Thoughts on Reading Philosophy

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By Goran

Due to the special nature of philosophical argument, writing philosophy (well) requires, at the very least, specialized attention to structure and form. For the same reason, reading philosophy (well) requires a special sort of attention from the reader.

When reading philosophy we owe it to the author to approach her work with attention that it deserves. This includes, at the very least, listening carefully to what the author is saying and in doing so establishing carefully what the author is NOT saying.

In general, I think we can say with much certainty, that a philosophical text is never about our (readers’) preconceived notions, established beliefs, biases, interests, etc. Yet many of us are guilty of all too easily inserting those very things into the readings we encounter. The temptation seems to increase with the level of interest or emotional relevance the text has for us.

This is why reading philosophy requires a double strain: the ordinary strain to grasp the concepts, and the extraordinary strain of curbing the tide of our preconceptions.

Reading, writing and discussing philosophy is an exercise not only of intellect, but even more importantly, it is the training ground for developing humility and tolerance.

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2 thoughts on “Thoughts on Reading Philosophy

  1. I think you’ve put your finger on the extraordinary value of philosophy – curbing the tide of our preconceptions as a training ground for humility and tolerance. Kind of a lifelong endeavor, but so worth it!

  2. Kathy

    You also successfully bring out the patience required to read philosophy successfully. It’s worth it though – I find it helps in other types of reading as well.

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