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Your very first serious philosophy reading

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What was the very first serious work you have read in philosophy? What were the circumstances of you reading it? How did you do?

I guess mine would be the Prince, but it wasn't a serious read. If you consider Sun Tzu's Art of War philosophy then that would be my first a few years ago.

Anyways, I am interested in doing some serious reading and I am looking for some direction. :)

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Posted

What, no elaboration? Go on, give us a critique at least. Tell us how far you (dis)agreed, and why. How did it make you feel? Have you read it more than once, and if so, how did you find reading it each time?

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Well, its been a year since I've read the Prince and the Art of War. So I'd have to read it again before I make an in depth critique. That's a good idea though! I should write how I feel, what I think..

Though, I know this may be going a bit farther then I should.. but how do you go beyond that? Like farther than just writing your feelings to actually making an argument from the text?

How was your first experience?

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Start with your feelings, then move on to what you inferred from the text, ie arguments you drew from it. Good reading isn't about seeing the words, it isn't about knowing the words, and it isn't about understanding the words. Good reading is about what you feel after you've closed the book and stopped contemplating the message inside.

I remember reading Animal Farm in one night, and each page showed me the plight of humanised animals. Each word showed me the elegance of the work, the archetype of creative work as indistinguishable from art. Each exchange between the characters showed me motives and implications analogous of the human situation.

When I closed the book and thought about it; I drew parallels between the animals and Communists, between the liberation of Animal Farm and the birth of Marxism; I saw in the corruption of the pigs the perversion of Marxism and I saw the betrayal of a Manifesto as the pigs and the humans dined together, and the animals looking through the window could not tell which were which.

After this, I am drawn to consider the human situation. Is Animal Farm truly about the perversion of Marxism, about the betrayal of Communism by leaders seeking the best of both the Capitalist and the Communist worlds? Or is the message, even if unintentionally, more universal? Through its strict adherence to the isolation of Animal Farm - both politically, within the story, and creatively, as there are no other scenes - the reader is almost duped into approaching the story as though Animal Farm were the only place of existence. Yet it can't be the only place, because it has dealings with the outside world. So, perhaps, our own world is like this. Surely we are all animals in our own political farms? And how many places are there with just one farm, one method of farming? Animal Farm is a far away land that is of no concern to us.

Perhaps the problem with politics is that, until the pigs are snorting around our dining tables, it's not our farm. That is a feeling I can trace back to the book, and it is a feeling, a sentiment, which I hold even when I don't try to trace it back, even when I don't have the book in mind.

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how do you go beyond that? Like farther than just writing your feelings to actually making an argument from the text?

OK. You want homework, I'll give you homework. Seeing as you're aware of Machiavelli, we'll whip Machiavelli out. This essay will be your GL01.

...[is'] it be better to be loved than feared, or ther reverse? The answer is that one would like to be both, but because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is far better to be feared than loved if you cannot be both. One can make this generalisation about men: they are ungrateful, fickle, liars, and deceivers, they shun danger and are greedy for profit; while you treat them well, they are yours. They will shed their blood for you, risk their property, their lives, their sons, so long...as danger is remote; but when you are in danger they turn away. Any prince who has come to depend entirely on promises and has taken no other precautions ensures his own ruin; friendship which is bought with money and not with greatness and nobility of mind is paid for, but it does not last and it yields nothing. Men worry less about doing an injury to one who makes himself loved than to one who makes himself feared. For love is secured by a bond of gratitude which men, wretched creatures that they are, break when it is to their advantage to do so; but fear is strengthened by a dread of punishment which is always effective. The prince must none the less make himself feared in such a way that, if he is not loved, at least he escapes being hated.

NB: remember, Machiavelli is addressing a prince, let's say, the new commander who can consolidate his rule.

In no more than 300 words:

Give the extract a title and sumarize the basic ideas the author is trying to defend. Identify the fundamental problem or problems Machiavelli is addressing and why he assumes that the prince (ruler, governer, commander) needs to be aware of this or these problems. If one were to say, "Machiavelli was the first writer to analyse politics in terms of power and maintaining that power" what implications or conclusions would one draw from the given extract?

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For me, my first philosophical reading was Plato's Republic. I guess it's an unusual starting place, but what was influential wasn't the conclusions or propositions contained in that work, but the method of inquiry of Socrates. I reread the first book of the Republic several times because what was interesting was the way Socrates argued. To this day, outside of the philosophical tradition, I rarely ever read any sort of discussion where people consider propositions based on their own merits. On the contrary, the rule is that people disagree with whatever ideas they don't like, and agree with whatever ideas that they do like, and people generally disagree because they have contrary preferences or desires. I guess for a time, after reading most of the Republic (although I've never read it in it's entirely), I ran about on IRC channels and web forums criticizing beloved concepts like democracy and equality (partly because of Plato) in part, just to see how other people would react: that is, if they disagreed with me because, fundamentally, they liked the ideas of democracy and equality or were at least taught to like it, or if they have considered the issue outside of their own desires at the time and allowed the intellect, alone, to evaluate the different ideas. I'm not saying that I had any better ideas than anyone else, but I'll say now that I was disappointed over and over again.

I guess if how you feel about the arguments presented in your book is the most immediate evaluation you have of the book, that would be an appropriate place to start; but I hope that that won't be the way you'll always evaluate things. Being for or against a particular claim is an extraordinarily superfiscial way of going about it. What makes great philosophers great is exactly to what degree they are able to suspend judgement about a subject matter, they have been some of the most disciplined minds in history. Many of them have taken a particular delight in taking contradictory stances when speaking to different audiences or even, in the case of Plato, always leaving a great deal of doubt among intellectuals about whether his own opinion has even been touched on, leaving smaller minds to believe they have discovered "Platonism", if there ever were such a thing.

It seems to me that discipline of the mind leads to what we might call the true intellectual: a person who is genuinely able to look at and evaluate separate points of view and these arguments apply even to people with much different desires and prejudices. The pseudointellectual is the fruit of lack of discipline: it corresponds with the inability of an intellectual to do any more than rationalize his or her own thoughts and opinions. One begins with: I like this belief; and then, on discovering that other people don't like that belief, proceeds onto: but you should like my belief because you also like this other belief, and I can show how one belief must lead to the other. And if you look closely into the logic of intellectuals, it is a subtle distinction that becomes obvious as to which category he or she belongs. I should also add that few people are completely in one category or the other, but show indications of both.

qualia, good choice :)

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My very first philosophical reading was Henry David Thoreau's Walden. The solitude that Thoreau spoke of resonated in my soul at the time. One idea that stood out to me because I can not remember the exact quote was: Just because a person does not keep pace with his contemporaries does not mean he or she is somehow deficient. It could just mean they are "marching to the beat of a different drummer". Since reading that line I have been slow to judge people especially intellectually.

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Posted

Nice bump?

Is Karamazov considered philosophical? I read that when I was in the 9th grade I think.

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Nice bump?

Is Karamazov considered philosophical? I read that when I was in the 9th grade I think.

But did you read it seriously? taking notes, analysing it, etc.? I have not done that yet. I prefer to do a normal or light reading and then study the texts. I am still on the first stage: light reading, probably because of sloppyness:mrgreen:

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Posted (edited)

Ecce Hommo by Nietzsche, but I'm not very sure if you would consider this a serious reading... If not, then, Twilight of the Idols   ^_^

I read Ecce Hommo both because I liked philosophy a lot(which is obvious now), specially Nietzsche, and because my teacher was giving an extra point for reading it; finally I didn't need it, but it was worth it. Then, as I liked Nietzsche, I thought about reading The Antichrist, but my teacher gave me Twilight of the Idols before leaving school so I read it and found it to be amazing, btw. 

Edited by Sugoi

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I can't remember what my first serious philosophical reading was. I do know that one of the first serious philosophical readings that made a significant impact on me was Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations.

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Posted

Tao Te Ching, when I was 14, many, many, many moons ago. It changed my life (as most excellent reads do).

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Posted

"The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint Exupéry

:)

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Posted

My first was Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica. Interesting stuff. Was a bit long.

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