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I really want to do a phd in philosophy and teach, but the society says I should not. I am 19 , but have got to go back to high school to finish up . A long way to go. How do I motivate myself? How do I ignore my other and unimportant desires/distractions to become what I want and is most meaningfull to me?

I think it is great that you know what you want at the age of 19 - I certainly didn't. If the goal of achieving higher qualifications in philosophy is a genuine goal for you, then it will stay with you for the next ten years or so, by which time with a bit of luck you will have arrived at your destination. If it turns out to be a genuine goal for you, then at worst what you call distractions will just delay you a bit. In fact, the philosopher who lived his or her life without distractions is just a myth, and certainly not a standard against which the rest of us should be judged. "Life is short" is often said but, in fact, for most people life is quite long, at least in the sense of presenting more opportunities than one imagines.

i just started reading some philosophy writings and got so mach interested in philosophy.But my assess to books is very much limited and i would appropriate its if anyone can help me with free e-book sites from where i can download some philosophy books. Thanks

You are in luck: the internet is densely populated with philosophical texts. Good places to start are: www.earlymoderntexts.com www.gutenberg.org (also, they have a small set of recommendations in their 'philosophy bookshelf' but it represents only the tip of an iceberg!) https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/ and Google books has hundreds of pdf scans of old volumes. Now, there are three problems with these sites: for the most part, they present texts without commentary or explanation; often they use old editions or translations (because they are out of copyright); and finally, for the same reason, they tend to emphasize philosophy from times past. Recent philosophy is more difficult to come by, but not impossible. Certainly useful introductions can be found at the Internet or Stanford Encyclopedias; also, university teachers often put their lecture notes up on the web.

I am a freshman in college, and I am studying liberal studies to become an elementary school teacher. Do you think that to be a good elementary school teacher, philosophy is an important subject to study?

Yes and no, I'd say. Let us assume that two of the things that makes a good elementary school teacher are (i) encouraging thinking and asking questions about why things (including the pupils themselves) are the way they are, and (ii) encouraging a certain playfulness with concepts (seeing what happens when one tries to extend their reach, use them outside conventional employment). These activities are also a significant part of the basic toolkit of philosophy. So, even without knowing it, a good elementary school teacher is teaching philosophy. However, does such a teacher need any formal, academic training in philosophy? Almost certainly not. Please see the materials listed under a link on the right hand side of the AskPhilosophers page.

Do students of philosophy have much to gain by travel, study abroad, or cultural immersion?

A quick addition to Professor Heck's response. Most but not all of the usual list of 'great' philosophers have been travellers. Kant is the most notorious exception. But he lived in a cosmopolitan sea-port, and 'cultural immersion' came to him rather than he to it. I say this only in order to remind us that knowledge of other places and peoples does not have travel as either a necessary or perhaps even a sufficient condition. To broaden your excellent question, it is also the case that many philosophers have had second jobs, so to speak. (Or even that philosophy was never their first 'job'.) It is a relatively recent phenomenon that a philosopher will be attached to an institution of higher education, and that she will pretty much only teach philosophy at that institution. If travel and cultural immersion tends to be a good thing for philosophers, it might also be worth asking whether working in Universities tends not to be.

In many introductory text that take a topical approach to understanding philosophy theology is not listed as a branch of philosophy; however, the philosophy of religion is. Why is that? This is especially confounding in that texts that take an historical approach always include a section covering Scholasticism.

You are right, it is confusing, isn’t it? I guess the simplest answer is that theology is thinking of a broadly philosophical type that takes place within the framework of a given religion or set of beliefs. Whereas, the philosophy of religion is thinking that takes place, as far as possible, outside of or independently from any particular theology. Within the European tradition, and prior to the Reformation, by far the dominant religion was Christianity, and it was at least to some degree homogeneous in its beliefs. So, up until the 15 th Century or so, theology and philosophy of religion overlapped so much as to be often indistinguishable. After the Reformation, however, it became necessary for philosophers to think about religion from a point of view outside either Catholicism or Protestantism, and a more recognisable form of philosophy of religion emerged.

I have read, recently, that it is better for a student of philosophy to have completely mastered the secondary literature before moving on to the primary. Is this really the best approach to a philosophical text?

Mastering ! If so, no one would get around to primary texts! My answer would be: it depends on what is the student’s purpose in reading. As your question suggests, there are two sides to this issue. One the one hand, what does it matter if you have read Aristotle (for example) if you are unaware of how Aristotle’s work is understood and put to use in contemporary philosophy? Otherwise, you are studying history rather than philosophy (nothing wrong with history, but it’s a different subject). This last argument conceives of philosophy as a contemporary subject matter, like physics or sociology. If the purpose of reading philosophical books is to learn philosophy, then starting with the secondary material is at least efficient and perhaps even necessary. On the other hand, suppose the purpose is not to master the subject content, but rather to learn to philosophise. That means, I suppose, to think critically and carefully about problems, examine one’s assumptions, draw...