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Why is such a high value placed in reading the "Classics"? It's one thing to honor the past and honor the fact that, but for those who came before, we wouldn't be where we are today, and another thing entirely to pretend that those "classic" thinkers and thoughts of the past are worthy of the scrutiny of self-respecting truth-seekers today. If I'm being honest, the Pre-Socratic writings are simply idiotic by today's standards, claiming matter is all "water", or "fire", or some other random element. Leibniz, Spinoza, and those guys aren't any better. None of them had even the most rudimentary concept of physics. JS Mill and Kant read like some High Schooler, discoursing at length about Happiness and motivation without even a whiff of suspicion about the basic facts of psychology, treating those terms as if they were transparently obvious, monolithic concepts. Even an idea like the more recently vaunted Veil of Ignorance seems ludicrously vulnerable to someone of even mediocre intelligence, like me. It...

If one thought that the only true goal of philosophy was to describe, as precisely and accurately as possible, using the very latest scientific findings, the nature of the universe or of the human mind, then indeed there would be no need to read the 'classics' of philosophy. In that case, however, I wonder whether one needs philosophy at all, since what was just described is not in essence different from physics or psychology themselves. So, there would also be little point in reading contemporary philosophy. Within the history of philosophy, of course, many have seen their work, or a substantial part of it, in just this way, in part because science and philosophy had not yet fully branched off from one another. Very often, these were first class scientific minds (Aristotle or Leibniz, for example). But their primary interest today is not as scientists. Here are the main ways that I try to 'sell' my students on reading the history of philosophy: 1. The philosopher is not there to tell us...