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On reading philosophy

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Old Main, USU


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• Is the world eternal? YES
• Do humans have contra-causal free will (i.e., can humans do otherwise)? NO
• Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? YES
• Do humans have souls? YES
• Are there natural rights? YES
• Is it morally permissible to eat meat? NO
• Is the unexamined life worth living? NO
• Is truth subjectivity? YES
• Is virtue necessary for happiness? YES
• Can a computer have a mind? YES
• Can humans know reality as it is in itself? YES
• Is hell other people? YES
• Can art be created accidentally? NO
• Can we change the past? NO
• Are numbers real? NO
• Is it always better to know the truth? YES

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There is an interesting discussion starting here about the difficulty of reading philosophy — an effort to compare notes about how each of us approaches the sometimes daunting task.


1 Comment

  1. Mike says:

    I wrote a paper a while back that was based on Charlie’s teaching style (I think). I called it “faith seeking understanding” and the point was that faith is a useful device to use in order to understand. What I mean by faith in that sense is a very particular belief… that the person you’re reading is 100% correct by however you define correct. Employing that belief while reading helps you fill in the gaps of their thoughts with whatever would be most reasonable to you. It’s really just an attempt to embody a point of view and avoid nitpicking an author to death. <– charitable reading

    In typical style though I chose to use the phrase “faith seeking understanding” for the title to also poke a bit of fun at the christian philosophers’ motto and turn it to good use. <– uncharitable writing

    Another thing that I do now that I should have been doing (as a rule) much sooner is to start with a philosopher’s work instead of starting with a secondary resource. This is what Bryan Magee recommends. Then if you can’t get much out of it you go to a secondary source with the idea of getting back to the main text as soon as possible. There’s too much floating out there based on secondary interpretations, we carry enough with us into a text the way it is. Magee also devotes whole weekends to authors, things like that have value as well.


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