titled "HELPFUL GUIDES", is my gatherings on how to learn Philosophy in general (not just Existentialism). The reason I added this part to my study plan, is because I thought learning about Philosophy in general would also help my main study on Existentialism. I'm planning to mostly use the second part of the Helpful Guides, named "2. My favorite learning plans" (Especially Hubert Tremblay's plan), while learning general Philosophy.

SECOND PART: Questions

  1. Do you think my goal (I stated above, titled "My Goal") is well-aligned with the area I'm going to study, which is mainly existentialism and then general philosophy? Or are there better alternatives (other than religion, because I'm planning to read about it in the future)?

  2. Do you have any recommendations, ideas, or resources that can benefit my journey? Such as any book or website that's helped you a lot?

  3. Can you criticize my study plan? Do not hesitate to say that my plan is trash (because I know it is, that's the best I can do as an absolute beginner), as long as you provide better ideas from your past experiences and gained knowledge.

Again, I know I'm a little overboard with the planning, but please don't give it too much attention, lol.

All I need is constructive criticism, beneficial ideas, and recommendations from the people who started walking this path before me.

Your help will be highly appreciated.

Thanks for your help in advance. I wish that you become 10x more smart and charismatic for every bit of help you provide me, haha :)

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    You won't find the meaning of life in a book or college course. The meaning of life stems from the purposes you have in life. However, it's not so much the relevance of any particular answer, but asking the question. There isn't a single answer, unless it's 42. The meaning of life is what's out there, right in front of you, and if there is nothing in front of you to see, then life has no meaning. Jun 10, 2023 at 19:23
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    I've upvoted the post for showing that you've put a good deal of thought into it, but I've also voted to close per "needs more focus" because I don't know that the question (or questions) as presented is (are) answerable per SE parameters. I would generally recommend that you read through the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as well as the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy; there's also philpapers to consider, you could browse existentialism posts here on this SE, etc. But so I'm not sure why reading specific existentialists (Sartre, Camus, whoever) is not already the plan of action? Jun 11, 2023 at 3:47
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    olbigatory posts from two authoritative sites on phil: iep.utm.edu/mean-ana, plato.stanford.edu/entries/life-meaning. There are more schools of thought that study this then just the existentialists (as a heads up)
    – emesupap
    Jun 11, 2023 at 5:44
  • @KristianBerry , thank you for your answer and recommendations. To clarify your question, I'm already planning to read those key existentialists, as I stated above, at the second step of my plan. But thank you for ensuring that they are included on my reading list. Jun 11, 2023 at 10:33
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    Thank you so much for the recommendation @Papuseme . I'll check it out. Thank you for stating that there are more areas of philosophy that studies meaning. I recently learned that ethics also deals with meaning. I guess I should read more broadly over time. Jun 11, 2023 at 15:20

2 Answers 2

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Huzzah for autodidacts, I say. I salute you for taking the challenge of learning seriously and aiming to be thorough.

"I figured that the main branch of philosophy that deals with meaning is Existentialism"

What you mean is you found Existentialism has almost a sole focus, on grappling with finding a meaningful and authentic way to live, in the face of a largely nauseating world.

I would heartily recommend Sartre's Existentialism Is A Humanism to literally anyone, philosophy student or not. However Nausea and Being And Nothingness, not easy reads. I think though you want thinkers on existential questions, rather than a main focus on Existentialism.

I got to study philosophy in higher education at college, and I recommend looking for a general grounding at that level before diving deeper, eg the AQA syllbus. Here's what I think I remember about the six modules on my course, for context:

  • Moral philosophy (Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics, Utilitarians, Kant, types of ethical systems, justice inc Rawl's theory)
  • Philosophy of religion (proofs of God, Hume's On Miracles, Nietzsche's Beyond Good & Evil)
  • Epistemology (Hume's Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Private Language Argument)
  • Philosophy of Mind (lots of thought experiments, like Teletransportation Paradoxes, Chinese Room, Brain in a Vat, Experience Machine)
  • Philosophy of Politics (Plato's Republic, Hobbes, Rousseau, Locke, Marx)
  • Applied ethics (trolley problems, euthenasia questions, animal rights, genetic engineering, lots of specific usually modern quandaries, & we used debate style where we had to argue against each other, regardless of our views).

You might find this answer on the modern challenges of finding a meaningful life interesting: What are some philosophical works that explore constructing meaning in life from an agnostic or atheist view?

This answer concerns what meaning is: According to the major theories of concepts, where do meanings come from? Intersubjectivity can I think really help bridge the concerns of the Continental tradition, through Husserl, with the Analytic tradition through Wittgenstein and the Private Language Argument.

I am a big fan of carefully considering the meaning of wisdom, so that we can reclaim it for a modern context, discussed here: Wisdom and John Vervaeke's awakening from the meaning crises? I heartily recommend Vervaeke's superb lecture series Awakening From The Crisis, which is a short history of philosophy specifically focusing on how thinkers approached the challenges of finding a meaningful life, so very relevant to your concerns. It's also a great way to see how movements have reacted to past paradigms. The focus on cultivating wisdom, situates us towards philosophy as a personal practice, as a toolbox, rather than as is often implied a once-and-for-all sorting out of exactly how everything is.

I put together some resources in answers about some topics:

Introductory lectures to Wittgenstein's ideas

History before philosophy

Does philosophy have a dark side?

What are some good resources for learning Indian philosophy?

How is Society shaped?

Philosophers on alternatives to capitalism and communism

Book or source recommendations on philosophy and the web

Most important modern/contemporary essays on free will

Why is post-modernism so often equated to Relativism, are there any responses in postmodern philosophy that challenges this?

Is the tyrannicide perpetrated by William Tell morally legitimate?

Read the primary texts, read the notable or celebrated commenters and interpreters. Reading widely and deeply, is the way.

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    Oh yeah, maybe this belongs too: 'Relation of dialectics, as of Hegel and Marx, toward Enlightenment liberalism' philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/91665/… And, game-theory is an invaluable adjunct to moral reasoning, as per the Tyrannicide link at the bottom
    – CriglCragl
    Jun 11, 2023 at 11:16
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    I genuinely thank you for your valuable and elaborate answer. I can't imagine how much time it took you to write a detailed response like this! I appreciate your time and effort. You recommended books, shared your own experience, provided links to helpful content. I will definitely check out all the resources you listed. You're great! Thanks a lot. Jun 11, 2023 at 11:16
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    @HistoryOfTea: It occurs to me from your username, do you know about Teaism & philosophy? Heidegger's core concept of dasein was majorly influenced by Okakura's The Book of Tea: philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/87059/… Pivotal Japanese tea ceremonialist en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sen_no_Riky%C5%AB is a really fascinating character, with a major impact on aesthetic philosophy like refining the idea of wabi sabi, in relation to the Buddhist Three Marks of Existence. He is a hero for me.
    – CriglCragl
    Jun 11, 2023 at 11:24
  • It was a random name I came up with while I'm signing up (I was drinking tea :) . But I like Japan, and Japanese culture. I also like tea. So I will check out the links. Thanks for the recommendation! Jun 11, 2023 at 14:08
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A newbie’s highly thought-upon plan…

  1. I recommend The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant. The book is nearly 100 years old, but as a general survey of this area it holds up very well.

  2. I recommend reading several general surveys before diving in to Existentialism. I would think that without such an introduction, too many ideas would come flying at you without your knowing what they mean.

Personal note 1: The first book on philosophy that I ever read was something by Ayn Rand. In it, she used the word epistemology. I didn’t know what epistemology meant, but I did not look for a definition, either, because I thought that she had made it up.

Personal note 2: I found Existentialism very depressing. I read a bit of Existentialism some years ago, put it down, haven’t gone back, and have never regretted it.

  1. Congratulations on making a plan. A lot of work has clearly gone into it. And welcome to the club!
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  • Thank you a lot for the answer! I love your personal notes, especially the second one haha. I will look up the survey books you recommended, and make sure that I'll have a good introduction to the subject. Also, I appreciate the warm welcome. I'm excited to be a part of the club. I hope I can contribute to it as much as possible :) Jun 11, 2023 at 15:13
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    As an exception to "depressing" existentialists, I recently heard a podcast with a Kierkegaard scholar that was -- uplifting and energizing. I made it the topic of one of my philosphy cafes; meetup.com/Philosophy-Cafe-Central-Maryland/events/… The text includes links to the podcast, and the prof who was interviewed.
    – Dcleve
    Jun 12, 2023 at 12:49

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